NEW YORK -- In a regular season that saw the Boston Bruins demonstrate a variety of strengths, third-period scoring wasn't exactly one of them. Boston's 39 third-period goals during the season ranked them 19th in the League and they posted an even third-period goal differential. They also posted a 15-4-4 record when leading after two periods, good for a .652 win percentage that ranked 29th.
That alarming trend continued in their opening-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, where Boston was outscored 6-5 in the third period and overtime through the series' first six games. But that suddenly changed with the Bruins facing elimination in Game 7, as they scored three times in the third and again in overtime to win it. Since that memorable run, the team has since outscored its opposition 10-3 in the third and overtime.
"I think the biggest criticism for our team was we weren't getting a lot of goals in the third period late in the season," forward Daniel Paille said. "We really wanted to try to fix that. We've done a good job of that in this series, but every game is different."
That newfound ability to turn things around late in games was on display in the last two games of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New York Rangers. Boston led 3-2 entering the third of Game 2, and got goals from Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic to seal the victory. Trailing 1-0 after 40 minutes in Game 3, Boston scored twice in the final period to steal the win and take a commanding 3-0 series lead.
The Bruins can close the series with a win in Game 4 Thursday (7 p.m. ET, CNBC, TSN, RDS).
"We're just trying to outwork the other team," said Paille, who scored the winner in Game 3. "We were down 1-0 and we needed a goal. We just kept pushing and we were rewarded. It's not going to be like that every night, but we can certainly try."
It's a striking change for a team that wasn't known during the season for finishing teams late in games. If that ability to take over games late can continue, then the Bruins could be a tough matchup for any team moving forward in the postseason.
"That just shows the character of our guys," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Playing hard right near to the end. It's a great thing to have and you hope that you can keep it."