BOSTON -- It's a rare sight to see the Boston Bruins' power play as a weapon that wears out the opposition and tilts a game in Boston's favor.
If you didn't witness it, and didn't hear everyone talking about it, you might not believe how important the man-advantage was to the Bruins' 3-2, Game 1 win against the New York Rangers Thursday in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
In addition to tying the game on a Torey Krug power-play goal, the Bruins kept the Rangers pinned in their zone for nearly the entire four minutes of a minor to New York defenseman John Moore late in regulation then a Derek Dorsett minor penalty in overtime.
"You've just got to keep the momentum on your side. I think our two units [Thursday] were creating some pretty good scoring chances," Bruins center David Krejci said. "Even though we didn't score, other than Krug's goal, we kept the momentum on our side. And right after the power play, the next line who was out there, they were playing well, they kept the momentum on our side. So it's very important, too, if you don't score on the power play, to create some chances and keep the momentum on your side."
Of course, in order to continue that momentum, the power play had to generate it. Too often the past several years, the Bruins' power play has been an obstacle for the club to overcome rather than a tool for success. The Bruins finished Game 1 with 11 power-play shots on net. You could look at several weeks' worth of games the past couple of seasons and the man-advantage shots wouldn't add up to 11.
Even when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, they famously did it with a 10-for-88 power play. After the Bruins ranked 15th in power-play proficiency in 2011-12, they dipped to 26th this season. Boston finished 4-for-30 on the power play in April, then scored three goals on 20 chances in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Against the Rangers, the Bruins had a little different look to one of their power-play units, with Krug paired with fellow rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton at the points, and Krejci, Brad Marchand and Nathan Horton up front.
"I think just moving it around and trying to get shots. I don't think we were really looking for some cute plays," Hamilton said about his group's keys to success. "I think just trying to move it back and forth to kind of open them up and shoot it. I think that's what we have to do, and get pucks to the net and try to get rebounds."
Boston's other quintet has played together longer than the one that scored. With Zdeno Chara at the top of the diamond, Jaromir Jagr and Tyler Seguin man the half-walls and Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic try to work below the faceoff dots. That group had had a hard time maintaining possession and pressure until the Rangers came to town. In overtime, that group attacked for nearly 90 seconds and had no fewer than eight shot attempts, including many that forced goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to make a save.
After years of struggles, Bruins coach Claude Julien is conditioned not to look at the score sheet but the chance sheet when it comes to the power play. And he's focused more on the post-power-play results his team produces.
"With our power play it's like any team in the League. You've got some better stretches than others and [Thursday] night we got the one goal that got us back in the game, but the overtime, like we did everything but score on that power play," Julien said. "We were on top of the puck and everything else and that's why. You can't be disappointed in your power play when they do those kinds of things, but it certainly gave us some momentum and the biggest thing that had to happen after that power play was to carry that momentum instead of being frustrated because we didn't score. That's what our guys did. It's more about the approach after the power play that was important than anything else."
This is uncharted territory for the Bruins -- making teams pay for taking a penalty. Personnel changes and adjustments by the Rangers might make it difficult for the Bruins to duplicate their Game 1 performance. But the series opener was a solid first step.