Bruins overcome Bergeron, Krejci absences to win Game 3
Friday night could have easily turned into a disaster for the Bruins. Patrice Bergeron didn’t travel with the team and was out for a third straight game. Linus Ullmark wasn’t on the ice for Friday’s morning skate and was considered a game-time decision. While he ended up playing, the Bruins were thrown a late curveball when David Krejci was scratched minutes before puck drop with an upper-body injury.
Suddenly, the Bruins were down their top two centers, the two guys whose returns last summer proved so pivotal during this record-setting season. Going down 2-1 in the series suddenly looked like a very real possibility. This whole special season slipping away was on the table.
The Bruins weren’t about to let that happen. In the greatest test yet of their resiliency and depth, the B’s stepped up and beat the Florida Panthers, 4-2, at FLA Live Arena to take a 2-1 series lead.
The questions about Bergeron and now Krejci are sure to continue. How serious their injuries are, when they’ll return, and what they’ll look like when they do are all ones worth asking. Jim Montgomery, for what it’s worth, considers Bergeron “likely” to return for Game 5 and Krejci “50-50” for Game 4.
But for now, the Bruins who are playing just need to find ways to win games and extend the season long enough to give the two veteran centers something to return to.
Mission accomplished on Friday night. While some of the Bruins’ sloppy turnovers from Game 2 carried over to the first period of Game 3, the attitude they needed was there, with Charlie McAvoy setting the tone with a big hit right off the opening faceoff, and they managed to get to the first intermission with a 1-0 lead thanks to a Taylor Hall goal that came on a long shot Alex Lyon should have stopped -- the second goal like that he’s surrendered this series.
In the second, the Bruins settled in and took the game over with their best period of the series. They outshot the Panthers, 12-4, finally stringing together offensive-zone possessions that had eluded them for much of the first two games.
Much of that started in the defensive zone, with the Bruins killing Florida possessions much quicker and transitioning the puck much more effectively. Their first goal came after some good defensive-zone work from Hall and Trent Frederic, followed by a great stretch pass from Dmitry Orlov up to Hall.
The second goal began with a play that showed why it was a good idea to insert Matt Grzelcyk into the lineup, as he calmly broke the puck out of the zone and made a nice pass up to Charlie Coyle for an easy zone entry. That led to an extended offensive-zone possession for the line of Coyle, Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk, which eventually ended with Coyle tipping in a Marchand shot.
Coyle continued his strong series, and did so while stepping into a top-two center role. He finished with five shots on goal Friday, second only to David Pastrnak’s seven for the team lead. The Bruins outshot the Panthers 10-5 with the Marchand-Coyle-DeBrusk line on the ice.
"He just seemed like a monster," Montgomery said of Coyle. "He was a man possessed out there."
Speaking of Pastrnak, he would make it 3-0. Once again, defensive-zone play and transition were key. Tyler Bertuzzi did the dirty work deep in his own zone to start the breakout, and then Orlov made another terrific stretch pass to spring Pastrnak on a breakaway that he finished with a snap shot past Lyon’s glove, chasing Lyon from the game in the process.
That line looked better with Pavel Zacha back between Bertuzzi and Pastrnak after it had struggled with Krejci in the middle in the first two games. The Bruins had a 9-5 shots on goal advantage with them on the ice. Montgomery had planned to reunite those three, who were very good late in the regular season, even before Krejci was scratched.
The goal that made it 4-0 was more of the same. Nick Foligno, who was originally going to be a healthy scratch before being the late sub for Krejci, helped win possession deep in his own zone, allowing DeBrusk to take off the other way. DeBrusk then moved it to Hall, who made a nice pass to the front to hit the charging Foligno for the finish.
The Panthers made the finish mildly interesting with a pair of late goals, but never got closer than two. All that really did was spoil what could have been a shutout for Ullmark, who finished with 28 saves on 30 shots.
The Bruins had to win at least one in Florida. Now they have. If they can win another on Sunday afternoon, they’ll have a chance to close out the series in Game 5 back in Boston on Wednesday. Even if they can’t, they’ll return home tied. Oh, and they may be getting Bergeron back for that game.
"We saw Boston Bruins hockey today," Montgomery said after the game. "Whether Bergy and Krech were playing, we needed everybody to start playing. I felt we had some passengers. Tonight we didn't have any passengers."