The atmosphere was electric. The sound was deafening. The enthusiasm as MBTA officer Richard H. Donahue, Jr., who was critically wounded the night the Marathon Bombing suspects were cornered in Watertown, started the large Spoked-B banner traveling as honorary Banner Captain was intense. Playoff hockey had returned to the home of the Boston Bruins—TD Garden, after having been absent the previous two seasons.
Coming into this pivotal Game 3 the teams were tied, having each won a game back in Ottawa. Interestingly enough, the team that was behind in each of those games had gone on to get the win. And now the Bruins were back on home ice, their fervent fans cheering with such passion, the energy from them alone should have lifted the Bruins from the moment the puck dropped.
However, it was clear from the beginning that the Bruins were struggling. Home ice had seldom been an advantage for them during much of the regular season. At one point Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron ran into each other—something that spoke to the extreme to which the Bruins were off in their game. Those two have played so much together that they almost know where each other is without looking. In this case they ran head long into each other.
The Ottawa Senators jumped the Bruins. They were outshooting them and outmaneuvering them. In the span of 25 seconds the Senators would get two goals. Their first was a breakaway for Mike Hoffman who was waiting at the Bruins’ blue line as Erik Karlsson sent the puck from behind the Senators’ net to the stick of Hoffman. Hoffman skated in and froze Tuukka Rask to get the puck into the net. Twenty five seconds later Derick Brassard put it in a wide open net as there was a breakdown in front of Rask, himself out of position—perhaps a little too aggressive in his push to block Bobby Ryan. Ryan instead of shooting on net though, passed the puck over to Brassard. That entire play was begun with a switch back by Viktor Stalberg behind Rask’s net, with Stalberg getting the other assist on Brassard’s goal by keeping that play alive and getting the puck to Ryan. Going into the first intermission this was certainly not where the Bruins wanted to be in the game.
As things got underway in the second, Bruin Kevan Miller was whistled for an interference and with just 12 seconds remaining on the man advantage, Hoffman got the Senators their third goal of the game—and his second—with assists from Chris Wideman and Brassard. Things did not look good for the Bruins who had managed only three shots on goal during the first period, and seemed to be picking up where they left off.
Of course there is something about playoff hockey and despite the obvious momentum that the Senators had, the Bruins weren’t giving up. Three minutes after being down by three, they notched their first marker of the game as Noel Acciari slapped the puck through traffic from the left point. Like the Senators in the first, the Bruins would make it a one goal game under a minute later. As Ryan fanned on clearing the puck, David Backes was right there to take it on a breakaway and get it past Craig Anderson. The Bruins would tie things up as Charlie McAvoy—making his home debut—made a solid pass to David Pastrnak who put it home on the power play. Like the Senators’ three goals, the Bruins got two even strength goals followed by a power play goal. The middle frame saw four goals scored and a tie game.
The third period began with some four on four action; a carryover from a hooking penalty for Karlsson and an unsportsmanlike conduct for Frank Vatrano. Six minutes later Marc Methot and Tim Schaller would both go off for unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. The Bruins seemed to have picked up the pace a bit and managed to outshoot the Senators for the first time all evening. Both goalies denied the few shots they saw in that period, and like Game 2, this one would have to go to overtime.
At 4:38 of the overtime, Riley Nash was whistled for a roughing, putting the Senators again on the power play. And a little over a minute into the power play Ryan would make up for his earlier gaffe by sealing the game for the Senators and giving Ottawa a 2-1 lead in the series.
This was not a good game for the Bruins. Many comments on Twitter alluded to the injuries on the blue line: Brandon Carlo, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, and Colin Miller. However there was plenty of blame to go around in that first period. Perhaps it was playing their first playoff game on home ice in three years. Perhaps it was the emotion of it all. The Bruins walk a tight line between strong emotion and over the line. When they cross that line they back away from their game and their style and it shows. Tonight’s opening period was much like that.
The teams will regroup and be back at it on Wednesday night for Game 4. There are statistics for everything and the team who wins Game 3 when the teams are tied has a 67% chance of taking the series. Of course, quite a few people thought the Senators had Game 3 in hand when they went up 3-0 only to have to fight hard to take the win in overtime. It’s playoff hockey, and there’s a reason it’s a best of seven series. Boston will certainly be planning on bringing a better game on Wednesday.