Before tonight, the Boston Bruins had led for a total of 12 minutes. Luckily, they somehow found a way to be in a tie with the Montreal Canadiens at two games apiece heading into a crucial Game 5.
Saturday night at TD Garden it was a lot different. The Bruins came out firing on all cylinders leading 1-0 after one on a goal by Carl Soderberg. From there, the B’s finally had a chance to build a lead-and they did. Early on in the second period, the Black and Gold finally capitalized on their power-play opportunities scoring two goals in :32 seconds to give themselves a lot of breathing room for the rest of the game.
Reilly Smith notched his fourth goal of the playoffs while Jarome Iginla also scored his fourth goal of the playoffs on a beautiful backhand pass from Torey Krug seconds later.
The B’s had the upper hand in Game 5 for simply the location and they took advantage of it-scoring first and never looking back – something they had trouble doing in the team’s first four games of the series.
“I thought our power-play was overdue,” Head coach Claude Julien said after his team’s 4-2 win in Game 5. “I thought in the first period our power-play was a little average so we had a little chat and talked about you know, bringing the intensity up and winning more battles and making stronger plays and it gave us those two goals which were obviously huge for us, but as always as a normal situation will tell you, it’s always nice to play with a lead and it was nice for us to have and hang on to it.”
It is not a secret for the B’s in the postseason. If they score first, they tend to win. After Game 5, the Black and Gold improved to 6-0-0 when scoring first.
It takes the pressure off everyone when a lead is built including goaltender Tuukka Rask.
Before these last two wins for the B’s (now ahead 3-2 in the series), it seemed as if every time you looked up at the score it was a two-goal lead for the Canadiens, but on this night, the roles were reversed and Loui Eriksson and the B’s were happy to return the favor.
“It’s definitely easier (to play with lead),” Eriksson said after notching a goal and an assist in the team’s victory. “It’s always nice to get that first one and I thought we did a pretty good job. It’s definitely nice to get those two power-play goals there, too, and get the lead to 3-0. So, it was a good game.”
The Bruins’ focus heading into Game 5 was fine tuning their first 20 minutes and turning that into a full 60-minute effort something we hadn’t seen all series. But Zdeno Chara and the rest of the Black and Gold were able to accomplish just that.
“We were just focused on that,” said the Bruins captain. “Trying to really focus on our 60-minute effort. But, obviously you can’t play 60 minutes in the first 20 so our focus was on playing a really strong first 20 minutes.”
It seems the B’s haven’t had that comfort of a lead thus far in this series and Reilly Smith admitted it takes a burden off everyone’s shoulders once the goals start to flow.
“It was great,” Smith said. “You know, we havent’ taken too many leads this series, so it was good to have that three-nothing lead and have that cushion underneath us because that comfort level definitely hasn’t been there this series.”
Once the Black and Gold build a lead it is certainly tough to come from behind. Their system speaks for itself and their game plan is executed even better.
“I think we did a pretty good job to come out and start,” defenseman Kevan Miller said. “We had a pretty good start and we were able to get a couple goals there and kind of play our game, chip pucks deep and impose our will on them.”
There is no question what the key to Game 6 in Montreal will be. It is getting off to that strong start like they did in Game 5 at TD Garden.
After Soderberg scored that first one, it loosened up the whole team and it was evident. The team came out flying in the second period as well, scoring those two quick power play tallies to leave the Canadiens between a rock and a hard place.
“This time in the series our PP was able to get going and get us some big goals,” Milan Lucic said in the Bruins’ dressing room. “But yeah, it’s always easier, you know, when you’re playing with that lead, for sure, but it’s always a tough thing to do to get that lead. So, it was good to see us have that jump and get it here tonight.”
A similar start to Game 6 would go a long way for the Bruins. It could very well lead them to their second straight Eastern Conference Finals appearance, and their third trip in four years.