Prior to a pivotal Eastern Conference First Round Game 3 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto Saturday, it was announced that Boston Bruins’ Vezina Trophy finalist goaltender Tuukka Rask was opting out of the rest of the playoffs. That means that backup goalie Jaroslav Halak is going to be the main guy going forward for the B’s against the Carolina Hurricanes.
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Following the stunning news, the Bruins had their best 60-minute effort since arriving in Toronto. Halak stopped 29 of 30 shots the Hurricanes peppered him with and the Bruins used two special-teams goals to take a 2-1 series lead with a 3-1 win.
Halak Strong in Net
You have to think that Halak was more prepared for the game than what the Bruins are saying and he knew at some point on Friday night that he would be playing in Game 3. Halak is one of the better backups in the league and he played in the Bruins first round-robin game on Aug. 2 in a 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. In two seasons with the Bruins behind Rask, Halak is 40-17-10 with a 2.36 goals-against average (GAA) and a .921 save percentage (SV%).
Saturday, he looked comfortable and confident from the get-go. Brad Marchand was whistled for a penalty just 12 seconds into the game. The Hurricanes had four shots on Halak in the first two minutes on the power play and the veteran was able to turn aside each shot. Carolina put Halak under siege in the opening 20 minutes and he was able to make all 15 saves. In the second period, he stopped eight more shots.
Halak made one mistake all day and that was in the third period as he tried to do too much with the Bruins shorthanded. Carolina dumped the puck in deep behind the Boston goal. Halak tried unsuccessfully to clear the puck as Nino Niederreiter picked the clearing attempt out of the air and scored into an open net.
After allowing the goal, Halak stopped the final five shots by the Hurricanes and he was aided by his defense. For the next seven minutes after the Niederreiter goal, the Bruins defense helped out Halak by allowing just two shots on net and blocking three more attempts.
Halak is no stranger to the postseason. In the 2010 playoffs, he helped lead the Montreal Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Final before falling in five games to the Flyers. As the No. 8 seed, the Canadiens took down the top-seeded Washington Capitals in seven games in the first round and then eliminated the fourth-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Halak had a 2.55 GAA and a .923 SV% in 18 games that spring.
Krejci’s Play Contuines to Shine
Krejci has been arguably the Bruins’ best player in the series. In Game 1, he had a goal in the Bruins 4-3 double-overtime win. In Game 2, he had a goal and an assist, before assisting on two of the three goals in Game 3.
Krejci set up Boston’s first goal of the game in the second period when he sent a direct pass off the boards to Marchand in the offensive zone. Marchand’s shot was stopped by Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek, but the rebound popped up in the air and Charlie Coyle was able to bat the puck into the net for a 1-0 lead.
Krejci then set up the final goal with 30 seconds left in the game when he flipped a clearing attempt behind the Hurricanes defense where Marchand was able to push the puck into an open net for a 3-1 lead. It was the 24th multi-point playoff game for Krejci of his career. He also won four of his nine face-offs and went a perfect 3-for-3 in the third period at the dot.
Bruins Get Two Special Teams Goals
In the playoffs, winning and losing can sometimes come down to who wins the special teams battle. In Game 3, the Bruins not only got Coyle’s power play goal, but a shorthanded goal early in the third period turned out to be the game-winning goal.
Par Lindholm was called for a penalty with 29 seconds left in the second period for the Bruins, but it was early in the third period when the power play carried over and Boston scored their shorthanded goal. Coyle broke into the Hurricanes zone 2-on-1 with Sean Kuraly, who was able to get his stick on Coyle’s shot to deflect by Mrazek for a 2-0 lead.
Carolina did score their only goal on the power play, but the Bruins penalty kill was able to successfully kill the other four Hurricanes attempts. In the series, the Bruins have killed off 9 of the 11 Carolina power plays in the first three games.
Game 4 Monday
After playing three games in four days, both teams will get some much-earned rest as Game 4 is not until 8 P.M. on Monday night. Holding a 2-1 series lead, the Bruins are in a position to take command of the series with a second straight win. If Halak can give them consistent goaltending like Saturday, the Bruins will still be a dangerous team in the postseason without Rask.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.