The Boston Bruins’ depth has been on display all playoffs long and Game 3 was no different. This time it was the energy line that brought just that at a crucial time in a 2-1 Game 3 win at Carolina that put the B’s one game away from a sweep and their third Stanley Cup Final in eight years. Thanks to the lights out play of Tuukka Rask in a first period that saw the Bruins get completely outplayed and out-shot 20-6, the Bruins escaped the opening frame somehow still tied 0-0. Head coach Bruce Cassidy, disappointed in his top guns and in need of a spark for his team that bent and would’ve broken if not for Rask, threw the fourth line of Joakim Nordstrom-Sean Kuraly-Chris Wagner over the boards early in the second period and the hard-working trio delivered as Wagner scored 1:21 in to give the B’s a 1-0 lead.
“That line scored a goal, by playing the right way, pursuing pucks,” Cassidy told the media. ”
That puck pursuit and effort was key for the visitors and woke the rest of the team up. Their constant pressure led to turnovers and scoring chances and the other three lines fed off it, out-shooting the Canes 18-6 in the middle frame. Just look at the play leading to Wagner’s tiebreaking goal and you’ll see why Cassidy isn’t afraid to and can roll four lines.
Chris Wagner scored his second goal of the Conference Finals after being held off the score sheet in the @NHLBruins’ opening two rounds of the 2019 #StanleyCup Playoffs. #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/V6IIeYpq39
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 15, 2019
Notice how Kuraly stayed high on the near sideboard as his linemates got beat. By doing so, he was able to keep the puck in the zone. That then led to a beautiful pass to Nordstrom, who set up Wagner for the goal.
“If your first two guys get beat, their D tend to want to get going, our forward Kuraly is in a great spot to keep a puck alive,” Cassidy said to the media postgame. “Then you make some plays right. You don’t expect them to make a tic-tac-toe play, but they did. And good for them.”
“We’re trying to play our best and contribute,” Kuraly told the media. “We’re all pushing each other and if you’re not you’re gonna fall off the wagon. The other three lines are pushing us to contribute.”
Not only did the energy line contribute offensively, but they succeeded at their primary job and that’s to shut down the opposing offense. They were rock solid and Cassidy was also confident enough to put them out on the ice late in the third period as Carolina brought pressure to tie the game.
Nordstrom, Kuraly, and Wagner brought some pressure of their own as they pinned Carolina deep in their own defensive zone. The fourth line trio was constantly changing the momentum of the game. They were consistently playing in the offensive zone and didn’t allow Carolina to break out enough to create chances when they needed to late. The role of every fourth/energy line is to grind and cycle and that is exactly what Boston’s does almost every game and did in the third period to eat up precious minutes.
Sacrifice is the name of the game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and after tying the game for his team in the second period, Wagner sacrificed for his teammates blocking a Justin Faulk shot that caught him in the wrist area. The gritty winger got up and left the ice to his teammates applauding his effort and sacrifice, and could be seen trying to fight the pain off on the bench before leaving the game.
Chris Wagner making Gregory Campbell proud. pic.twitter.com/M3ONLiLu50
— Tucker Boynton (@Tucker_TnL) May 15, 2019
“Certain players realize big plays have to be made,” Bruins defenseman Torey Krug told reporters after the Game 3 victory. “It’s all about understanding what the game needs. If a game needs a big hit, a blocked shot, a big stop, to skate the puck out of the zone.”
That’s what the Bruins’ energy line did once again and now the Bruins are in position to sweep the Canes and head to the Stanley Cup Final