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Sunday, 26 May 2013 11:27

Bruins Close Out Rangers 3-1, Meet Penguins for ECF

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A legend grew, a monkey was tossed off a back and a city sighed in relief.  Such is the existence of a sports team in Boston.

Tuukka Rask, whose every move was scrutinized under an electron microscope after the "Tuukka Tumble," shook that pesky (and a bit unfair) closeout monkey off his back. In his best game of the series, Rask stood on his head, made huge save after huge save including revenge on a Ryan Callahan breakaway after a bad turnover and stopped 28 of 29 shots faced.  Maybe now the naysayers will be quieted down about how he's not good enough for a deep run.  Well, unless they lose to the Penguins.  Then it will be all, "TUUKKA SUCKS," all over again.

Torey Krug, on the other hand, only grew his legend another tenfold. Saint Krug; Patron Saint of Puck Moving Defensemen, Savior of the Power Play and Slayer of Kings.  I'm pretty sure kids in Beantown are already in pro shops looking for the Krug curve.  Krug is the first rookie defenseman in NHL history to score four goals in his first five playoff games after a screaming one timer in the second to tie the game at one.  Three of those came on the power play including that one and all of them coming off of Vezina winner and current finalist Henrik Lundqvist.  The crowd at the Garden even started letting out a "Krrrrruuuuuuug" every time he brought the puck up on the power play.  The kid couldn't get much higher right now.

New York still brought it to the Bruins in the first period.  The Rags jumped on the bored with their second power play goal of the series in the first after David Krejci took a cross checking penalty during a scrum after the whistle that was a little suspect.  The Rangers, without alternate captain Brad Richards as a healthy scratch again, capitalized on a Dan Girardi slapper through traffic that Rask never saw.  That would be all the offense the Blue Shirts would muster as it was all Bruins all the time.

Milan Lucic earned the games Second Star.  You would be puzzled if you just looked at the regular stats. No goals, no assists, 20:03 of ice time.  That looks like the criteria for a third star on a losing team in October, bot the second round of the playoffs.  Andrew Ference said it best earlier in the year when he told the media, "You don't have to know anything about hockey to know when Looch is having an effect on the game."  Lucic was throwing his considerable weight around, leading the team with six hits and finishing checks that don't show up on the stat sheet.  He was the author of an incredible back check where he broke up a three on two and turned on the jets later, splitting Ranger D men with a jump around move but was tripped up before he could get a good shot away.  Milan was in full playoff beast mode and the Rangers had no answer for his physicality, as most other teams don't either.

With so many story lines springing up this series, it was again the workman like effort of the Merlot line that stole the game.  Campbell, Paille and Thornton were not just the energy line but the Bruins top scoring line again for the second game this series.  Gregory Campbell put the B's up for good in the second period after a Roman "GET UP" Hamerlik turnover on an attempted stretch pass leaving the defensive zone.  Daniel Paille ended up with the biscuit on his stick and tried to hit a streaking Shawn Thornton who was crashing the net with two Rags defenders in tow.  Campbell was the trailer and caught the attempted pass off of skates in front, settled it and flipped the puck over Lundqvist while falling down and sliding to the end boards.  It was an ugly, dirty goal for the best fourth line in hockey and one that they'll take every day of the week.

Campbell's second empty net goal on a diving, sweeping backhand from the blue line that caught the inside of the far post and bounced in put the icing on the cake and moved the Bruins into the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  The confidence that Claude Julien has in his forth line to put them out there with just over two minutes to go in a game in which they are only up one must really energize them and inflate their own confidence.

After that Game 4 hiccup, the Bruins are playing their best hockey exactly when they need to, and they are going to have to keep it up if they hope to slow down the red hot Penguins offense.