Patrice Bergeron’s OT Winner Puts Bruins on Brink of Stanley Cup Finals

Brad Marchand Goal
Patrice Bergeron's Game Winning Goal
Jun 5 2013 Boston MA USA Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron 37 is mobbed by his teammates after he scored the game winning goal to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2 1 in the second overtime period in game three of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden Greg M Cooper USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins put on an unforgettable show on Thursday night. In the longest game of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Patrice Bergeron netted the double OT winner to give the Bruins the slightest of edges in a genuine instant classic.

The 2-1 victory puts the Bruins on the verge of the Stanley Cup Finals, and the Prince of Wales Trophy, whether or not Zdeno Chara intends to touch it, will be in the building on Friday night.

After two embarrassing losses in their own barn, the Pittsburgh Penguins improved drastically, but it still wasn’t enough to earn their first win of the series. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang led a remarkable turnaround, but in the end they had tons of chances and only one goal.

Early on, Game 3 looked much like the first two. A moment of total defensive miscommunication less than two minutes into the game allowed the scorching hot David Krejci to sit behind the net and plot his next move for what seemed like millennia. When the pressure finally came, Krejci stepped out in front and snuck the puck into the back of the net for his fourth goal of the series and his league leading ninth of the postseason.

After the goal however, the Penguins seemed to awaken. They played the open brand of hockey that is their hallmark and they controlled play in the neutral zone for the first time in the series. As a result they out shot the Bruins by a mile.

One key to Pittsburgh’s major improvement was their success in the faceoff circle. Sidney Crosby was especially remarkable as he went head to head with Patrice Bergeron, who is widely regarded as the league’s best at the dot. After being dominated by Bergeron in the first two games, Crosby took control, winning 12 of the pairs’ 18 meetings.

It was fitting then that Pittsburgh leveled the score with the help of a Crosby faceoff win. On an offensive zone draw midway through the second, Crosby won the puck cleanly allowing defenseman Paul Martin to drive into the corner with the puck. Martin then dished a centering pass to Chris Kunitz, who did a remarkable job to elevate the puck past a sprawling Tuukka Rask. Kunitz’s fifth goal of the playoffs tied the game at one. The score would stay that way for another 66 minutes and 28 seconds of ice time.

That unbelievable stretch of scoreless hockey was a classic goaltending duel. Two nights after being benched in the first period of Game 2, Tomas Vokoun was sensational making 38 saves. However, Vokoun was completely outdone by Boston’s Tuukka Rask.

Rask played the game of a lifetime, stopping a staggering 53 shots. The Penguins hounded him all night, pouring on 14 shots in the third period alone, but the young Finn has been unbeatable of late allowing just two goals in the series. With just one win remaining between him and the Stanley Cup Finals, the 26-year-old has made Boston fans forget all about Tim Thomas. With yet another shutdown performance against the league’s best offense, Rask has started to put together a superb case to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy, which his mentor Tim Thomas won two years ago.

Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang combined for 18 shots on net in the contest but could not find the twine. The Penguins also failed to score on six power play opportunities.

A few miraculous penalty kills served to showcase the Bruins’ heart as they continued to survive despite being soundly outplayed for much of the night. On one such occasion, Boston’s Gregory Campbell blocked a shot with his ankle and crumpled to the ice. Despite suffering an injury on the play that would end his night, the hobbling Campbell stayed in position and battled the pain rather than returning to the bench and giving the Penguins a 5-on-3 chance.

In overtime, many of the chances came from the usual suspects. Evgeni Malkin nearly ended it early, but he couldn’t sneak his shot under Rask’s arm. Boston’s Nathan Horton, who is no stranger to scoring overtime winners, matched Malkin every step of the way, as he tried to extended his goal-scoring streak to three games.

Horton rung the post on one memorable chance, but it was not his night to be the hero. Horton’s linemate David Krejci also had some brilliant looks but couldn’t get his second of the evening.

Jarome Iginla tried his hand with a hard-nosed diving shot only to be stopped by Rask, and would-be dark horse hero Craig Adams gave it a shot but heard the agonizing ping of the goal post.

Each team had two power play opportunities in the extra sessions, but neither could convert. The Bruins power play was abysmal in the first three periods repeatedly being rebuffed in the neutral zone, but they started to gain momentum in overtime.

That momentum was driven in part by the ageless Jaromir Jagr. The famously hard working former-Penguin seemed to gain energy as time went on, becoming a constant menace in the extra period.

In the end it was Jagr who set the game-winner in motion. The grey-bearded winger muscled the puck away from Evgeni Malkin in the neutral zone and sent Brad Marchand over the blue line.

As Marchand prepared for a centering pass, Patrice Bergeron drove to the net and earned inside position on Brooks Orpik. Three weeks ago, Marchand was the beneficiary of a Bergeron assist on the Game 1 OT winner against the New York Rangers. In the wee hours of Thursday morning, Marchand returned the favor, feeding Bergeron for the clinching tally.

Marchand and Letang Battle
Jun 5 2013 Boston MA USA Boston Bruins center Brad Marchand 63 fights with Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang 58 during the first overtime period in game three of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden Greg M Cooper USA TODAY Sports

The goal was Bergeron’s second OT winner of the postseason, and it will join his walk-off strike from Boston’s miracle Game 7 comeback against the Toronto Maple Leafs among the most memorable moments of the 2013 playoffs.

The win proved that the Bruins are prepared to win in any situation. After two easy wins in Pittsburgh, they faced the true Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3, and they picked up a key victory despite being outplayed for long stretches. At this point, Boston fans must be asking if this has become a team of destiny.

The heartbreaking loss likely signals the end of Pittsburgh’s cup challenge as their best effort was not enough to beat the Bruins, who now hold a 3-0 lead in the series. Without a doubt, they left everything they had on the ice, as evidenced by a helmet-less Sidney Crosby recklessly battling for the puck and earning multiple chances just moments before Bergeron’s game winner.

The Bruins knew that Game 3 would not be as easy as the previous two, but they answered the call with remarkable perseverance. The following might be a cheesy cliche, but it is merited by games like this. On Wednesday night in Boston, there were two winners: the Bruins and the game of hockey itself. The fans in the stands and the millions watching at home were treated to a classic.

It was hard nosed, aggressive and beautiful playoff hockey. Two teams played their very best for almost five periods, once again reminding us why we love this game so much.

author avatar
Chris Blanchard
Chris Blanchard is a Boston, MA native and a student at Davidson College. He began writing about hockey as a Boston Bruins featured columnist for Bleacher Report in the fall of 2012. He has been covering the NHL for XN Sports since May of 2013. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+'://';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');