The Bruins’ fourth line is a fourth line in that there are three lines that usually play more minutes every night than they do. But to those who watch the B’s on a regular basis, it’s clear that the “fourth line” is much more than that.
While the contributions of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton don’t always stand out on the stat sheet at the end of games, their efforts certainly don’t go unappreciated. Every now and then, though, their contributions extend beyond the little things and the intangibles.
That was the case Tuesday night in New York, as the Bruins beat the Rangers 2-1 in Game 3 to take a 3-0 series lead in their second-round series. The fourth line was on the ice for both Bruins goals, including Paille’s game-winner with 3:31 to play in the third period.
The fourth line in Boston is one of the best in the league, even if they don’t always get rewarded with goals, points or even a ton of ice time. But you saw how important they can be in Game 3, and that was even before they helped the club to two third-period goals.
“They were working hard,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “They’ve scored some big goals for us in the playoffs. I have confidence in that line, I’ve said it a million times. [Tuesday night] was no exception; they were on for both goals.”
The Merlot Line, as they’re affectionately known because of their wine-colored practice jerseys, was arguably the Bruins’ best line all night. With Henrik Lundqvist standing on his head for the first two periods, the fourth line was going to the net and creating traffic in front better than any of the other Boston lines.
That finally paid off in the biggest way early in the third period. With Thornton standing in the right side of the slot and Campbell parked in front of the net, Johnny Boychuk somehow finagled a wrist shot through the maze of white and blue sweaters. On a night where it looked like Lundqvist might pitch a shutout after allowing five goals in Game 2, the goal obviously gave the B’s a shot of momentum.
That goal sparked the Bruins in the midst of a siege on the New York end that hadn’t quite put the puck in the net. From there, the momentum was sustained until Paille’s goal later in the period that proved to be the game-winner. It’s not the first time the fourth line has jump-started the Bruins in this postseason, either. At least one shift from Game 4 of the Toronto series stands out as a time when the trio gave the Bruins energy leading up to overtime, where the B’s eventually won.
The end result Tuesday was five combined points for the fourth line in the club’s biggest win of the year. Of course, with the fourth line, it’s not just the scoring. Paille and Campbell both saw a good amount of time on the penalty kill that kept the Rangers from converting on either of their power plays. Thornton, as he’s been known to do, was there to defend his teammate when Brad Marchand got into it with Derek Dorsett in the second period. Thornton had a word with Dorsett, and that was about the last anyone heard from him.
Julien’s insistence to “roll four lines” has been maligned at times over his tenure in Boston, but it’s tough to argue with the results at this point. The fourth line’s impact was immeasurable in the Stanley Cup Final two springs ago, and they continue to do everything that’s asked of them here in this postseason.
“They’re very capable,” Julien understated after the game. “You look at Paille’s speed; he puts D’s on their heels. Soupy keeps working hard and Thorty’s a smart player. … That’s been a good line for us. You utilize them because they’re good, not because you have to. “
In Game 3, where it looked like the Bruins might end up on the short side against a dominant goalie and a desperate hockey club, the Bruins’ fourth line was their best line.