The Boston Bruins’ third line was buzzing all night long. So it was only fitting that they were the ones who finally found the back of the net in Game 4 on Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens.
Rookie forward Matt Fraser, who was recalled Thursday morning, scored the game-winning goal just 1:19 in overtime to give the Bruins the win and tie their second-round Stanley Cup playoffs series with the hated Habs. The overtime winner was the perfect way to end the game for the Bruins’ best line all night.
The Bruins’ offensive production through four games against Montreal — aside from a four-goal third period in Game 2 — has left a lot to be desired. The chances have been there, but the B’s haven’t been able to bury many of those opportunities. On Thursday, though, there weren’t many chances to be had on either side.
One of the only lines that was generating any sort of offense was Boston’s third line. They obviously didn’t score until the overtime period, but the line of Fraser, Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson put itself in a position to score for much of the game. Soderberg hit the crossbar late in the first period after a great centering pass from Fraser. Soderberg then tried to return the favor in the second period. Soderberg, with his back to the net, whirled and fired a pass to Fraser in the slot that was broken up at the last second, taking away what would have been a splendid chance for Fraser .
The Bruins’ third line ended up putting six shots on goal as part of 11 shot attempts. That trio was easily the club’s best when it came to Corsi relative, an advanced stat that helps measure puck possession relative to the rest of the team. All three had a Corsi relative of at least 21.9 percent. To put that in some sort of perspective, Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron — one of the best puck possession players in hockey — finished the regular season with a 9.7 percent Corsi relative.
“They just made things happen,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “They worked hard, they’re hard on the puck. They get it back quickly, and I think that’s what gave them some good looks.”
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that it was the third line that dominated the puck possession. The Canadiens have countered with their bottom pairing of Douglas Murray and Mike Weaver, a combination the B’s third line has been able to dominate, at least in terms of possession. Murray is a statue and can’t skate a lick. Weaver is undersized, and the size of players like Soderberg and now Fraser can give him problems. So when you see that Weaver has 14 blocked shots in four games, it shouldn’t come as much surprise. That’s because the Canadiens don’t usually have the puck when he’s on the ice, whether he’s paired with Francis Bouillon as he was in Games 1 and 2, or Murray.
Despite that clear advantage for the Bruins’ third line, they weren’t able to actually solve Carey Price until overtime. That’s when Fraser used his nose for the puck near the net to get through Murray and score the game-winner.
Whether Montreal head coach Michel Therrien makes any sort of lineup changes for Game 5 is yet to be seen. For one game, at least, that one glaring mismatch helped the Bruins even the series.