The Boston Bruins have taken the lead in the NHL's Stanley Cup championships, beating the Chicago Blackhawks 2-0 Monday night in Boston. Interestingly, last night wasn't a tense, drawn-out reprise of Games 1 and 2 and did not require an overtime.
Boston's goalie, Tuukka Rask, playing peerlessly, had another shutout, letting the Bruins put it away in the second period. Rask is performing so well that the New York Times (paywall) says he "looks as if he could stop shots even if the Blackhawks were firing them from grenade launchers."
There was early drama even before the game started: Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara and Chicago forward Marian Hossa left the ice with injuries. Chara was upended during the pregame warm up by teammate Milan Lucic, lost his helmet and ended up needing stitches in his head, according to the Boston Herald. He was able to return. Hossa also participated in the pregame skate but was scratched from the Chicago lineup because of an upper body injury, according to NHL.com. No further explanation has been given.
The Blackhawks immediately felt the loss of Hossa — he was tied for the team's lead in most points scored during the postseason, notes USA Today. He was replaced in the lineup last night by Ben Smith, who hasn't appeared in a Chicago game since late April.
Boston first went ahead in the second period with Daniel Paille's goal, which was his second of the series. (He scored the game-winning goal in Game 2's OT.) Things grew worse for the Blackhawks later that period during a critical power play. For 11 crucial seconds, Chicago had two men in the sin bin, giving Boston a 5-on-3 advantage. That's all Bruin Patrice Bergeron needed, scoring the Bruins' second goal of the game.
USA Today helpfully notes that through the three games, Chicago is 0-for-9 on power plays and only a little better than 11 percent for all the postseason. And they weren't very good at faceoffs, either, observes ESPN Chicago: "Losing a whopping 71 percent of the faceoffs to Boston on Monday night is one way to make sure you never start a shift with the puck."
But the full credit belongs to Boston, says Sports Illustrated: "The Bruins have clogged the neutral zone, limited Chicago's stretch-passing game, and so thoroughly muffled the Hawks that goaltender Tuukka Rask's 28-save effort almost seemed like an afterthought."
In the requisite brawl at the end of the game, Boston's Brad Marchand tangled with Chicago's Andrew Shaw, in what SB Nation calls "a fairly even scrap." But the more dramatic clash came between Boston's Chara and Chicago's Bryan Bickell. It started when Chara elbowed Bickell, who unwisely yanked Chara's jersey in return. Chara stands 6'9" without skates, compared with Bickell at 6'4".
The Stanley Cup's Game 4 is Wednesday night in Boston at 8 ET. Catch it on NBC.