By Jeff Hamrick
---- — Boston forward Brad Marchand has had his share of success in the postseason, but nothing as important as the timely goal he knocked in during last night’s opening semifinal against New York.
With the Bruins forced into a second consecutive overtime, Marchand sent the partisan TD Garden crowd home happy when he converted a pass from the previous game’s hero Patrice Bergeron, capping a 3-2 victory over the Rangers.
Marchand’s game-winner from the slot burned New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who had stifled Boston shooters the first 15 minutes of the extra period.
“(Bergeron) waited until I could get a little bit of space,” said Marchand after scoring his 13th goal but first in overtime in his 40th career playoff games. “He made a great pass, and I just put it in the open net. It felt great.”
The goal capped Boston’s strong overtime performance that saw the Bruins outshoot the Rangers 16-5. Lundqvist, however, was unable to combat the two-on-one rush of Bergeron and Marchand.
“I thought I made a bad decision,” said Lundqvist, who made 45 saves. “I’ve got to see the guy in the middle. I was too focused on the puck ... Sooner or later when you face a lot of chances like that, you’re going to make a mistake.”
Marchand also assisted on Boston’s game-tying goal scored by Torey Krug less than three minutes into the third period.
Recalled from Providence on Wednesday, Krug proved the Bruins staff made the right decision, giving the 22-year-old his first playoff start.
The defenseman, who posted one assist in his only regular-season game with the Bruins, drilled his tying goal from the top of the left circle. The slapper came off a pass from fellow rookie defender Dougie Hamilton.
“It was unbelievable,” said Krug, who had 13 goals and 45 points for Providence. “I felt very comfortable coming in a sense that they were giving me the puck all night and they weren’t nervous in that regard, so it was very exciting to get out there. I was able to help the team, so I’m very happy.”
Mix and match
Krug was part of a defensive unit that featured three players who entered the semifinal opener with a total of six games playoff experience. Joining Krug, who paired up with Adam McQuaid, were Hamilton (three games) and Matt Bartkowski (two), who were paired with Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk, respectively. The trio of neophytes have been pressed into action with injuries to veterans Andrew Ference (48 career playoff games), Dennis Seidenberg (46) and Wade Redden (29).
Krug followed the lead of Bartkowski, who also scored his first NHL goal in the playoffs, knocking home a shot in Boston’s Game 7 win over Toronto in the quarters. Meanwhile, Hamilton, record his first playoff point with his assist on Krug’s goal.
“They were awesome,” Boston goalie Tuukka Rask said of the young blueliners. “They were skating real well and making all the right plays.”
A rivalry of their own
Unlike the baseball playoffs in which Boston has squared off against New York many times in recent memory, last night marked the first time the Bruins and Rangers have faced off in the postseason in 43 years. In that previous meeting, the Rangers defeated the Bruins in Game 5 of the 1973 quarterfinals. Boston has won six of the previous nine playoff series between the teams, and the Bruins entered this year’s matchup with a 22-18-2 edge in playoff games.
“It’s going to be a tough fought series,” said Rask, who stopped 33 shots. “But it really isn’t that huge kind of rivalry.”
Patrice Bergeron once again is a finalist for the Selke Trophy, which he won last year. The other two nominees for the award that honors the league’s best defensive forward are Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews.
Defenseman Adam McQuaid is one of three finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy which is given to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Minnesota goaltender Josh Harding and Pittsburgh forward Sidney Crosby also were nominated.