NHL

Cullen: Big games for Lucic, Brassard, Datsyuk and more

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Scott Cullen
5/7/2013 10:45:04 AM
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Bruins back in front, Rangers on the board, Red Wings and Kings even up their series. Scott Cullen has stats and notes from Monday's NHL action.

BRUINS BOUNCE BACK
The see-saw nature of the Boston-Toronto series swung back in the Bruins' favour after a 5-2 win in Game Three, spoiling the Maple Leafs' first home playoff game in nine years.

Toronto outshot Boston 47-37, and while score effects certainly played a part (Boston, leading 4-1 after two periods, wasn't attacking so much in the third period), the result was atypical based on each team's regular season shot differential. Toronto last had 47 shots on goal in February, 2011, yet only managed two goals for their efforts in Game Three; a career-high 45-save performance for Bruins G Tuukka Rask.

The difference-making line for the Bruins was the trio of Nathan Horton, David Krejci and Milan Lucic, who combined for eight points and a plus-9 rating. They spent most of the night matched up against the line of Mikhail Grabovksi, Nikolai Kulemin and James van Riemsdyk along with the defence pairing of Cody Franson and Mark Fraser.

Possession numbers favoured the Maple Leafs' line, as Franson and van Riemsdyk tied with a game-high seven shots on goal, but there's no arguing that the end results clearly favoured the Bruins.

Krejci now leads NHL playoff scoring, with seven points and Lucic is tied for second with six points.

Boston's defence used their size to make life difficult for the Toronto forwards. The sizeable trio of Johnny Boychuk, Zdeno Chara and Adam McQuaid combined for 20 hits.

Maple Leafs C Tyler Bozak had an interesting evening. He led the Leafs with six hits and was thrown out of numerous faceoffs. When he did take draws, Bozak was 12-for-29 (41.4%), leaving Bozak at 43.2% for the series. There was some concern that Bozak's late-season (suspected) shoulder injury could inhibit his effectiveness on his faceoffs and, so far, it seems to be the case as he's down from his season average of 52.6%.

While Bozak struggled in the circle, a couple of Bruins, Chris Kelly (12-for-15, 80%) and Rich Peverley (10-for-11, 90.9%) were outstanding on draws.

Even though this game was a decisive win for the Bruins, the Maple Leafs can take some positives away from the game. They created chances offensively and had plenty of opportunity to score more than the two goals they actually scored, so putting the Bruins on the heels defensively is a good takeaway for Toronto. With their speed, they can take advantage against Boston's brawn.

On the other hand, it could be real trouble for the Leafs is the Krejci-Lucic-Horton line is clicking. Part of the reason that Boston has struggled offensively this year is that Lucic, most notably, and Horton haven't played to their typical level. An engaged Lucic can be a game-changer and not many teams, least of all the defensively-suspect Leafs, can lock him down when he has his legs moving and he's aggressive.

Now, time to see if the Leafs can bounce back in Game Four.

RANGERS ON THE BOARD
New York Rangers coach John Tortorella didn't think his team had played poorly in losing the first two games of their series in Washington, but such is the nature of playoff hockey. A team doesn't have to play bad in order to lose.

Game Three was still a must-win for the Rangers to get back into the series and they did, winning 4-3 on Derek Stepan's late third period marker.

Derick Brassard led the Blueshirts' attack, with a goal and two assists. Rejuvenated in New York, Brassard finished the regular season with 11 points in 13 games and his line, primarily with Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett on the wings (Taylor Pyatt saw significant time with Brassard too), was instrumental in the Rangers' Game Three win. It's that kind of contribution from secondary sources that makes a huge difference in the playoffs.

Boyle appears to be back in Tortorella's good graces as well, playing a season-high 20:42 while scoring a goal and adding an assist.

On one end of the size spectrum, the Rangers have 6-foot-7 Boyle. On the other, it's 5-foot-7 (cough, cough) Mats Zuccarello, who recorded a pair of assists. He hasn't been a huge scorer since returning to the league (10 points in 18 games, including playoffs) but, again, he adds offensive depth, which has been crucial to the Rangers' playoff push.

Washington's best possession line for the night was one that didn't get to play all that much. Mathieu Perreault, Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr were dominant at even strength, yet Fehr's 11:55 time on ice was the high-water mark for the group.

The Rangers also managed to keep Alex Ovechkin under wraps, allowing him two shots on goal in more than 22 minutes of ice time. Naturally, defencemen Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi were all over Ovechkin, but the line of Stepan, Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan spent most of the night head-to-head with the Capitals' number one unit.

Now that the Rangers are back in the series, and they've managed to score a few goals, they can try to get even in Game Four. All the games in this series have been close, which is to be expected from playoff hockey.

RED WINGS EVEN WITH DUCKS
Needing a win in Game Four to even their series with the Anaheim Ducks, the Detroit Red Wings went on the offensive, outshooting the Ducks 49-33 and needing every one of those shots because they ended up winning 3-2 in overtime, when Damien Brunner knocked in a rebound following a Gustav Nyquist break.

Pavel Datsyuk scored in the third period to tie the game, and Henrik Zetterberg recorded a game-high eight shots on goal, as the Ducks were powerless against Detroit's top line. It was a thoroughly dominant performance, as the Ducks couldn't get a matchup that worked. Part of the story for Detroit, in addition to the dominance of Datsyuk and Zetterberg including any head-to-head matchup with Anaheim's duo of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, was how the supporting cast was a factor in the winning effort.

Mikael Samuelsson, who has been injured for nearly the entire season, was suddenly installed on the number one line, taking over for suspended Justin Abdelkader, and Samuelsson had four shots on goal in 21:48, his most ice time since a double overtime game with Vancouver in April, 2011.

Rookie C Joakim Andersson contributed a couple of assists for the Red Wings, while rookie D Brendan Smith had a goal and an assist.

Ducks LW Daniel Winnik had five shots on goal, giving him a team-high 13 shots in the series. No goals yet.

Ducks D Luca Sbisa had seven hits and played 26:06, second-most among Ducks defencemen.

As this closely-contested series heads back to SoCal for Game Five, a few players to monitor. Ducks RW Corey Perry has no goals and one assist in four games. Tough for Anaheim to do anything without a contribution from Perry. Same goes for Zetterberg, who has 18 shots on goal, but just one assist to show for it. Game Four's territorial dominance may be an encouraging sign, but could also be a reflection of favourable matchups on home ice. Matchups that might not come so easily on the road in Game Five.

KINGS RALLY TO TIE SERIES WITH BLUES
In a veritable offensive explosion compared to the first three games of the series, the Los Angeles Kings rallied, with a pair of third-period goals, to beat the St. Louis Blues 4-3, tying their series at two games apiece.

While Blues RW T.J. Oshie scored a pair of goals, he, along with linemates Patrik Berglund and David Perron, managed to finish minus-3. Oshie's first goal came on the power play and their line was on for all four of the Kings' goals. It wasn't a fluke either, they -- along with D Jay Bouwmeester -- got chewed up and spit out at even strength.

Who kicked them around the most? That would be the Kings' number one line, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams. Williams and Kopitar scored the third period goals to make the difference, but it was a team effort for the Kings. Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner scored the other goals and Mike Richards contributed a pair of assists.

St. Louis started well, outshooting the Kings 11-6 in the first period, jumping out to a 2-0 lead before the Kings tied it late in the first but, after that, the ice was tilted in the Kings' favour, as they outshot St. Louis 23-11 over the final two periods.

Vladimir Sobotka played a strong game for the Blues, picking up a couple of assists, finishing plus-2 and recording a game-high 10 hits. In their apparent desire to add more offence to the lineup, the Blues dressed rookie RW Vladimir Tarasenko, then played him a grand total of 5:51, a couple minutes less than fellow fourth-liners Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves.

The series returns to St. Louis, with both teams holding serve on home ice. The Blues don't have such high-scoring forwards that any come with great expectations, expecially in a series that has been such a grind, but LW Andy McDonald is still looking for his first points in the series and RW Chris Stewart has one assist. Carter's goal is a little encouraging for the Kings. He scored 26 in the 48-game regular season and 13 shots through four games suggests he's getting chances.

It won't be a surprise if the rest of the series reverts back to the lockdown style of the first three games, leaving little margin for error, on either side, in what has been a tremendous and competitive first-round series.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Milan Lucic (Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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