WASHINGTON - As the second overall pick of the 2010 draft, Tyler Seguin is expected to score highlight-quality overtime winners in the playoffs.
At 3:17 of OT Sunday, Seguin took a feed from Milan Lucic and instead of releasing a shot, waited for Braden Holtby to hit the deck. With Holtby down and out, Seguin snapped a shot into the net to give the Bruins a 4-3 win at the Verizon Center and set up Game 7 Wednesday at TD Garden.
It was with a sense of fatherly pride, however, that coach Claude Julien considered the game-changing play Seguin made in the third period.
Through his first two years of NHL service, Seguin repeatedly has pledged to become a three-zone player like Patrice Bergeron. The right wing does not want to be just a scoot-and-shoot sniper such as Phil Kessel, the player the Bruins swapped to Toronto for what turned out to be the right to draft Seguin.
In the third period, with the score tied at 2, Seguin made good on his promise.
Alexander Semin had a scoring chance in the offensive zone. But Seguin stripped Semin of the puck to trigger the counterattack.
“He made a great defensive play before we scored that go-ahead goal in the third,’’ Julien said. “He’s a player that’s grown and matured. He’s understanding, more and more, how important it is to play a great two-way game in the playoffs. We’re pretty proud and pleased at the way he’s handling everything since he’s been with us. He’s a player who still knows he’s got a lot to learn. He wants to learn to become the best player he can in this league.’’
Once Seguin swatted the puck off Semin’s stick, he took off. Seguin knew he had support from linemates Lucic and David Krejci. Seguin gave a look to the middle, but then ripped a shot. Holtby stopped the shot, but left the rebound out front.
As Krejci and Lucic drove the net, they drew Semin and John Carlson with them. Andrew Ference read the opening, jumped up in the play, and beat a backchecking Nicklas Backstrom to the puck. Ference beat Holtby on the rebound at 11:57, giving the Bruins a 3-2 lead.
“No shot’s a bad one,’’ Ference said of Seguin’s decision. “They end up in funny places sometimes. Luckily for me, it ended up away from their guys and right in my path. Just the luck of the draw sometimes on those shots when you’re joining.’’
Entering Game 6, Boston’s first-liners had been ghosts. Seguin hadn’t scored a point. Lucic and Krejci had just one assist apiece. They had been the ultimate gear-grinders, thwarted as much by their lack of confidence as by the shutdown effort of Carlson and Karl Alzner.
In Game 6, they needed to be stars. Bergeron was less than 100 percent because of an undisclosed injury.
At the other end, Semin had entered the day with goals in three straight games. Alex Ovechkin scored one goal on seven shots Sunday and struck the crossbar with another. Backstrom, Washington’s most clever playmaker, assisted on two Game 6 goals. One of Backstrom’s helpers was a dazzler - backhand sauce right onto the tape of a streaking Jason Chimera for a tying second-period goal.
The Boston first-liners responded. In the first period, Krejci netted his first goal of the series, giving the Bruins a 2-1 lead with a power-play strike. Lucic assisted on the goal.
In the third, while Seguin was performing his strip-and-shoot sequence, Krejci and Lucic did their jobs by driving to the net.
With less than five minutes remaining in regulation, the first-liners’ hard work went to waste. Backstrom ripped a faceoff from Rich Peverley in the offensive zone. He pulled the puck back to Ovechkin, who kicked the puck from his left skate to his blade. Dennis Seidenberg knew what was coming and tried to block the shot. But Seidenberg couldn’t get enough of his body in front. Ovechkin whistled the puck through Seidenberg and past Tim Thomas at 15:08 to tie the game at 3 and force overtime.
In OT, the first-liners picked up their teammates once more.
Again, it started with a defensive play. Backstrom started the breakout with an outlet pass. Krejci read the play and intercepted. He sent a quick pass up to Lucic. After crossing the offensive blue line and drawing Roman Hamrlik, Lucic dished to Seguin in the middle of the ice. After that, Seguin worked his stuff to set up Game 7.
“It’s been so close that it probably deserves a Game 7,’’ Ference said. “It’s kind of fitting. Neither team has given the other team too much in the way of leads or being able to hold on to the leads. It’s been a good hockey series. Game 7 is well-deserved on both sides.’’
Game 7 will be another dogfight. All six games have been decided by one goal. Three of the six have been settled in overtime. Both teams’ stars are heading into Game 7 playing their best.
It promises to be a showstopper.
“You expect your team to show, once again, the experience it’s had in the past,’’ Julien said. “I said that before the game. When you go through those kinds of situations, you can handle those a lot better. We had a Game 6 last year, do-or-die in the finals, that we were able to overcome. I’m hoping it served us tonight. It got us to Game 7 last year. There’s no guarantees in anything. But you’ve got to like the experience that you have going into Game 7.’’