The game-winning rush was over in seconds.
Just moments after Brad Marchand picked the puck off the wall in the defensive zone, the left wing was at the front of the net. Once there, Marchand tapped the deciding strike past Henrik Lundqvist at 15:40 of overtime to give the Bruins a 3-2 Game 1 win over the Rangers Thursday night at TD Garden.
But before Marchand peeled off, he and Patrice Bergeron had time for a quick word, as implausible as that might seem.
“I told Marshy when we were pretty close to each other, when he grabbed the puck on the wall, I told him just to go backdoor,” Bergeron said. “I took the puck and he knew he had to beat his guy. He did a great job.”
In retrospect, no words needed to be spoken.
Bergeron and Marchand have been linemates for most of the last three seasons. By now, through all those games and practices and meetings, Marchand knows Bergeron’s movements as if they were his own. And vice versa.
So when Bergeron took the pass from Marchand and barreled down the right wing, his linemate knew exactly what he had to do: get to the net.
It wasn’t easy. Marchand was racing stride for stride with Mats Zuccarello. The Rangers left wing was in Marchand’s jersey.
Marchand had no intention of losing the race. Marchand jostled free from Zuccarello with several shrugs of his left arm. Once Marchand gained a step, he punched the turbos and broke for the far post.
By the time Bergeron swung clear of Anton Stralman, Marchand was right where he needed to be. When Bergeron’s cross-crease pass arrived, Marchand made no mistake. He buried his shot behind Lundqvist for his first postseason strike, and his most important goal of 2013.
“I’ve got to see the guy in the middle,” Lundqvist acknowledged. “I was too focused on the puck. I kind of knew he was coming in the middle. But I was just too locked in on the puck. That’s why I made a stretch move instead of coming with my pads together. It’s a technical thing and it happened fast.”
Marchand (one goal, one assist, three shots in 22:17 of ice time) submitted arguably his strongest game of the playoffs.
Marchand even left the morning skate early after suffering a minor injury. Near the end of the session, Marchand skated off the ice, doubled over in pain. He didn’t return to complete the skate.
“He skated well,” coach Claude Julien said. “He made some great plays. He took pucks to the net. That’s the Brad Marchand we know. It was nice to really see him bring his A-game.”
It was a critical series-opening win for the Bruins. They were missing Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference, and Wade Redden. Their three primary left-shot defensemen combined for 274 career games of NHL playoff experience. Their replacements — Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton, and Torey Krug — entered the night with just five total playoff games to their names.
It was the second straight overtime win for the Bruins. Just three days earlier, the Bruins beat the Maple Leafs in overtime in Game 7 of the first round.
On Thursday, the Bruins continued their overtime domination. Marchand’s goal was the 16th and final shot for the Bruins in OT. The Rangers put only five OT shots on Tuukka Rask.
“We got spanked in overtime,” said Rangers coach John Tortorella.
But the Bruins almost didn’t make it to OT. The Rangers clobbered the Bruins with a two-goal tagging — much like a left-right combination to the head — in a 16-second span.
The Bruins were less than two seconds from taking a 1-0 lead into the third period. But with 1.3 seconds remaining in the middle frame, Ryan McDonagh one-timed a point shot through traffic to make it 1-1.
Then only 14 seconds into the third, the Rangers grabbed a 2-1 lead when Derek Stepan rifled a one-timer past Rask (33 saves).
The Bruins pointed to the late McDonagh goal as the ignition point of the dip in energy. The Bruins lost an offensive-zone faceoff. They couldn’t contain Rick Nash in the defensive zone. Then when Tyler Seguin could have cleared the puck decisively, the third-line right wing sent a weak chip off the boards that didn’t make it out of the zone.
“It was tough to give that first one up with a second left,” Marchand said. “Even that one quickly in the third period.”
The Bruins didn’t fold. Instead, they became stronger.
The rally started with a power-play goal. With Steve Eminger in the box for holding, the Bruins tallied the tying goal. Hamilton walked the puck off the right boards and considered his options. The Rangers, as usual, were cramming the shooting lane.
So Hamilton spotted fellow rookie Krug open to his left. With a swift swipe, Hamilton dished to Krug, who had an open lane to fire. Krug took it, rocketing his first NHL playoff goal past Lundqvist at 2:55, tying the game at 2-2.
“Dougie made a great play getting the puck over to me,” Krug said. “I had a lot of time getting my shot through to the net. I was fortunate enough to get a screen on the goalie and it went in.”
The youngsters ceded to the vets in overtime. Zdeno Chara made the critical defensive stop. Bergeron and Marchand took over. And now the Bruins have a 1-0 series lead.