During the playoffs, the Bruins have received timely scoring support from their defensemen, who emerged as unlikely but welcomed goal-scoring threats in the series against Toronto, New York, and Pittsburgh.
After Adam McQuaid’s one-timer sealed a 1-0 victory and a four-game sweep of the Penguins, Boston’s back end had not been heard from in the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Until, that is, Johnny Boychuk ripped a blistering slapper that beat Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford glove side and enabled the Bruins to tie a roller coaster affair, 5-5, at 12:14 of the third period.
“Huge goal,’’ said Dennis Seidenberg.
Boychuk’s strike was his sixth of the postseason and 15th by a Bruins defenseman.
However, Boychuk’s blast was the only bright spot for the beleaguered group after its top pairing of Zdeno Chara and Seidenberg were beaten by the net-front pestilence of Jonathan Toews, who screened Tuukka Rask on Brent Seabrook’s winning goal in Wednesday night’s 6-5 overtime loss before a stunned TD Garden crowd of 17,565.
“Just felt like it was a run-and-gun kind of game,’’ said Boychuk. “I thought we had a good chance to win it in overtime. But it was just one shot.’’
Boychuk’s uplifting contribution wound up being reduced to a sad footnote by Seabrook’s winner in a gut-wrenching setback that sent the series back to Chicago for Game 5 with the best-of-seven series even at two games apiece.
“Well, Johnny is a good player,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “Not only was he doing what he could to prevent goals, but he did a great job at scoring that tying goal. He’s got a great shot. [He’s] had a great playoffs.’’
The last time Boychuk found the back of the net was when he potted the sixth and final goal in Boston’s 6-1 smackdown of the Penguins in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final s.
“Good hockey player,’’ Julien said. “Like I said, he’s done a great job in the American Hockey League of being one of the best scoring defensemen before he came to us.
“Now it’s nice to see him utilize that shot and showcase his game knowing that he’s become a pretty strong and reliable defenseman in this league.’’
Boychuk also made his presence felt defensively, dishing out four hits, including a particularly hard-hitting hip check along the boards that upended the Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp in the third period.
For long stretches, the Bruins’ physical nature seemed stymied against Chicago’s speedy forwards.
“We have to clean up our own end and limit the turnovers and play our kind of game,’’ Boychuk said. “When we do that it usually comes out in a positive way.’’
Asked if the breakdowns the Bruins’ defense suffered were a function of their own miscues or Chicago’s speed, Boychuk replied, “I think it was a little of both. They do have a lot of speed and when we turn pucks over and give them that opportunity, they took advantage of it.’’
Despite the result, Boychuk felt there was some momentum to be gained by the way the team fought back from a 3-1 deficit.
“Yeah, we did play well and we did battle back from a two-goal deficit,’’ Boychuk said. “We probably shouldn’t have been in that situation anyways. It’s best-of-three now and you can’t worry about what happened tonight, it’s what happens in the future.’’