The NHL playoff picture is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in the sport’s history.
But there’s a lot at stake.
A shootout goal on Tuesday night by a Boston Bruins goalie helped the Chicago Blackhawks earn a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Bruins (14-12-1) won the first two games of the series with a 4.09 goals-against average and .921 save percentage, while the Rangers (15-8-1), who lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round, had a 2.76 goals-per-game average and a .928 save percentage.
With a series sweep in mind, Bruins coach Claude Julien said the goal was a great example of how “we play hockey.”
“The way we play hockey and the way we want to play hockey, it’s not about winning,” Julien told reporters Tuesday.
“It’s about how you play hockey to win.
It’s about not letting things get to you and letting your teammates play to win.”
Julien didn’t elaborate on what led to the shootout, but the Bruins did have a couple of chances.
For instance, the Rangers were in the midst of their best possession play in franchise history when they took a 2-0 lead on a Ryan McDonagh power-play goal at 14:38 of the second period.
After the goal, Julien joked that he might have given up an extra point for the sake of making it to overtime.
But the Bruins didn’t have any trouble getting back in the game.
After defenseman David Krejci’s third shot of the night hit the post and deflected off the stick of Rangers defenseman Rick Nash, Julison said it was a “pretty good shot” by Krejc.
“I know a lot of people think it was an empty netter,” Julison joked.
“That’s not true.
It was a pretty good shot.”
After two quick scoring chances by the Rangers, Krejcy made it 2-1 on a second-period goal from Alexei Emelin, who had a great shot by the net from close range.
The Rangers won the third shootout with a goal by David Booth at 15:07 of the third period.
The game was tied 2-2 at the end of regulation.
On a third-period power play, Kreis made a breakaway pass to J.T. Miller, who skated into the net for the goal.
After a shootout goal in the shootout for the Bruins in the past, Kreys goal seemed to be a sign of hope for a possible comeback.
But he couldn’t capitalize on it and the Bruins were swept.
After the goal in regulation, the NHL announced the winner of the shootout will advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Julien also said he would consider giving up a playoff spot to a team that finishes last in the standings if it doesn’t win at least four games in the regular season.
The Bruins will be looking to get back on track.
They’re 10-3-2 in their past 11 games.
The only blemish on that record is a 4:23 of extra time overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils in New Jersey last week.
It was a good start for Julien’s team.
Boston is averaging 3.6 goals per game, but its shot rate (23.4 percent) is the highest in the NHL and its power play (28.4) is third.
They’ve also been effective in the penalty box, limiting teams to 3.2 goals per 60 minutes.
“We’re a good team,” Juliens said.
“We’re playing our best hockey, and it’s the first time we’ve won a playoff series.
We’re very excited about it.
We know that it’s a great opportunity for us to get some momentum going.”
As the Bruins prepare for the second-round series, they’ll have a chance to make some history against the Pittsburgh Panthers.
The Penguins, who finished last in their division, have won four straight games, including the first four.
The series starts Tuesday night at 7 p.m.
ET on NBCSN.