BOSTON - Brad Marchand left the morning skate early. The Bruins were thrilled he was on the ice at the end of the game Thursday night.
More precisely, just a few feet from the empty side of the net.
Patrice Bergeron made a perfect pass across the slot and Marchand tipped the puck in with 4:20 left in the first overtime. That gave Boston a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers in the opener of their Eastern Conference best-of-seven semifinal.
"That's what he needed to do. Get off the ice early so he could score that winning goal," Bruins coach Claude Julien joked after the first playoff game between the Original Six teams in 40 years. "Whatever works is good for us."
He said the reason was "minor" for Marchand's early departure but provided no details.
Marchand, perhaps, did.
"I didn't want to waste my energy there this morning. I felt I had some good jump tonight," he said with a smile. "Claude knows I hate morning skates."
Whatever the reason, Marchand had one of his best games of the playoffs. After leading the Bruins with 18 goals in the regular season, he finally got his first in this year's post-season.
"It's always frustrating" not to score, Marchand said, "but there's so many other areas of the game. It's always nice to get the first one and you hope you just keep going."
He might just do that in Game 2 at home on Sunday if Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist doesn't improve.
After consecutive shutouts in the last two games against the Washington Capitals in the opening round, last year's Vezina Trophy winner and this year's finalist for the award allowed two soft goals then admitted he made a mistake on Marchand's.
"I thought I made a bad decision," Lundqvist said. "I was too focused on the puck. I kind of knew (Marchand) was coming in the middle, but I was just too locked in on the puck."
Boston's last three wins and New York's last three losses all have been in overtime.
The Bruins had more offensive pressure throughout the game and led 48-35 in shots on goal. In overtime, they had six shots on an early power play and outshot the Rangers 16-5.
"If anything, I think (the power play) should have gotten us going because we were out there for a while and got the job done," New York's Dan Girardi said.
Zdeno Chara scored the first goal at 12:23 of the first period before Ryan McDonagh tied the game with just 1.3 seconds left in the period. And just 14 seconds into the second, Derek Stepan gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
But at 2:55, rookie Torey Krug tied it with his first career goal in his fourth NHL game and first in the post-season. He was called up from Providence of the AHL on Tuesday when Dennis Seidenberg joined two other veteran defencemen, Andrew Ference and Wade Redden, on the sidelines with injuries.
"The key to every power play is to get pucks to the net," Krug said. "That's one of the strengths of my game."
The Bruins nearly won in regulation, but Johnny Boychuk's shot from the right point clanged off the left post with one-tenth of a second left.
Both teams advanced with Game 7 victories Monday night. The Rangers beat the Washington Capitals 5-0. The Bruins became the first team to overcome a three-goal deficit in the third period of a seventh game and beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 on Bergeron's goal in overtime.
"I really thought our guys turned the page on that historical game," Julien said. "At the same time, they wanted to take what was necessary to start the series, and that was momentum, the good feeling that we have from that game."
On the deciding goal, Marchand carried the puck up the right side, passed it to Bergeron and kept going toward the net. Bergeron passed across the slot and Marchand tipped it past Lundqvist.
"I told Marchand when we were pretty close to each other on the wall to go back door," Bergeron said. "It was good to see him score because I thought he had some pretty good looks tonight."
The Bruins carried the play throughout overtime. They applied constant pressure, but couldn't score during a power play when Derek Dorsett was penalized for interference at 2:20 of overtime.
"I thought it was pretty even going into the overtime," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "But we got spanked in the overtime."
The Bruins ended Lundqvist's shutout streak at 152 minutes, 23 seconds when he gave up a Chara's soft goal. Lundqvist appeared to have a good view of the 50-foot slap shot from just in front of the middle of the blue line and got a piece of the puck, but it trickled by him.
And when he couldn't stop Marchand, his overtime woes continued.
"It was a tough overtime period for us. They came hard," Lundqvist said. "My record is terrible in overtime, but I've just got to stick with it, play my game and hopefully it'll turn around."
NOTES: Bergeron and Gregory Campbell were the only Bruins without a shot on goal. ... Stepan's goal was the sixth against the Bruins in the first two minutes of a period in their eight playoff games. ... The teams last met in the playoffs in 1973 when the Rangers won the first-round series in five games. The previous year, they faced each other in the Stanley Cup finals, and the Bruins won in six. ... Boston's Jaromir Jagr, a former Ranger, is the only player on either team who had been born the last time the teams met in the playoffs, April 10, 1973.
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