Nick Bonino (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
Nick Bonino is on a tear in the post-season and scored his ninth point in eight games Monday with a savvy move and perfect pass for the primary assist on the game-winning goal. Bonino, 28, is tied for the Penguins playoff scoring lead.
Nearly every post-season, there’s one player who unexpectedly steps up his game and helps lead the offensive charge for his club. Through the early stages of the second round, it looks like this year that player is going to be Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Bonino.
Bonino, 28, had eight points in seven games entering Game 3 of the second-round series between the Penguins and Washington Capitals, and over the course of the playoffs he’s been finding the score sheet with regularity while making things happen with the puck on his stick. In Game 3, he turned what looked like it was going to be a quick shot turned away by Capitals netminder Braden Holtby into an outstanding assist on the game-winning goal.
With five minutes remaining in the second period, Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt shovelled the puck up the middle of the ice, missed his target and turned over the puck to Penguins winger Phil Kessel. Kessel wasted no time moving the puck to the front of the Capitals net where Bonino was stationed. On his backhand, Bonino looked like he was about to chip the puck on goal, but instead waited until he had driven around Holtby before slipping a backhand pass right onto Carl Hagelin’s tape for a tap-in:
At the time, Hagelin’s tally didn’t seem like much more than a second insurance marker on a lead Penguins goalie Matt Murray didn’t appear likely to relinquish, but the end result was Hagelin’s goal standing as the game-winner. In the third period, Alex Ovechkin got the Capitals on the board and Justin Williams brought Washington within one with 56 seconds remaining, but Murray stopped all subsequent attempts to give the Penguins a 2-1 series lead.
The primary assist on Hagelin's game-winning goal gives Bonino one goal and nine points in eight games, putting him into a tie with Evgeni Malkin for the Penguins’ scoring lead. Bonino’s production is especially surprising given that his nine points are more than a third of what he managed in 63 regular season contests, and he’s only six points back of scoring more points in this post-season than he had in the three years prior.