BOSTON — One of the reasons the Bruins currently own the best record in the NHL is that they’ve been outstanding in the third period, especially when it comes to holding leads. They have outscored opponents 48-22 in the final frame and are now 17-0-0 in games they’ve led after two periods following Monday’s 3-2 win over the Canadiens.
After the majority of reporters had moved away from Tim Thomas’ stall Monday night, the goalie was asked why he thinks the Bruins have been so good in third periods.
He started off by talking about how the team treats the third period the same as any other period and doesn’t try to make it bigger than it is. He added that the team seems to get stronger as games go on, and then paused before coming up with a reference no one was expecting.
“Stronger ’til dawn, like Lancelot,” Thomas said. “I don’t know if you guys know what that means. You know Lancelot, the knight? The real duels they had, some of them would go all night. They had so much armor and they’re so heavy and they could hardly move. The legend is that he just kept getting stronger the longer it went, so that’s what I mean by that.”
Thanks to the lack of multiple overtimes in the regular season, the Bruins won’t actually have to duel until dawn any time soon. In fact, they’ve only had to go overtime four times this season, thanks in part to the fact that they simply don’t blow third-period leads.
Of the 17 games the Bruins have led after two periods, not only have they held the lead every time, but they’ve added to it in 14 of those games. Like Lancelot, the Bruins have figured out how to wear down their opponents.
“We just try to be consistent,” said defenseman Andrew Ference. “I think that consistency eventually pays off, and it’s usually in the third period. If we get a good forecheck going, we get some extended shifts in their zone. It tires teams out, and I think that there’s mistakes that are made when you’re tired.”
On Monday night, the Bruins actually didn’t exhibit that consistency early in the third. The Canadiens registered nine of the period’s first 10 shots and seemed to be on the verge of tying the game.
But the Bruins were able to weather the storm — thanks in no small part to Thomas’ netminding — before finally turning the tables and playing the way they usually do in third periods. Then with less than six minutes to go, Patrice Bergeron forced a turnover at the offensive blue line and Tyler Seguin fed Brad Marchand for a pretty goal that proved to be the game-winner.
“It’s important not to sit back,” Bergeron said. “When we’ve been doing that, it’s hurt us. Teams have been coming back or scoring against us. I think we have to keep going at it, keep going on offense, but not being careless. Still finding ways to create some offense.”
Lancelot spent part of his life searching for the Holy Grail. If the Bruins continue to be at their best late in games, they just might find themselves hoisting hockey’s version of the Holy Grail again this June.