NHL: Penalty-killer Paille getting offensive for Cup-leading Bruins
BOSTON (AP) — His teammates always knew Daniel Paille was more than a speedy penalty killer who specialized in defense for the Boston Bruins.
Given his chance on a rebuilt line, he’s spreading that news in the Stanley Cup finals.
Paille scored the winning goal in the Bruins 2-1 overtime victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 2, then picked up the first goal in a 2-0 win on Monday night.
His next chance comes Wednesday night when Boston will try to improve on its 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“He’s always been a great player for us,” right wing Shawn Thornton, who played on the fourth line with Paille all season, said Tuesday. “He has all of the tools. I think he’s popped a couple of goals, so maybe people are taking notice right now.”
Paille spent the first two playoff series — and most of the third — on that line, which is relied on for its physical play and defense. But when center Gregory Campbell broke his right leg on the third game of Boston’s sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals, coach Claude Julien had to juggle his lines.
He kept Paille on the fourth line until the Bruins were dominated in the first period of Game 2 against Chicago. So, in the second period, Julien put Paille at left wing on a more offensive line with center Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin.
That hunch to spark a listless team has resulted in three of Boston’s four goals in the last two games.
“They just seem to be working well together. A lot of credit goes to them,” Julien said. “I’m just a little ticked off that I didn’t put them together sooner.”
A first-round pick by Buffalo in 2002, Paille scored 35 goals in four seasons before being traded to the Bruins after playing just two games in 2009-10. Since then, he has 35 goals and 29 assists during the regular season.
But so far, in this year’s playoffs, he has four goals, including three game-winners, and four assists in 19 games.
“I think I’m just happy that we got the win,” Paille said after Game 3. “Fortunately, it was the game winner and I’ll be excited about it. (I’m) more excited that we won.”
He probably wouldn’t have gotten the chance if Campbell hadn’t been injured. After all, Julien is very slow to change the makeup of lines.
“I guess we found out the problem,” Campbell said with a smile. “Me and (Thornton) have been holding him back the last two years.”
Kelly and Paille also drew penalties that led to Patrice Bergeron’s goal with 5:55 left in the second, giving the Bruins a 2-0 lead.
“The three of us are working hard and having fun, which is nice,” Kelly said. “It’s always fun, but some days are more fun than others.”
In the first three rounds, the top two lines were outstanding. First-line center David Krejci leads the NHL in playoff points. But as the playoffs progress — and opponents focus more on stopping the leading offensive players — it becomes more important for the other forwards to produce.
“As you’ve seen throughout the playoffs, it’s been repetitively the same guys scoring night in and night out,” Campbell said. “That’s extremely hard as you move on and face better teams, better defensemen. For the top two lines to keep scoring on that pace is extremely hard. My point is that it takes four lines.”
Paille and Seguin may be the Bruins’ two fastest skaters. That’s especially important against the Blackhawks, a speedier team than the Penguins.
Seguin assisted on Paille’s consecutive game-winning goals against Chicago.
“I think we are just putting pucks on net and reading plays,” Paille said after Monday’s win. “I think we are managing the puck a little bit better. Just on my goal, you saw (Kelly) go in, and I went in and then I shot. I think we are just not giving (the Blackhawks) enough time to think with the puck and we are able to get it.”
His right leg in a cast after his surgery, Campbell has enjoyed the view of Paille.
“I’ve gotten the opportunity to watch him now that I’m not playing with him.” Campbell said. “Playoff hockey is really where he shines. I can relate to that.
“It’s the simple things that might not draw a lot of attention during the regular season, but when it really matters in the playoffs, he’s been there for us.”