In their daunting quest to survive four rounds of postseason play and lay claim to the Stanley Cup, no playoff team can ever expect to go the distance without a few key contributions from unexpected sources.
|Bruins winger Dan Paille celebrates his second period goal against the Capitals in Game 3. (Getty Images)|
Throughout the entirety of their magical run last spring, the Bruins got just that from the duo of Greg Campbell and Dan Paille, as their sensational work on the penalty kill was instrumental to the B’s success. After serving as the team’s healthy scratch for nearly half of the regular season last year, Paille caught fire at the end of the year and carried his strong play into the playoffs.
This time around was different for the speedy, defensive-minded winger. After holding down his spot as the fourth line left wing for majority of the campaign, Paille suddenly found himself as the odd man out on the cusp of the postseason. Fittingly, he’s reemerged as a key cog in the first round and more than proved his worth on Monday night down in Washington – a 4-3 victory for the Black and Gold.
With the Bruins trailing 2-1 in the second period, Paille and his linemates – Campbell and Shawn Thornton – had another strong shift and outmuscled defenders behind Braden Holtby’s net.
“My goal was just a battle by ‘Soupy’ and ‘Thorty’ in the corner and then got the puck to ‘Zans’ (Greg Zanon),” said Paille, who buried a rebound with a backhanded shot to tie the game at 2-2. “Zans shot it right away and I had a ton of time in front of the net, so I thought I’d make a move and I had a wide open net, so it was nice to go in.”
The game got off to a bit of a bumpy start for Paille, who found himself on the ice for Washington’s first goal of the game (a power-play strike from Alex Semin). But from there, he and the rest of the Merlot clan were rock solid, disrupting the Caps with a strong forecheck, dishing out timely hits and generating chances.
“Yeah, it seems like we’re coming around and you know for playoff hockey,” said Paille. “We’re not going to chip in every night, but we want to chip in as much as we can and we were glad to get one tonight. It’s a one-goal difference so every game is going to be tough like that.”
For his efforts, which included two shots and two hits in 10:13 of ice time, and some stellar shorthanded work that leaves the Caps 1-for-10 on the power play in this series, Paille was rewarded with the chain – replacing last year’s jacket – by his teammates.
“Yeah, I was a bit surprised,” said Paille. “A lot of guys played really well tonight. I thought I was okay in the first, but I wanted to be a lot better than that so it was nice to see the guys recognize the hard work and it’s an honor. I’ll wear it tonight and I’ll pass it on to the next one.”
As a guy that’s been counted out a time or two, the honor felt extra gratifying.
“Yeah, you know those times are tough, but you get to play again,” Paille said of being scratched near the end of the season. “I knew I was going to get back into the lineup eventually and the main thing was to stay positive always and try to fight for it as much as you can. Every night I plan to do that.”
While his offensive contributions may not come on a nightly basis, coach Claude Julien and Co. certainly know by now that Paille’s always ready, willing and able to chip in any way he can.