The Boston Bruins will try to complete a sweep of the top- seeded Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night, when they host Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals from TD Garden.
The Penguins came into this best-of-seven series as favorites, but are down three games to none to the fourth-seeded Bruins. Boston won Games 1 and 2 in Pittsburgh by a combined 9-1 margin before taking a classic double-overtime battle in Wednesday's home contest.
Pittsburgh is now faced with the daunting task of becoming just the fourth team in NHL history to come back from down 3-0 to win a series. Only the 1942, Toronto Maple Leafs, the 1975 New York Islanders and 2010 Philadelphia Flyers have won series after falling into the dreaded 0-3 hole.
Of course, the Flyers' comeback three years ago was against the Bruins in the conference semifinals, but Boston went on to win a Stanley Cup in 2011.
"What's at stake for our future is a chance to play Game 5," Pens head coach Dan Bylsma said on Thursday. "Tomorrow is an elimination game for our team. We have one game. We have 60 minutes. Win one game and move on to the next day."
After getting thoroughly outplayed in the first two games at home, Pittsburgh turned in a strong performance in Game 3, only to lost the contest in the closing minutes of the second OT.
Patrice Bergeron's redirection with 4:41 remaining in double overtime sent the Bruins to a 2-1 victory and pushed Pittsburgh to the brink of elimination.
Jaromir Jagr won a battle along the left-wing boards in the neutral zone against Evgeni Malkin and fed ahead to Brad Marchand, who waited until Bergeron had a step on Pens defenseman Brooks Orpik before dishing across for the game-winning tip.
"We found a way, I guess. That's the only way you've got to look at it," said Bergeron. "It wasn't necessarily our best effort in the first 60 (minutes), but I thought we re-grouped well in overtime and we had some really good chances in the first overtime. We kept battling and said that we have to find a way somehow. We did in the second overtime."
David Krejci, who leads all NHLers in goals (9) and points (21) this postseason, scored early in regulation for the Bruins, who can advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second time in three seasons with a win tonight.
Tuukka Rask was solid once again, stopping a playoff-high 53 shots in the win for Boston, which improved to 6-2 as the home team in these playoffs. Pittsburgh is now 3-3 as the visiting team in the 2013 postseason.
Chris Kunitz tallied in the second period for the Penguins, who are one loss away from being dumped from the postseason by the Bruins for the first time since 1980. Boston was also the last team to sweep Pittsburgh out of the playoffs, taking four straight in the quarterfinal round in 1979.
Tomas Vokoun acquitted himself well in defeat, making 38 saves, two days after being pulled from a 6-1 loss which saw him give up three goals on 12 shots in less than one period.
"The whole game we felt really comfortable with our play," said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. "We felt like it was just a matter of time before we were going to get it. Unfortunately we didn't, they hung around and got one at the end."
Boston did receive a bit of bad news in Game 3, as forward Gregory Campbell suffered a broken right fibula while blocking a shot and will miss the remainder of the playoffs.
Campbell was hurt during the second period Wednesday when he slid to block a slap shot from Malkin during a power play. He limped through the remainder of his shift before heading to the locker room and did not return.
In 15 games this postseason, Campbell posted three goals and four assists. He has been a key component on Boston's penalty kill and part of Boston's highly effective fourth line.
If the Penguins win on Friday, Game 5 of this series will be played Sunday evening in Pittsburgh.