Bruins’ Mason Lohrei, Matt Grzelcyk and a defense in transition

TORONTO — Mason Lohrei was taking just his second career NHL playoff shift. It lasted only 22 seconds. The Boston Bruins defenseman was sent off for cross-checking Tyler Bertuzzi. 

Then in the third period of Game 3’s 4-2 win, Lohrei was called for hooking Auston Matthews. Lohrei did not agree with either call. Then again, rookies do not usually get the benefit of the doubt in the playoffs.

“I’m trying to be more physical. Getting into bodies,” Lohrei said. “It’s something I’ve talked about a lot with the coaches. They told me they like that I’m trying to be more physical. So I’ve got to find the line.”

The Bruins killed both penalties. They are 10 for 11 against the Toronto Maple Leafs’ hiccuping power play. Lohrei’s eagerness did not come back to bite him.

“It is what it is, right?” Lohrei said of his two visits to the box. “That’s why we have the best penalty kill.”

Lohrei did not even start the playoffs on the varsity roster. He was in the AHL for the first two games. But Andrew Peeke’s Game 2 injury and the Bruins’ 3-2 loss put Lohrei back into the mix.

The Bruins recalled Lohrei from Providence on Tuesday. The following morning, he learned he would make his playoff debut that night in Game 3. While Parker Wotherspoon would fill Peeke’s spot next to Kevin Shattenkirk, Lohrei was replacing Matt Grzelcyk on Charlie McAvoy’s left flank — in the starting lineup, no less.

The stress was off the charts.

“So nervous,” Lohrei said of how he felt at puck drop. “I get nervous before every game no matter what. But something like this, it’s heightened 10 times.

“But the puck drops, I get it. Soon as I make that pass to McAvoy, it was gone.”

Coach Jim Montgomery matched Lohrei and McAvoy against Toronto’s No. 2 line of Matthew Knies, John Tavares and Mitch Marner. Neither Lohrei nor McAvoy was on the ice when Knies tipped Marner’s feed past Jeremy Swayman. Lohrei had one shot in 14:19 of ice time.

In Friday’s practice, Lohrei was back with McAvoy during five-on-five play. Lohrei worked the right side of the formation on the No. 2 power-play unit. Grzelcyk practiced on a spare pair with Derek Forbort. 

Grzelcyk has 65 playoff appearances. Lohrei has just one. But Grzelcyk struggled at times with Toronto’s forecheck in Game 2. Lohrei is seven inches taller and 31 pounds heavier than Grzelcyk. The 23-year-old is better built for playoff nastiness.

The Lohrei-for-Grzelcyk swap could be the first step toward a blue-line transition. Grzelcyk, 30, is unrestricted at year’s end. Lohrei is in the first season of his two-year, entry-level contract.

Lower on the depth chart, the 32-year-old Forbort is also due to become an unrestricted free agent. Wotherspoon, 26, signed a one-year, $800,000 extension on March 8. 

As such, the Bruins may decide to let Grzelcyk and Forbort walk. How Lohrei and Wotherspoon continue to perform against the Leafs will play a part in the organization’s decision.

“Neither one of them in their first Stanley Cup playoff game were overwhelmed by the moment,” Montgomery said. “Now they both need to play faster, end more plays, make more plays going north. Same thing as the team. I talk about the transitions. They need to transition a little bit harder, firmer, quicker.”

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Matt Grzelcyk is poke-checked by Auston Matthews in Game 1. (Brian Fluharty / Getty Images)

In the first period of Game 3, David Pastrnak had the puck on his stick. Ilya Samsonov was out of the net, occupied by a McAvoy wraparound. But instead of burying his shot, Pastrnak thudded the puck into Joel Edmundson.

It was one of four attempts Pastrnak had blocked. He missed the net with four others. The only puck Pastrnak put on goal was on the power play. 

No five-on-five shots is not enough from the Bruins’ 47-goal scorer, who also came up zeroes in Game 1. Both of his two five-on-five Round 1 shots were in Game 2. Brad Marchand leads the Bruins with 10.

“First period, Pastrnak could have had two or three goals,” Montgomery said. “One hit their defenseman that was going in. One he puts over the crossbar. He’s getting his looks. That line — I’m not going to talk about Pastrnak in particular — the more O-zone time they can get, the better it’s going to be for us.”

Pastrnak’s lone goal of the series was in Game 2. Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe has used the Tavares line along with Jake McCabe and Simon Benoit against Pastrnak, Pavel Zacha and Jake DeBrusk. As expected, McCabe and Benoit have roughed up Pastrnak whenever possible.

“Still lots of room to grow,” DeBrusk said of the team game. “Especially five-on-five.”

Swayman didn’t say much after Max Domi bumped him during a TV timeout in Game 3. Pat Maroon did. The fourth-liner screamed at Domi, both on the ice and after returning to the bench.

“He understands the game within the game,” Montgomery said. “Marshy’s great at that too. That’s something he brings along with his play.”

Maroon declined to discuss the run-in.

Odds and ends

• Danton Heinen was the lone player not to practice on Friday. Jakub Lauko, a Game 3 healthy scratch, replaced Heinen as the No. 3 right wing.

• Forbort remains day to day.

• Justin Brazeau practiced as an extra forward. The No. 4 right wing could be available in Round 2 if the Bruins advance.

(Top photo of Mason Lohrei: Claus Andersen / Getty Images)

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