OTTAWA, CANADA - APRIL 16: Face of a Villain: Brian Boyle #22 of the New York Rangers celebrates his third period goal against the Ottawa Senators in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scotiabank Place on April 16, 2012 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The Rangers defeated the Senators 1-0. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
A strong effort from the Ottawa Senators and a superb shutout from New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is overshadowed by Brian Boyle's game-winning goal. Because that's what playoff villains do.
This is how NHL playoff series work at their best, their most dramatic, their most maddening.
The Ottawa Senators played arguably their best game of the series in Game 3, outshooting the New York Rangers in every period and 39-23 overall, yet Henrik Lundqvist saved the day and the game's lone goal was scored late in the third period by Brian Boyle.
Yes, that Brian Boyle.
The same Brian Boyle who made himself a marked man by taking freebie punches at Senators star Erik Karlsson's head -- just a 50-lb. mismatch there -- in Game 1. The same 6'7" Brian Boyle who, when called to answer for that transgression at the beginning of Game 2, made like Bartleby and indicated a metaphorical "I prefer not to," drawing Matt Carkner into a suspension. The same Brian Boyle who finally dropped the gloves with Chris Neil later in Game 2, because "prefer not to" wasn't an acceptable answer.
And the same Brian Boyle who was booed and taunted throughout Game 3 by Senators fans, only to respond with a strong game including five shots, three hits and one very important goal in 18:55 of ice time. As luck and circumstance would have it, it was technically his second game-winning goal of the series.
The stars of the game were rightly the goalies, with Lundqvist earning a true first star with his 39-save shutout. But the narrative goes to Boyle, who's made himself a right old villain at the center of each game in this series. To add salt to the wound, Boyle took key Senators center Jason Spezza off the ice for one of Spezza's three minor penalties in Game 3.
Why, Boyle even has a ridiculous mustache to look the part. Which helps, when few average fans knew who he was before this series.
To rise -- or sink -- to the role of villain in the NHL playoffs, you don't have to be a star and you don't even have to score all the goals like some modern-day John Druce. You just have to score the right goals, do the right dirty things, at the right maddening times.
For reference, see the previously anonymous Boyle, Brian: Games 1-3, 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinal.