It was certainly something to watch, one of those "where were you then?" moments—or rather, four of them.
Facing early elimination in an abbreviated season, the Boston Bruins scored two goals in the last two minutes of play to force overtime on Monday at TD Garden before ousting the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
The Leafs, who were in the postseason for the first time in nine years and had been down 3-1 in this series, built a 4-1 lead midway through the third period of the deciding contest. It looked like the Bruins were headed for another seven-game first-round exit two years after winning their first Stanley Cup since 1972.
Nathan Horton proceeded to score on a wrist shot from the left circle to make it 4-2 with just under 11 minutes left. With 80 seconds to go and goalie Tuukka Rask out for an extra attacker, Milan Lucic, who set up Horton's goal, got some space in front of the Toronto net and chipped the puck past James Reimer to make it 4-3.
Normally that's as close as most teams get, ultimately falling short in a frantic final minute after battling back valiantly—but not in Boston on this night.
Patrice Bergeron whistled a shot past Reimer from long range with 50.2 seconds remaining in regulation, with 6'9" Zdeno Chara providing a screen, and suddenly it was anybody's game.
It became the Bruins' after Bergeron completed the comeback by putting home a rebound to Reimer's left just over six minutes into sudden death, which sends the B's on to the second round against the New York Rangers and the Leafs back home to contemplate how close they came.
‘‘Anything can happen,’’ said Lucic to the Boston Globe, ‘‘and that’s exactly what happened.’’
Reimer lay face down in his crease for many long moments after Bergeron ended it, perhaps disbelieving that such a spirited run was now over.
"There was time left, they could come back and they did," said Reimer. "When you’re up 4-1 you'd like to be able to hold onto that lead.’’
It wasn't totally, completely shocking that the Bruins came through in such a situation. They've done it before. Maybe not in such rapid-fire fashion and with such dire circumstances as a three-goal deficit, but in a contest with win-or-be-done stakes.
There was a time two decades ago when the Bruins, playing at the venerable Boston Garden, scored three times in whirlwind style late in the third period against Patrick Roy and the rival Montreal Canadiens to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 victory.
Closer to the present day, the 2010-11 Bruins overcame their own brand of adversity a few times of their own to lift Lord Stanley's chalice.
Two years ago in the first round, the Bruins and Canadiens went to overtime tied at three apiece in Game 7. It was Horton, making his postseason debut after several high-scoring but playoff-less seasons with the Florida Panthers, who got the goal that put the Bruins into the second round against the Philadelphia Flyers, whom they outscored 20-7 en route to a four-game sweep.
One round later it was Horton coming through again by notching the only goal of the game late in the final stanza of Game 7 at the Garden against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In the finals, after facing an 0-2 deficit and three total losses in Vancouver, the Bruins responded with three decisive wins in Boston to set up a winner-take-all Game 7 in western Canada. It was Bergeron who scored two goals that game, including the game-winner, as the Bruins won 4-0 on enemy ice and Chara became the first—and tallest—Bruin to lift the Cup in 39 years.
With that as a basis to look back on, perhaps it's not too surprising the Bruins got the job done later rather than never.
‘‘We found a way, not necessarily the way we would have liked to play the whole game,’’ said Bergeron.
Boston Strong, indeed.
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