Trailing 3-2 in the series, the Bruins left it all on the ice, outplaying, outhitting and outshooting the Blackhawks for the majority of the game. Following a timely Milan Lucic score with just under eight minutes remaining, Boston jumped in front 2-1. With a little more than a minute left in the third, a Game 7 looked inevitable.
Then, the Bruins blinked for a second—17 to be exact.
Next thing you know, Chicago netted not one, but two goals to capture an improbable 3-2 advantage with just 59 seconds remaining. Stunned and in disbelief, Boston couldn’t even manage to get one shot on goal during the final onslaught on netminder Corey Crawford.
Sure, the Blackhawks may have been the team that got to raise the cup above their heads. However, their counterparts should feel just as accomplished.
You see, the Bruins were not only playing for themselves, they were also playing for an entire city.
A city—known as one of the toughest in the United States—that was tragically brought to its knees on April 15, when two cowards set off bombs during the running of the 117th Boston Marathon. Three were killed and over 200 were wounded. Some may never make a full recovery.
Although the dedication, haste and efficiency in the response by Boston’s service departments, medical staff and fellow citizens provided a ray of hope in a time of darkness, it couldn’t take away the suffering felt by many. Only the comfort of family, friends and time could attempt to do so.
But that didn’t stop the Bruins from trying to lessen that burden.
It started on April 17, the city’s first sporting event following the attacks. Boston took on the Buffalo Sabres in front of a sold-out TD Garden audience. It was easily the Bruins' most sought-after ticket of the season, with prices shooting up well over $200.
When Rene Rancourt made his way onto the ice for the National Anthem, it immediately became clear why.
Only two words can describe what took place: Boston Strong.
Almost one month later, Boston defied the odds once again.
Midway through the third period of Game 7, the Bruins trailed 4-1 in their first-round matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Nathan Horton would soon cut the deficit to two, but it still left the team with a lot of work to do.
With under two minutes remaining, it looked like Boston was set to bow out of a series it once led 3-1.
Instead, in a 31-second span, Lucic and Patrice Bergeron each added goals to draw the teams level. Bergeron would also add the overtime winner, capping off a miraculous come-from-behind victory for the resilient Bruins.
On June 5, Boston’s 2-1, double-overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of the Conference Finals provided yet another example of toughness.
During a second-period Penguins power play, Evgeni Malkin fired off a slap shot that ricocheted off the leg of Bruins center Gregory Campbell. The blast left Campbell slow to get up from the ice.
Obviously in pain, the 29-year-old London, Ontario, native still remained on the ice. Hobbling around, he gave it his all for the remaining 45 seconds of the penalty kill, even attempting to block another shot.
Following the game, it was announced that Campbell had suffered a broken leg and would miss the remainder of the playoffs.
It was gutsy defense such as this that helped Boston sweep a No. 1 seeded Pittsburgh team, limiting the league’s highest-scoring squad to just two goals in four games—the Penguins had netted 47 in their previous 11 contests of the postseason.
Although eventually falling short to Chicago, nothing can be taken away from Boston’s run.
Over six grueling games, the team battled the Presidents’ Trophy winners tooth and nail. The series saw five overtime periods and four games that were decided by one goal.
Night in and night out, the players gave it their all, regardless of their health. That includes Bergeron, who reportedly suited up for Game 6 while dealing with broken ribs, torn rib cartilage and a separated shoulder.
However, in the end, all the Bruins could do was sit back and watch as the Blackhawks got to celebrate their triumph on Boston ice.
It was a heartbreaking loss. One that would surely sting for quite some time.
But it shouldn’t.
For nearly two months, the Bruins kept a wounded city occupied. It provided a much-needed distraction and sense of pride to those dealing with the hardships of recovery.
More than that, Boston gave many of these people the recognition they deserve.
Whether it was waving flags, meeting the players or simply appearing on the video screen, the ones affected by the tragedy—first responders, marathon volunteers and victims alike—took center stage during the pregame ceremonies at home games. This occurred during all 12 games played at TD Garden in the playoffs.
It was all capped off by Monday night’s appearance of Jeff Bauman—who lost both legs in the attack—standing alongside his rescuer Carlos Arredondo.
And this is the team that will go down as losers in the history books? Yeah, OK.
Sure, the Bruins' physical style of play may not win them over too many fans. But there’s no arguing that what the team accomplished this postseason is admirable.
As Boston head coach Claude Julien told the AP’s Jimmy Golen:
I think we can help, in probably a large way. Everybody is looking right now for something to cheer about, smile about.
I guess it doesn’t fix things or the people that have been lost. That will never be fixed. At the same time, you have to try to heal.
As the Bruins held their heads down in disappointment, clearly exhausted from an emotional 22-game run, something magical happened.
The Boston faithful, still on their feet, began chanting, “Let’s go, Bruins!” The screams, yells and clapping of support were deafening.
For two months, the Bruins lifted up the spirits of a largely dejected city. This time, at the lowest point of their season, they found themselves on the receiving end.