By their own admission, the Bruins aren't the flashiest team in the NHL. They don't have the stars who sell jerseys and attract national TV ratings. They were the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, didn't win a regular-season game against Montreal, and were considered a pushover for the Canadiens en route to yet another Stanley Cup.
The Bruins are, however, a resilient group that relies on grit, hard work, and perseverance to get through the pressure of the biggest of stages.
"There are a lot of plumbers in this locker room," Aaron Ward said.
Last night, staring down elimination for the second straight game and going toe-to-toe with a Montreal club that welcomed back its captain, the Bruins brought their hard hats, lunch buckets, and hammers, and fought everything the Canadiens gave them.
"Pressure doesn't seem to bother this team," said coach Claude Julien. "The pressure was about how we had to win or go home."
The Bruins are far from going home.
What emerged from a pulsing TD Banknorth Garden (full house of 17,565 for the third straight game) was this: an eye-popping 5-4 comeback victory over a stag gering Montreal club that's searching for answers prior to tomorrow's Game 7 at the Bell Centre.
"The job's not done," said Bruins forward Milan Lucic. "It's so far from being done. We've got 60-plus minutes left against these guys. It's been a hard-fought battle so far, so we know they're going to come out hard. We've just got to match their intensity."
Every time Montreal threw a gut-twisting punch, the Bruins fired back. Every bad bounce that went Montreal's way - a breakaway goal by Tomas Plekanec after he had just stepped out of the penalty box, a Francis Bouillon go-ahead goal off Shane Hnidy's stick - the Bruins shrugged off.
And in the end, the Bruins kicked the Canadiens in the teeth when Marco Sturm, with 2:37 remaining in regulation, slammed the rebound of his own shot past goalie Carey Price to provide the 5-4 victory.
"I don't think I've ever played a game like that," said David Krejci, who set up Boston's final two goals (Phil Kessel's second goal gave the Bruins a 4-3 lead with 4:15 to go). "It was a crazy third period."
Plekanec landed the first staggering blow when the penalty box door opened, he stepped out, and was in perfect position to take a feed from forward Steve Begin after Glen Murray whiffed on a shot from the slot. Plekanec sprinted in, threw a head-and-shoulders fake on Tim Thomas, and made it 2-1 at 7:43 of the second period.
Vladimir Sobotka, scratched for Game 1, responded at 3:13 of the third, stuffing home a backhand shot after a feed from Peter Schaefer.
Montreal delivered yet another knee-buckler when captain Saku Koivu won an offensive-zone draw and the puck landed on the stick of Bouillon, whose floater from the point ticked off the shaft of Hnidy's stick and deflected past Thomas at 10:04. Just over two minutes later, the Bruins responded. Marc Savard won a draw and rapped the puck off the right wall to Ward. As Ward wound up, Lucic gained position on defenseman Mike Komisarek and batted the shot out of the air and past Price at 12:13.
Kessel, playing in his second straight game after being scratched for Games 2, 3, and 4, gave the Bruins what appeared to be the winner at 15:45. The Bruins executed a by-the-book breakout - Zdeno Chara making an outlet pass to Krejci, Krejci caroming the puck off the boards to Sturm, Sturm sprinting into the corner to chase down the pass - that ended with a top-shelf shot by Kessel, who charged past a backchecking Koivu to gain position at the far post.
"He's 20 years old," Ward said. "He maintained his focus. He didn't sulk. It's easy to sulk and mentally, just pack it up and check out. I talked to him between the second and third periods and told him he was in the zone. You could see it."
Just 11 seconds later, while the Garden crowd was still buzzing, the Canadiens picked themselves up and tied the game once more. After Koivu won yet another faceoff (he was 15 for 21), he raced into the offensive zone, won the puck from Hnidy behind the net, and fed Sergei Kostitsyn, who spotted Christopher Higgins open on the other side. As the Boston defense broke down, Kostitsyn winged a cross-crease pass to Higgins, who slammed it home to make it 4-4 with 4:04 remaining in regulation.
But there would be no overtime, no Montreal win, no handshake line, no plans for golf. Sturm saw to that.
"We knew we had to win to give ourselves another chance and to play for that Game 7," Chara said. "We got it."