THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Dan Shaughnessy

This team has made us take notice

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / April 20, 2008

This is the one we didn't expect.

Our sports calendar is cluttered and overloaded, like one of those color-coded datebooks taped to the refrigerator serving a family of five. Violin lessons, lacrosse practice, karate, book group, driver's ed, play practice, yoga, PTA, CCD, and SAT prep.

In sports, we've got the Marathon tomorrow and the Celtics starting their playoff run tonight. The NFL draft is next Saturday and the world champion Red Sox are every day, and we hardly had time to celebrate that NCAA hockey championship won by the team from Chestnut Hill.

Hockey was supposed to be over by now. Another one-and-done for the Causeway Street grinders. Time to send the hockey krishnas into hibernation until autumn. After all, the Bruins lost every game against Montreal during the regular season and fell behind, 2-0, in this series. Then they fell behind, 3-1, in the series.

The Bruins have been around since 1924 and they've never come back from a 2-0 series deficit. They've never come back from 3-1.

Last night, they trailed, 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2. It was over. Again and again and again.

But it was not over. The Bruins scored four goals in the third period to beat the Canadiens, 5-4. Boston will take this spectacular series to a seventh game in Montreal tomorrow night.

"We wanted to live another day," said 19-year-old rookie winger Milan Lucic, who scored to make it 3-3.

"We scored, then we're on the bench, they they scored," said David Krejci, who assisted on Marco Sturm's winner with 2:37 left. "Up and down, up and down. The building was unbelievable."

A 21-year-old rookie center from the Czech Republic, Krejci searched for better words.

"I will try to say in English," he started. "I never played in front of a crowd like that before."

Perfect. Those of us who've spoken English our entire lives are pressed to find words for this series and the numbing fury of last night's third period. There hasn't been a hockey game like this around here in many years. It brought back memories of the Old Garden and the Gallery Gods and Cam Neely and Raymond Bourque. Maybe even all the way back to Pie McKenzie and Derek Sanderson.

"It was a crazy game," said Sturm. "Obviously, no one in here expected a game like that."

Just like no one expected a series like this. The Habs won the first game, 4-1. Major beatdown. When the Canadiens took Game 2 in overtime, they'd beaten the Bruins 13 consecutive times over two seasons.

Now this. The Bruins thrashed Montreal at the Bell Centre Thursday to bring the series back to Boston for Game 6. And last night they kept coming back.

"Everyone knew when we got out there for the third period we had to give it all we can," said Sturm. "Otherwise, it's all done."

The Bruins lost 16 of 19 faceoffs in the first period and trailed, 1-0. Too often in playoff hockey, he who scores first wins. It's like winning the coin flip in NFL overtime. The "score first" theory held true in the first four games of this series.

Not Game 5. And not last night. The Bruins have scored four times in the third period in each of the last two games. Just about impossible.

Last night's final period made your head spin. Six goals. Four by the Bruins.

There was one moment that could have been a crusher. Twenty-year-old Phil Kessel, the man who played 82 regular-season games only to be benched for Games 2, 3, and 4 of this series, scored his second goal of the night and third in two games with 4:15 left. Kessel's goal put the Bruins ahead, 4-3.

Eleven seconds after the goal, Montreal's Christopher Higgins tied the game. Eleven seconds. There hadn't even been time to announce Kessel's go-ahead goal when, suddenly, the game was tied again. It would have buried a spineless team. But these Bruins are accustomed to adversity.

"We're a resilient group," said Aaron Ward. "This is the time of season when people make names for themselves. It's great for us old guys to watch the young guys flourish."

They've been ignored and ridiculed for many a year, these Bruins. You can't ignore them now. They have outplayed the top-seeded Canadiens in the last five games. They have demonstrated an ability to win in Montreal. And now they are going back for a seventh game.

They are still on our calendar. And they have earned their spot on the crowded refrigerator datebook.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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