Ryder’s goal in overtime squares series
MONTREAL — It is safe to say that as individuals, Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, and Michael Ryder had not provided the push that Bruins management and coaching staff projected for the third-line forwards.
But like Andrew Ference signaled to the Bell Centre crowd after his second-period goal, all it takes is one. Especially when it’s in overtime of the playoffs.
In regulation, Ryder and Kelly busted through with a goal apiece. Then at 1:59 of overtime last night, Ryder scored perhaps the most important goal of his life, giving the Bruins a 5-4 win and tying the series at 2-2. Game 5 is tomorrow at TD Garden.
“Michael scored two goals, but Kelly scores one and gets an assist on another one,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “That whole line was really good for us tonight. You need things like that in the playoffs. You need guys to step up. And that line did for us.’’
The winning play started, as is the Bruins’ identity, with strong defense. Montreal’s Travis Moen tried to send the puck deep from the left wall. But Johnny Boychuk closed on Moen and took the puck off his stick. Kelly, who had backchecked like the defense-first forward he is, was in perfect position to curl, collect the puck, and kick off the rush.
Moen and Scott Gomez were caught deep in the Boston zone. Defenseman P.K. Subban made an ill-timed decision to go off for a change, and Brent Sopel couldn’t roll over the boards in time. Just like that, the Bruins’ third line had a three-on-one rush against Jaroslav Spacek.
Peverley, pushing the pace down the left wing, snapped a wrister wide left. The shot glanced off the end boards and rolled into the right corner, where Kelly beat Sopel in a puck battle. As Ryder drove to the net, Kelly turned and fired a pass to his blade.
“Our line didn’t have a great first period,’’ Kelly said. “But I thought we bounced back well in the second and so on.’’
For three of the last 13 regular-season games, Ryder was in suit and tie instead of in uniform. It was the only three times Ryder has been a healthy scratch as an NHLer.
Peverley and Kelly had not been punished so severely. But neither had done much, since their respective arrivals from Ottawa and Atlanta, to merit the bounties the Bruins forked over for their services. The Senators demanded a 2011 second-round pick for Kelly. For Peverley, who came with blue-line project Boris Valabik, the Bruins had to part with Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart.
Peverley had been a top-six forward in Atlanta, where he had 14 goals and 20 assists in 59 games. In 23 games for Boston, Peverley had only four goals and three assists. Kelly recorded a mere two goals and three helpers in 24 regular-season games as a Bruin.
Last night, the misfiring individuals finally came together as a line. Ryder buried both of his shots. At 2:13 of the second, he tied the game at 1-1 with a high-glove laser over Carey Price.
At 1:39 of the third, with Patrice Bergeron in the box for interference, Subban snapped a shot through traffic that slipped past Tim Thomas short side. Subban’s goal gave the Canadiens a 4-3 lead and the inside track toward a 3-1 series lead.
But Kelly made sure the Bruins weren’t finished. At 13:42, after Price stopped a close-range Peverley shot, Kelly was in position at the top of the crease to tap in the rebound, tying the game at 4-4.
Price (30 saves) turned Peverley back on two attempts, but the No. 3 center dished out two helpers, including one on the deciding goal.
“That line stepped up in the last two periods,’’ said Shawn Thornton. “They did a great job for us. We’re going to need that through the playoffs. We’re going to need guys that aren’t your go-to guys. You can’t rely on your go-to guys all the time. You’re going to need some of your character guys to step up. They did a great job tonight.’’
The third-line explosion (three goals on six shots) took place amid a first-line meltdown. Milan Lucic landed zero shots. Nathan Horton put three pucks on Price but had little offensive presence. David Krejci had the best legs of the three, but went scoreless as well.
Tomorrow, if the Bruins want to win their first game on home ice, the first line must find its touch. The Bruins need Thomas (34 saves) to be a shutdown goalie. They can’t be as skittish around the puck as they were in last night’s first period. They would prefer a calmer game instead of last night’s peaks-and-valleys performance. The Bruins fell behind by two in the second. They stormed back to tie the game at 3-3. They trailed again in the third. They tied the game with 6:18 left in regulation.
“I hope people feel like they got their money’s worth,’’ said Thomas of last night’s back-and-forth tempo. “It took two years off my life.’’
They’ll take character efforts like the one they got from the third line. The Bruins, once left for dead after two games, have home-ice advantage once more. They have momentum. They were in an 0-2 ditch, but after last night, they are here. Like the signs around Montreal say, vous et ici. All tied up.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.