As far as dramatic rallies are concerned, you can’t ask for much more.
Nearly everything else immediately beforehand was bordering on disaster for the Boston Bruins.
Boston’s furious comeback in the final 9:04 Saturday improbably erased a two-goal deficit against the Canadiens, who were oh, so close to returning to Montreal for Game 3 with a 2-0 series lead on the Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinal round. But Dougie Hamilton got Carey Price (we’re assuming, no longer a “figment” – as NBC’s Pierre McGuire suggested – in the Bruins’ heads?) to buckle. Patrice Bergeron played the puck off the…well, something, and Reilly Smith showed teammate Milan Lucic how not to whiff at the puck in front of the net when he put the Bruins ahead for good in the same spot where Lucic could have done the same on Thursday night.
Price’s luck, so prevalent in Game 1, had finally run out.
“They poured it on at the end of the game,” the Montreal goalie said after the Bruins rallied for a 5-3 win, tying the series at a game apiece. “They got pretty lucky, I thought.”
Oh. Eh, tu, Carey?
Some Montreal media members were not impressed with the Bruins Thursday night, when many of them spoke of being “unlucky” in seizing a handful of scoring opportunities, while in the other dressing room, Michel Therrien was doing everything but making sure his players kissed Price’s feet on their way out the door to the hotel. Price was awesome, no question, but looking back on the game, Boston should have won something like 9-3 intend of suffering a double overtime loss. The puck hit the post. It hit the post again. The puck just stopped a millimeter before the goal line. Lucic turned into Will Middlebrooks at the most inopportune moment.
It was a cavalcade of errors and yes, bad luck. Terrible, awful luck.
So, is it truly inaccurate to thank fortune for the way the Bruins rallied? Of course not. Based on the way they had played and reacted for the better part of almost two periods, it might have been the only thing that was ever going to help kick in the effects of the smelling salts.
“It wasn’t close to being good enough, especially at this time of year,” Bergeron said. “We needed to respond and I thought all the guys did that in that third period. But like I’ve said, we’ve got to start earlier. We’ve got to have a 60-minute effort. We haven’t done that so far.”
Indeed, for much of the second and third periods Saturday, the Bruins showed barely more life on ice than the cryogenically frozen Walt Disney. Perhaps once they realized just how awful the officiating was going to be Saturday – both ways – the Canadiens used it to their advantage, goading the Bruins into six shorthanded situations, scoring on a pair of them for the second-consecutive game. Perhaps the most idiotic penalty the Bruins gave themselves was the roughing call on Andrej Meszaros. Indeed, the most inane was Claude Julien’s potty mouth on the bench. You almost wonder if the refs had a talking to after the second period since they called only one more penalty the rest of the way, Dougie Hamilton’s interference against Brendan Gallagher, that gave the Canadiens a third-period power play, up by two, and a chance to stomp on the Bruins’ comeback chances.
It never materialized.
Julien’s best bet, since he was as much to blame for his team’s unravelling, might have been to show his team the final scene from “Pulp Fiction” during the second intermission, when Samuel L. Jackson tells everyone at gunpoint to be like Fonzie. “Cool.” The Bruins were much more composed in the third period, but the Montreal power play seemed the final straw. Instead, the Bruins’ penalty kill team turned it into a harbinger of good news.
“One goal every five minutes” was the rallying cry from Shawn Thornton, who returned to the bench in the third period after suffering a leg injury when P.K. Subban turtled on Thorton’s oncoming presence. (That had some inane Montreal media folks foolishly crying “embellishment.” Also, Brad Marchand was suspended for a similar move against the Canucks in 2012. With the Habs, no biggie, apparently.) Instead, Thornton’s teammates responded with four, one about every two-and-a-half minutes, including Lucic’s empty-netter to seal the deal.
“Even after they scored and made it 3-1, all I could hear guys saying was, ‘Hey, there’s a lot of hockey left, let’s get that next goal here, let’s get going,’ and it was all about encouraging each other to be better,” Julien said. “And that’s what happened.”
The Bruins should have won Game 1. They should have lost Game 2. They’re headed to Montreal all knotted at one. Olé.
“We weren’t expecting to come in here and sweep two games,” Price said. “I think keeping in mind what we came in here to do. Like I said, It’s all about moving forward at this point. That’s what winning teams do and you’ve got to have a winning attitude. You can’t hit panic right now.”
As far as exciting playoff hockey is concerned, you can’t ask for much more.
Whether the same can be said of the Bruins’ effort and composure is up for debate.