BOSTON, MA - It's close-out time for the Bruins.
With a 3-2 lead in the series, they head back to Montreal for Game 6 looking to take advantage of the opportunity they earned themselves with a 4-2 win Saturday night at TD Garden.
"It’s going to be a tough one," said Head Coach Claude Julien, speaking with reporters in Boston on Sunday. "I think, again, you have to rely on our experience and knowing that we haven’t won this series yet."
"We have to bring our best game next game, because they will. They will bring their best game and if we don’t bring ours, then you’re looking at a Game 7. So we can’t take those chances, we have to come out and play the best hockey we can."
"Our biggest focus right now is to close out the series as fast as we can," said Reilly Smith.
"You don't want to give a team like Montreal time to linger around, because anything can happen in games and their goalie's been pretty hot so if you give him a chance to shut you out, he'll definitely do that."
"So we're going to the Bell Centre definitely trying to get [the win], that's our main focus."
BOSTON, MA - Entering Game 5 on Saturday night at TD Garden, the Bruins' total lead-time in the series had been a grand total of 11 minutes and 39 seconds.
For a team that can protect a lead and suffocate the opponent once they get ahead, catch-up hockey's not the ideal way to play.
Carl Soderberg helped change that, putting the Spoked-B on the board 13:20 into the first en route to their 4-2 win and the 3-2 series lead.
After that, as the winning goaltender said from the Bruins' locker room postgame, they "never looked back."
"Did everything we wanted to. Good start. Kept pushing, kept pushing," said Tuukka Rask, who backstopped the Black & Gold with 29 saves.
"It’s always better to play with a lead than kind of chasing the goals. It’s always easier that way," said Captain Zdeno Chara.
"We are pretty good team to play with a lead and they are, too," said Soderberg, as he spoke to reporters in the team's 'Player of the Game' Jacket, passed on from Matt Fraser. "It’s always important, especially in the second and third."
The Bruins didn't stop there. They had built a 1-0 first period lead back in Game 2 at TD Garden, and had to claw their way back from a 3-1 deficit before winning 5-3 off Reilly Smith's game-winner late in the third period.
BOSTON, MA - Matt Fraser's plan at the outset was to take a few deep breaths, if his emotions ever got the the best of him during his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut.
"I'm not too sure, I guess I'll figure that out at game time," he had smiled.
"But this isn’t the first time someone’s come up, and [Torey] Krug did it last year, [Matt] Bartkowski did it last year and look at them now. They’re impact players in this League and you try not to think of anything like that, but you know, you've got to play your game."
That was before he became the overtime hero in the Bruins' 1-0 win in Montreal on Thursday night that evened the series at two games apiece, and gave him his first NHL playoff goal in his postseason debut.
Once that happened, he let his emotions loose.
"[Johnny] Boychuk was holding me up and he was yelling at me not to fall, because everyone was going to fall next," Fraser laughed, describing the postgame celebration the next day to reporters at TD Garden. "It was - I mean, it was such a blur of the moment kind of thing that it was something I'll never forget."
BOSTON, MA - It's time to hit reset on this series, as it has become a best of three, with the Bruins holding home-ice advantage.
Each team has stolen a game in the opponent's arena, but the Black & Gold are hoping to get a boost from their home crowd at TD Garden on Saturday night for Game 5.
"It's back to even, we have home-ice advantage again which is huge, so we just have to take advantage of that," said Reilly Smith, following the team's optional morning skate.
The mentality in the Bruins' room has not surprisingly been more positive since Thursday's 1-0 overtime win that evened the series at 2-2.
"I think win or lose, we feel confident in this room," said Daniel Paille. "Obviously we're feeling good about ourselves…so I don't think anyone is struggling to focus."
"We try to keep pretty easy-going," said Smith. "Even when we were in Montreal, down 2-1. So it's good to come back and have home-ice advantage again, that's huge, we've just got to take care of business tonight, and work from that."
Jumping out to a lead at home would help that cause. With the last game scoreless until Matt Fraser's overtime-winner at 1:19 into extra time, the Bruins still have only led in the series for about 11 and a half minutes. A strong start, with a strong forecheck and sustained pressure, would get the Bruins going at the right pace early on.
BOSTON, MA - The series is tied at two games a piece, instead of the Bruins in a three games to one hole.
From the realm of Captain Obvious, that's a big difference.
"Simple mathematics, I guess. It's a lot better," Shawn Thornton said on Friday afternoon from the Bruins' locker room at TD Garden.
He, along with a dozen teammates, had hit the ice for an optional skate following their 1-0 overtime win in Montreal Thursday night. Most of the Bruins stayed off to rest.
"It's one game at a time either way, but we'd definitely rather be put in this position than down 3-1, for sure," acknowledged Thornton.
"That's a huge difference," said Torey Krug. "I think just understanding that situation, and I've said it time and time again, there isn't a situation that this room hasn't faced before, so I think it's a great challenge."
"It turns into a best of three and we have home ice advantage, and we want to make sure we take advantage of that."
Game 5 is set for 7:00 p.m. ET on Saturday evening at TD Garden.
"It's a little bit more positive, I guess, being tied 2-2, rather than down 3-1, but having said that, our mentality has to stay the same, as far as taking it one game at at a time," said Gregory Campbell.
MONTREAL - There was Matt Fraser, proudly wrapped in the Bruins' Player of the Game Jacket, with the tan leather sleeves, and black felt-like varsity jacket with the old school Spoked-B patch over his heart.
He had just made the media rounds on NBCSN and CBC and had made his way to an area outside the Bruins' visiting team locker room at the Bell Centre. The locker room would not fit the amount of reporters and cameras that would be packed into this media scrum.
These were postgame rounds fit for an overtime hero.
At 1:19 into extra time at the Bell Centre on Thursday night, Fraser forced a loose puck in behind Carey Price to give the Bruins the 1-0 victory and even the series with the Habs at 2-2. It was his first NHL playoff goal in his first NHL playoff game. The Bruins were headed back to Boston a happy bunch, and Fraser likely smiling the whole way.
"As you can tell in my voice, it’s pretty exciting," laughed Fraser, through a shaky, adrenaline-pumping, emotion-filled voice. "You know, I hardly slept today, and I’m sure I’ll hardly sleep tonight."
"I can’t put it into words," said Fraser. "The excitement — again, I’m still shaking with excitement, and again, it’s every kid’s dream to score an overtime goal like that and to contribute."
MONTREAL - There's a chance that Matt Fraser could make his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut on Thursday night at the Bell Centre, as the Bruins look to even the series in Game 4.
For the 23-year-old winger, called up from the Providence Bruins, he's just appreciating that chance.
"I don’t know if words can really explain it. I think as a kid you play for the Stanley Cup a thousand times on the street and at the outdoor rink and stuff, but not in this environment," said Fraser, after taking part in morning skate with the Bruins at the Bell Centre.
"It's exciting obviously, for sure. And I’m not trying to downplay that at all, but at the same time, once you get out there, you've got to find your groove and just play your game."
Fraser got 'the call' from Assistant Manager Don Sweeney Wednesday afternoon during lunch, packed his bags, and caught a flight to Montreal.
His P-Bruins teammates were set to practice this morning and catch a bus to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to start their second round Calder Cup Playoffs series against the Penguins on Friday night. Fraser helped them get there, with three goals and five points, as Providence defeated Springfield three games to two in Round 1.
MONTREAL, QC - On Thursday morning, with the Bruins focused on evening the series against Montreal, Head Coach Claude Julien decided to switch up his lines for pregame skate.
It was, well, mostly to give reporters something to write about, according to the bench boss.
When the team filtered onto the ice at the Bell Centre, the team's rushes look like this:
Carl Soderberg was not on the ice for skate, and Julien said the center "took his option" and would be available Thursday night for Game 4.
BROSSARD, QC - After falling down 2-1 in the series on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre, the Bruins used Wednesday to regroup.
Most of them didn't hit the ice, with only eight Bruins skating at the Canadiens' practice facility outside the city in Brossard. Included in that group was the 'Merlot Line' with Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Jordan Caron.
For Thornton, his "midnight rule" was in full effect - lament the 4-2 loss until heading to bed, and then turn the page the next day.
"Yeah, we just came to the rink today, got a little sweat, guys getting their rest, and I’m sure we’ll have some video and then just focus on tomorrow," said Thornton.
As the Bruins skated, Head Coach Claude Julien spoke with reporters gathered at the practice rink.
What's the sense he gets from his group right now?
"Well I think it's pretty obvious. You know, we're a group that's confident but we also have guys that right now are a little frustrated at themselves, and they know they have to be better, and they're going to be better tomorrow - and that's the confidence we have in our group," said Julien.
"That's the way we've been in the past and you've got to rely on those guys to come up tomorrow and play the kind of game that they can. It's a 2-1 series, it's not the end of the world here. We've just got to battle back."
MONTREAL - Shawn Thornton has a rule, win or lose.
"I've said it a million times. We'll think about this till midnight," Thornton said, as he stood in front of his stall in the Bruins' visiting team locker room at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night.
It was roughly 10:10 p.m., so the forward had just under two hours to lament his team's 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 3.
"We'll go over some things tomorrow and then we'll get ready for Thursday's game," he continued.
But first, the lamenting.
On Tuesday night, the Bruins found themselves in at least a two-goal hole for the third straight game.
In Game 1, they fought back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to tie the game at 3-3 and send it to double overtime, ultimately falling 4-3. In Game 2, they were in a 3-1 hole early in the third, and stormed back to win 5-3.
In Game 3, they found themselves down 2-0 after the first, and trailing 3-0 past the midpoint of the second period in the eventual 4-2 defeat.