The Breakdown: Instant Classic Comeback
BostonBruins.com - Monday night's historic comeback by the Boston Bruins over the Toronto Maple Leafs is worth reliving. Down 4-1 in the third period of the all-or-nothing Game Seven, with the summer air seeping into the TD Garden, the Black & Gold rallied back for one of the greatest comebacks in NHL history.
In fact, no NHL team had ever come back from being down three goals in a third period of a Game Seven. It had been 96 years in the making.
Of course, the Bruins know the other side of the coin, most of them having been through the 2010 collapse to the Philadelphia Flyers. But Monday night was their turn to reverse the tide.
Besides Matt Bartkowski scoring his first-ever NHL goal to get the Bruins on the board first, just 5:39 in, the next four Leafs goals and the next 45 minutes or so of hockey, are probably not worth reliving. But the beauty of sports, and the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and this Boston Bruins team, is that they didn't make it easy on themselves - which made the victory that much more victorious.
Here's a breakdown of how the Bruins mounted the greatest backs-against-the-wall Game Seven comeback in NHL history…
GOAL 2 - Nathan Horton Builds Belief - 10:42 Left in Regulation
The Bruins trailed 4-1 nearing the midpoint of the third period, with their season hopes - and this group as a whole - on the line. Toronto fans were already calling in tee times for the Bruins, the air sucked out of the TD Garden. But then, a simple breakout turned into an opportunity for the David Krejci line that has been so powerful throughout this series. Krejci took the puck through center-ice and dished it to Milan Lucic on the left wing, who powered his way to the back of the net, wrapped around and slipped a pass through two Leafs' defenders in front to Nathan Horton at the right faceoff circle. Horton found James Reimer's soft spot, and the game was within reach.
"Come on, let's go, let's get it going," Lucic was heard saying as he skated through the fist bump line at the bench. Brief jubilation, that brought out determination.
Nathan Horton scores big-time goals in the playoffs, and this one gave the Bruins - and their fans - belief.
GOAL 3 - Milan Lucic Wills It - 1:22 Left in Regulation
With the clock winding down in the third period, the Bruins were outworking the Leafs. Their forecheck was relentless, their legs finding the energy, their heart finally starting to show.
After a timeout, and an empty net for Boston, Lucic camped himself in front of the net, where he had scored just 24 hours earlier with an extra attacker on. And history would quickly repeat itself.
Zdeno Chara first fired a shot that skirted out towards the left half-wall, where David Krejci collected the puck and pushed it up to Bergeron at the left point. No. 37 then sent the puck back over to the Captain at the right point, who fired another through traffic, as Jagr, Lucic and Horton formed a triangle in front of Reimer, stationing themselves there to pounce on a loose puck.
Zee fired, Leafs' defender Carl Gunnarsson moved out of the way, giving Lucic time and space to put the rebound up over Reimer. The name of the game was "traffic" and the Bruins executed, sending the crowd into a frenzy of belief.
GOAL 4 - Patrice Bergeron Forces OT - 51 Seconds Left in Regulation
Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. Leave it up to two clutch players any coach would feel comfortable placing on the ice with an extra attacker on, and less than a minute left in regulation, to help restore the season's hopes that were dwindling with every second.
Lucic gained the puck down low and pushed it to Jagr, a few feet inside the left point to form the triangle up top. Continuing the cycle, Jagr passed to Bergeron, who pushed the puck to Krejci on the left half-wall. He gave it right back to his fellow centerman in the high slot. Bergeron, fire in his eyes and drive in his step, stood with poise, as the clock ticked below 1:00. Horton was moving to the hashmarks, Toronto defenseman Carl Gunnarsson was about to screen his goaltender as he squared up with the shooter, Chara was planting himself right in front. Bergy let it rip. Buzzer. Lights. Mayhem.
The alternate captain unleashed a resounding yell and a double fist pump to the air, as he pushed himself to center ice and his teammates swarmed. 4-4 game.
Bergeron and Krejci are clutch, but the entire six-man unit, and Chara's exceptional work in front, should not be understated.
GOAL 5 - Patrice Bergeron Clinches - 6:05 into OT
Only one more goal, to make the comeback complete. What's better than a sudden-death overtime in Game Seven? Other than the nerves, anxiety and adrenaline? It's always a shock to the system - the losing team suffers agony; the winning team an exuberance hardly ever matched again. (Well, I guess, unless you're the Bruins team that won three Game Sevens en route to a Cup).
Heading down the hall and through the tunnel, into the overtime, the Bruins were confident. But not only were they confident, they had belief. And that's a powerful advantage.
The Leafs, meanwhile, had squandered a 4-1 lead. They were facing a Bruins' team riding momentum (believe what you want, but the Bruins had it), and a Boston crowd that would never sit back down.
The hockey gods are a peculiar notion - but they may have been on the B's side. Tyler Seguin had spent most of Game Seven playing with Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly. For a point in the third, he was playing with David Krejci. When Julien moved Nathan Horton back to playing with Krejci, Horton scored to make it 4-2.
In the overtime, both right wingers Horton and Jagr were getting skate issues tended to on the bench. So Julien put Seguin out, reuniting him with Bergeron and Marchand. It paid off.
Marchand was resilient in the corner with the puck, getting it out to Bergeron at the right faceoff circle, who - the fire still in his eyes - threw the puck on net. It caused havoc in front.
Seguin jammed and jammed, and pushed the puck off his skate to open space. Bergeron fired, more determined than he ever has before, into the net, with Reimer scrambling for the rebound.
It was good enough to hit the back of the net, and catapult the Bruins into the second round. The New York Rangers had already booked their flight to Toronto (figuratively speaking, of course), the bags nearly on their way. Bergeron changed the tide.
"It’s about finding a way and showing some character, and I thought we did that tonight," Bergeron would say to media during his press conference, following the thriller, after being awarded the the Bruins' Player of the Game Army Rangers jacket from Nathan Horton in the locker room just minutes prior.
"Everyone has to step up in the playoffs and tonight was my turn to do it for my team."
So, just how far will the historic comeback carry the Bruins? Stay tuned to this story….