BOSTON, MA - The Bruins don't make it easy.
They make it nail-biting, and dramatic. Just when you think it's maybe 'not their day' and luck isn't on their side and the fight isn't quite there, they'll make you wish those thoughts had never entered your mind.
If this was a first time affair, maybe those thoughts would have crept into their minds, too.
But we've seen the Black & Gold rally from deficits, time and time again. They had already done it twice, from down two goals, this postseason, though there's one comeback in 2013 that still sticks out the most and makes you think anything's actually possible.
As a result, Saturday's comeback at TD Garden that saw the Bruins fight from being down 3-1 midway through the third period to score four straight goals and take the 5-3 win from Montreal, shouldn't be too shocking.
"When we get that first goal, I think everyone knows that if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen again," said Dougie Hamilton, who started the comeback at 10:56 into the third to pull Boston to within one. The Habs still led 3-2.
"It just seemed like we got that life, and we knew we were going to come back and win the game," said Brad Marchand, who pulled up in the left wing circle and found Hamilton with a cross-ice pass for the crowd-awakening goal from the high slot.
"It shows our character. I think we make it unnecessarily hard for ourselves sometimes," said Tuukka Rask, who had a bounce-back performance of his own, making 25 saves in the win.
"Great, gutsy win today. Really proud of the guys."
In the second, Boston was only outshot by a narrow 15-13 margin, but got themselves into trouble, both with turnovers and in the penalty box, and Montreal took full advantage.
After evening the game at 1-1 off a Bruins' turnover to start the period, Montreal pulled ahead 2-1 with Thomas Vanek tipping in a point shot on the power play from P.K. Subban.
The same play on the man-advantage gave the Habs a 3-1 lead at 6:30 into the third period.
"They made some good plays; they’re feeling it on their power play," said Jarome Iginla, who watched the goals unfold from the bench. "Our PK had some time to kill, so I thought at the end of the second, when our emotions were high, they gained some momentum."
"Once we put everything aside and just said, 'listen, let’s control what we can control here,' and when we did that, we kind of took it over," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien.
"It just shows that if you focus on the things you need to focus on, there’s a pretty good team that can accomplish a lot."
The team had let their emotions get the best of them on and off through the first 40-plus minutes, with nine penalties called, including a bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct at the tail end of the second.
But as is always the case, it only takes one play, one break, one goal.
"Dougie made a nice, nice play there to score that goal and get us going, and then we never looked back after that," said Rask.
Before Hamilton scored in the third, the crowd was losing steam. The Bruins kept at it, but they appeared to be losing some steam, too, though they knew really all it would take was that one goal.
"I think that’s it, I guess a little bit of a relief to get one by [Carey] Price, and I think when that happens we get some more energy, the crowd’s in it more, and we start coming at them," said Hamilton. "And I don’t know if they’re panicking or we just turn it up, but it’s fun when we get in that position."
"You just kind of roll with it."
"There’s no wind out of our sails," said P.K. Subban, of how his team felt following Hamilton's goal that started the shift. "We just have to respond better. We’ve been in that situation before, whether it’s in the NHL or in hockey, its happened, its happened to everybody; it’s just how you respond."
Boston's win marked the 11th time this postseason that a team had seen a two-goal lead evaporate.
After the Bruins' Game 1 comeback, the result went the Habs' way. This time, the Bruins were able to get the response that they wanted, and turn the result in their favor.
Patrice Bergeron knotted the game at 3-3 less than four minutes after Hamilton's tally. After a strong forecheck by he and his linemates Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith, Bergeron fired a change-up from the right wing boards that bounced up and over Price.
"I was trying to just find the net. Sometimes, you never know, I can’t say that I meant to do it but I got lucky and I’ll take the bounce," said Bergeron.
The Bruins could have been headed for another overtime game, but Smith wouldn't let that happen, scoring with just 3:32 left in regulation for the game-winner. As Price was moving right to left, Smith roofed a cross-ice feed from Torey Krug for his third goal in seven career playoff games.
Smith thanked the ice with a sweep of his glove on one knee and then threw his arms up and shared his celebration with a fan on the other side of the glass.
Following the win, he walked from the locker room to the press conference podium donning the Bruins' Player of the Game Jacket.
"I don’t really expect it from how the game started. It’s tough when we’re taking a lot of penalties and there is not a lot of flow in the game," Smith said, when asked about earning the Jacket (passed on from Loui Eriksson). "It seems like when it got down to it, five-on-five, I think we played well and we definitely dominated the third period."
"You know, get a couple bounces and I guess you’re wearing this jacket."
A couple of bounces help, but a whole lot of experience lends a hand, too.
"What you feel on the bench is 'these guys have been through a lot,'" said Julien. "And even after [Montreal] scored and made it 3-1, all I could hear guys saying was, ‘Hey, there’s 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 - and that’s what happened."
"As a coach, I’ve been around these guys for a long time, and you just let them be and let them get themselves going. And you just do your job as a coach - change the lines, try to put the right people out there - and the rest, they took care of."
They didn't need a big speech between periods. The comebacks are dramatic, but the manner in which they happen are not. GM Peter Chiarelli likes to label it "quiet composure."
"The leaders are in here and we’re saying some stuff, obviously," Bergeron acknowledged from the locker room, of the talk amongst the group. "I think it was pretty obvious from everyone that we needed to all step up. It was about everyone, not just one guy."
"It was about – sometimes it’s not about words, it’s more about actions, right? So it was about really making sure we were all doing it for the guy next to you and stepping up."
Some coaches may have called a timeout to get their players riled up. With this group, that's not usually necessary.
"I give credit to our players," said Julien. "We’re an experienced group of players, we’re capable of regrouping ourselves after a goal, and all that stuff — I don’t need to settle them down. You try to keep your timeouts for the right time of the game, and that’s what I try and do. But you can only do that when you’ve got a good group of guys who are capable of bouncing back and don’t need the coach to regroup them there in the middle of a period."
"I think it comes – you know, there is some much leadership in the room, I think that is pretty well documented," said Smith. "But you see big time players like Patrice and Zee, and they go out there and they lead by example."
"Not only by their words, they also show it by their play."
"I know it from myself being a young guy, you see that and you build off of it and it gives you energy, it gives you momentum and it rolls over from line to line, from shift to shift."
"Sometimes you’re not always going to be in your perfect spot or a comfortable position," said Zdeno Chara (who was a plus-5 in the win). "It’s a battle, and those games are very close, so you’re not always going to be finding yourself in a position or the scoreboard isn’t always going to be in your favor, so you’ve just got to find a way to get through it - and we did."
They would make it much easier on themselves if they played the full 60 minutes, but "easy" isn't easy to come by in the postseason.
"We know that it’s not going to get any easier heading to Montreal, so we have to be ready to face adversity," said Julien.
After evening the series at 1-1, the Bruins will travel to the hostile Bell Centre for Games 3 and 4.
"We’ve got to play for 60 minutes and I know it’s cliché," said Bergeron. "But that’s the bottom line."
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