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BOSTON (CBS) — By now, the image of Patrice Bergeron scoring the game-winning goal in overtime has been etched permanently on all Bruins’ fans minds, an unforgettable moment in franchise history.
But in the wake of the thrilling three-goal comeback against the Maple Leafs, much of the other 66 minutes of hockey have become a bit of a blur.
So before moving on to the next round and the Rangers, let’s take a closer look at some of the plays that made the miracle finish possible.
First, there was Tuukka Rask. The Bruins led 1-0 in the first period when Joffrey Lupul chipped a puck past Zdeno Chara at the Boston blue line. Lupul walked in all alone on Rask with a chance to tie the game, and he deked to his backhand to try to lift the puck over Rask’s right pad. Rask stayed deep in his crease and burst from left to right to deny Lupul with a thoroughly impressive save.
Rask, who finished the series with a .923 save percentage and 2.49 goals-against average, made another dazzling glove save while going down in a split, which was at least the third time he’s done it in the series. This one came at 7:29 of the second period, when Jake Gardiner found a lot of space in the slot and let loose a quick wrister to Rask’s glove side.
One more save from Rask really stood out. It came with about 3:30 to go in the third period, when the Leafs led 4-2 and looked well on their way to a series-clinching victory. Matt Frattin blocked Dougie Hamilton’s shot and broke free for a breakaway. Had he scored, the Leafs would have led 5-2 and ended the Bruins’ season. Instead, Rask covered the right side of the net and forced Frattin to shoot wide.
OK, more from Rask. After the unbelievable comeback, the TD Garden was rocking in a way it never has before. The crowd noise was deafening as overtime began, and nobody in that building could sit still. Yet, one misplay by the Bruins, and the place would have fallen into a stunned silence while the Leafs piled on top of each other to celebrate a victory. It was important for the players to remain calm, and Rask looked like he was in a deep meditative state just 11 seconds into overtime. He casually and calmly dropped to the butterfly on a Clarke MacArthur shot just 11 seconds into OT, redirecting the puck to the corner and keeping the play moving. There’s no readily available video of the play, but his composed demeanor in the middle of one of the most exciting playoff games ever was truly remarkable.
In addition to goaltending, the Bruins brought their physical game in a big way. That was especially important after they got beaten up pretty badly in Game 6.
Zdeno Chara welcomed Phil Kessel to Game 7 early on with a heavy hit in the corner.
There was a sequence later in the first period that, if you were ever pressed to explain playoff hockey to an outsider, would serve as a pretty solid example. Rookie Matt Bartkowski crunched Lupul along the boards after the Leafs forward carried the puck into the zone. From the ice, Lupul was able to pass to a streaking Joe Colborne, who put a shot on net from close range, which Rask was able to save. Colborne then got absolutely run over by Johnny Boychuk in front of the net in a hit the young forward will probably think about the next time he goes flying through the middle of the ice.
Physical play also factored into the Bruins’ first goal. Though Milan Lucic wasn’t credited for an assist on Bartkowski’s goal, it never would have happened if not for Lucic intimidating Cody Franson. The offensive-zone possession began with Lucic barreling full-speed toward Franson, who stepped aside to avoid contact and gave up the puck in the process. Later in the sequence, Franson tried and failed to clear the zone, and Lucic offered him a little bump to remind him he was still there. Franson then won a puck battle with Lucic along the boards but panicked when he finally got the puck on his stick blade.
I think Franson sensed another bump from Lucic coming, because there’s no other explanation for his no-look, between-the-legs pass to Bartkowski at the blue line.
After the comeback was complete and the game was tied 4-4, the Bruins nearly won the thing before regulation expired. Brad Marchand sent a harmless shot on net from about 40 feet away along the boards, but with James “Rubber” Reimer in net, no shot was harmless. The goalie kicked the puck out in front of the net, where Rich Peverley was left alone by the shell-shocked Maple Leafs. Peverley adjusted to the puck, which was between his feet, and … whiffed.
I said at the time that had Peverley scored there, giving the Bruins a 5-4 lead with 14 seconds left in the game, I would have gone into a full slow-motion hammer throw with my laptop (much like this), walked out of the TD Garden and retired from ever watching sports again, because nothing could ever match what I would have witnessed. So maybe it’s a good thing he fanned on the shot, for everyone’s sake, because it would all be downhill for the rest of our sporting lives. But man, what an opportunity.
And lastly, there was this play. You’ve seen the goal at least 100 times by now, but watch the full work of Bergeron the sequence leading up to the goal. First, he skated all the way back to his own goal line to prevent any potential Toronto rush after the Leafs had just cleared their own zone. Dougie Hamilton handled the puck in the Boston zone, and Bergeron broke across center ice. Hamilton hit Bergeron as he skated over the spoked B, and Bergeron carried the puck with speed into the offensive end. He looked for a shot on the right wing before electing to skate behind the net. He cycled the puck to Tyler Seguin, and after Seguin’s shot ended up along the half wall, the reigning Selke winner covered for a pinching Johnny Boychuk on the blue line. Bergeron then stepped up, found space, and you know the rest.