BOSTON (CBS) — If there’s one thing the Boston Bruins have mastered, it’s been the ability to make things difficult for themselves.
Fortunately for them, they’ve also mastered the art of the comeback.
As the second period drew to a close on Saturday afternoon at the TD Garden, the outlook seemed grim for the Bruins. That only grew worse six minutes into the third period, when Thomas Vanek tipped home his second power-play goal of the day, giving the Canadiens a two-goal cushion.
The Bruins were staring a 2-0 series hole in the face, a scenario which would have forced them to win two out of three games in Montreal as well as two games on their home ice. The odds, even for a team as great as the Bruins, would certainly not be in their favor.
Yet as has become their trademark, the Bruins came back. Roaring.
Brad Marchand furiously carried the puck down the left wing and into the Montreal zone, before stopping on a dime and looking back to the blue line. He saw Dougie Hamilton flying into the zone and fed the 20-year-old defenseman. Hamilton gathered the puck, squared himself to the net and fired toward a sea of bodies.
In another building, for another team, perhaps that goal would have represented a glimmer of hope. But for the Boston Bruins, who have come to be cardiac kids with some of their comebacks, it represented a statement. They were coming back, and there was little Montreal could do to stop them.
Three minutes later, Patrice Bergeron’s hard work along the boards paid off when his shot deflected off Francis Bouillon and into the net, past Carey Price, for the game-tying goal. Tie game.
The Bruins had battled through one-sided penalty calls, which saw Montreal get twice as many power plays than Boston despite a physical game on both sides. The Canadiens capitalized on those penalty calls, scoring twice on the power play to build that lead.
Head coach Claude Julien, who received a rare penalty for admonishing the referees, was not particularly pleased with what the Bruins had dealt with to that point.
” The way we just battled back through — I felt — a lot of crap that we put up with today was pretty indicative of what our team’s all about,” a noticeably more temperate Julien said after the game. “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.”
In terms of the accomplishments on this afternoon, there was still work to be done after tying the game. And rather than waiting until overtime, where a bounce one way or another can determine a winner, the Bruins took care of business in regulation.
Just two minutes after Bergeron’s shot found the twine, he again held the puck in the Montreal zone. He passed to Reilly Smith, who cycled the puck back to Zdeno Chara at the point. It was then that Brad Marchand engaged P.K. Subban in a battle in front of the net. Marchand drew Subban all the way back into the crease, and when Torey Krug sent a cross-ice pass back to Smith at the right faceoff dot, Subban stood in Price’s way as the netminder tried to move right to left.
Smith hit the back of the net with his shot, and the entire roof nearly blew off the Garden.
“There was a huge momentum swing in that third period as soon as we got that first goal, and it kind of just built up until that moment,” Smith said. “So there was a lot of emotions and a lot of passion going in to that. I was obviously just really happy that it went in to the back of the net.”
For the Bruins, it’s really nothing new. After all, it was just two days prior that they scored three third-period goals to force overtime, and for a team that fought back from a three-goal deficit in the final 10 minutes of Game 7 against Toronto last season, the players know that no comeback is ever out of the question.
For goaltender Tuukka Rask, in fact, it’s almost expected.
“We’ve done it before. We know we were capable of doing that. And then we never quit. We keep plugging away, keep playing our style, and sometimes it pays off, and sometimes it doesn’t. The biggest thing is that we know we can do it and we never stop,” Rask said. “A 3-1 lead is not that bad. … We never quit and we didn’t play bad. We didn’t necessarily play a great 60 minutes, but we never quit on that, so that’s not too surprising to see the comeback.”
Hamilton, who got the ball rolling with that first goal of the third period, admitted that the series would have been “pretty much over” if the Bruins succumbed to the forces working against them in Game 2. But he noticed a distinct change in the entire building after his shot weaved its way through traffic to find the back of the net.
“I think when that happens we get some more energy, the crowd’s in it more, and we start coming at them,” Hamilton said. “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. … I think when we get that first goal I think everyone knows that it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen again, and I think just with I guess all the experience from Game 7 and the Leafs last year, it’s kind of that feeling and everyone kind of turns it up and it puts them on their heels, so it’s a lot of fun.
Fun? Sure. From a spectator’s standpoint, there’s nothing better than a thrilling playoff hockey game that plays out in such a manner. But for a team that has proven capable of dominating just about any opponent for 60 minutes, the Bruins are going to want to try to pour it on early and often to avoid such risky situations moving forward.
Thanks to the confidence — and security — that Saturday’s win created, they’ll be feeling much better about their chances when they take the ice Tuesday in Montreal.
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