When Shawn Thornton returned to the bench in the third period — about eight minutes after he limped off with a right leg injury and the Bruins trailing, 3-1, — he said to his teammates, “One goal every five minutes.”
His teammates listened. And they didn’t just comply. They doubled it.
The Bruins had half a period left, half a period between tying their series at 1-1 or heading to Montreal down 0-2.
Then Dougie Hamilton scored, then Patrice Bergeron scored, then Reilly Smith scored.
“Even after they scored and made it 3-1, all I could hear guys saying was, ‘Hey, there’s a 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,” coach Claude Julien said. “And that’s what happened.”
Suddenly, in just 5:32, the Bruins had pulled ahead of the Canadiens en route to a 5-3 win at TD Garden Saturday afternoon. The Bruins had proven yet again that counting them out is rarely a good move.
“I think we’re a resilient group and we’ve been there before and we have the confidence that we can actually come back in games,” Bergeron said. “[Today] was a perfect example of that.
“That being said, they outplayed us for more than half the game, so we’ve got to be better.”
Though the Bruins had scored first — getting a friendly bounce off Francis Bouillon on a goal by Daniel Paille at 13:02 of the first — the Canadiens scored the next three goals. Mike Weaver took advantage of a Brad Marchand neutral-zone turnover, scoring after a scramble in front of Tuukka Rask at 1:09 of the second.
That was followed by two consecutive power-play tip-ins by Thomas Vanek on blue-line blasts from P.K. Subban, with the Bruins killer emerging after having been invisible for the first game and a half. He scored first at 18:09 of the second period, and again at 6:30 of the third.
“At the start of the third, we got that penalty there [on Hamilton, for interference] and we were just kind of waiting for something to happen and then we get scored on,” Rask said. “We realized we have to do something about it.”
It had begun to look dire.
“It wasn’t close to being good enough, especially at this time of year,” Bergeron said of his team’s early play. “We needed to respond, and I thought all the guys did that in that third period. But, like I’ve said, we’ve got to start earlier. We’ve got to have a 60-minute effort. We haven’t done that so far.”
They did, however, have a 10-minute effort, starting with Hamilton’s goal at 10:56 of the third. It was created by Marchand, as he went from goat to golden on a curl and fed Hamilton for the score.
“Especially with the crowd on our side, they really got into it after that first one,” Marchand said. “It just seemed like we got that life, and we knew we were going to come back and win the game.”
Less than four minutes later, at 14:17, Bergeron threw the puck on net. And in a cruel twist it again deflected off Bouillon and past Carey Price. The score was tied. With the building loud and the Bruins smelling blood, they finally got the lead back just 2:11 later, with Smith notching the winner from the right circle.
“They poured it on at the end of the game,” Price said. “They got pretty lucky, I thought. They were playing desperate at the end of the game, and they found a way to put it in the net.”
Milan Lucic scored an empty-netter at 18:54 to secure the victory.
Said Julien, “Even after [the Canadiens] scored that third goal, we were a group that was determined to win the hockey game and we started doing the things that we were supposed to do. We got pucks in deep, we got our feet moving, and we had some offensive-zone time, and pucks started finding their way to the net.”
And so, despite being again down by two goals in the third period, the Bruins found a way to win. They took the bounces, took the goals, and now they get a day off before heading to Montreal for the next two games.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising. The Bruins were the NHL’s best third-period team this season, outscoring their opponents in the final period.
“It shows our character,” said Rask, who allowed three goals on 28 shots. “I think we make it unnecessarily hard for ourselves sometimes, but it’s a great, gutsy win today.’’
Not that they want to do that again.
“It’s tough sometimes to stay with it when it’s not necessarily going your way,” Bergeron said. “But that being said, you have to. You have to find a way, you have to keep fighting, you have to keep pushing, and that’s something we definitely said after the second and we had to be definitely better.
“I thought we all stepped up and we found a way.”