MONTREAL — As Matt Fraser walked out of the dressing room, after all the questions were answered, after his nerves had settled down, he pressed a button on his cellphone. He had said earlier in the day that he had turned it off.
He looked down. He said he couldn’t imagine how many messages were there, after what had happened.
Fraser scored the winning goal, in overtime, for the Bruins against the Canadiens at the Bell Centre in his first career playoff game, giving Boston a much-needed 1-0 win Thursday night, and turning the second-round series into a best-of-three headed back to TD Garden for Game 5 on Saturday night.
It was just 79 seconds into OT, after a scramble around the net, with Carl Soderberg falling down and three Canadiens between Fraser and goalie Carey Price. He slipped the puck in, setting off a celebration on the bench and a feeling of relief in the dressing room.
Because the difference between a win and a loss was immense. Had the Bruins lost, they would be going back to Boston on the brink of elimination. Instead, the series is tied at 2, with two of the possible remaining three games at the Garden.
“I think guys were relieved, relieved and really happy to get that win because it wasn’t easy, it hasn’t been easy,” said Tuukka Rask, who earned the shutout. “Hopefully, this turns things around for us.”
They had needed Rask to be great, to stop everything, as the Bruins struggled to get production from two of their four lines. He did, making 33 saves, including 14 in the third period. Rask was “just so calm in the back there today, you didn’t see him scramble very much,” said Torey Krug. “There was not many rebounds that were jumping in front of the crease. It was fun to watch him play tonight.”
Krug wasn’t the only one who thought so.
“Tonight was another level,” Jarome Iginla said. “I mean, he’s stopping breakaways in a 0-0 game, coming across he looks so sharp. It was nice for us to get that one goal for him because he’s played great. He’s been awesome for us all year — he’s been great in the playoffs — and tonight he was as good as he can be, gave us that chance to get that one goal.”
The Bruins had previous chances, had hit posts, most of the best opportunities coming from the third line, which added Fraser to the combination of Soderberg and Loui Eriksson, and the second line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Reilly Smith.
Smith had perhaps the best chance of the night, ringing the puck off the crossbar at 9:16 of the third period while the Bruins were on the power play — one of only two for them in the game — on a boarding call on Alexei Emelin.
There were chances, too, for the Canadiens, including a Rene Bourque near miss at 9:46 of the second and a Brian Gionta breakaway chance at 14:36.
But neither team could solve the opposing goaltender — through one, two, or three periods. And as it progressed, the Bruins got the feeling it might just be one of those games, won on a strange bounce or a killer mistake — perhaps in overtime.
“Both goalies were sharp,” Iginla said. “They were on. It did have that feel. It was a pretty tight game, a hard-fought game both ways. It sure feels good when they go the right way.”
But it wasn’t all good. This wasn’t exactly the performance the Bruins were looking for, not the way they know they can play. They hope that the overtime win will help them get back there, to the style that helped them to the best record in the regular season.
“The win was important to get us back in the series, but I don’t think we’ve played our best hockey — and that’s not to downplay this win — but we’ve played hard,” coach Claude Julien said. “I know I’ve seen our team play better, but it seems to be a process now, and we’re working through it.
“You hope that this win helps that to get better for us. No doubt these guys are working hard; they care, they want to. Just because it doesn’t go as smooth as we’d like it to be, what I like is we’re showing character and battling through it and finding ways to win games.”
They did that, and so it is back to Boston with two wins in the series, neither of them easy. So that sense of relief in the postgame dressing room made sense.
It was probably what the Bruins should have felt, with their season close to being on the line and their game still imperfect.
“We really needed this win,” Rask said. “Montreal played a good game today, and we never really took it to them as we would like sometimes. It seemed like we were a little nervous at times, squeezing our sticks, not playing our game. I think, hopefully, this win helps us moving forward.”