For Bruins, turnabout is fair play
Maybe the Bruins should petition the city to rename Causeway Street as Comeback Way.
The Bruins have a habit of staging some remarkable rallies on home ice. They did it again Saturday afternoon at TD Garden, stealing Game 2 of their Eastern Conference playoff series with the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 5-3 to send the series to Quebec knotted at a game apiece.
It was fitting that the Bruins, riding a four-goal third period, did to the Canadiens what the Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge have done to them so many times over the nine decades of this entrenched and trenchant rivalry. They turned ostensible defeat into epic victory.
The woeful thoughts and cruel twists of fate belong to Montreal fans this time. It doesn’t get any better than that for Bruins fans, who owe their Montreal counterparts a lifetime of heartache and head-shaking.
The Canadiens tried to play off their collapse postgame, saying they walked out of Boston with a split, their goal. It was like they were reading from the Optimist’s Guide to Dealing with Defeat. But make no mistake, this one stung like a slap shot to the face.
This did not look like it would be a day that ended in Black and Gold glory.
Flummoxed by goalie Carey Price and frustrated by the Habs’ histrionics, the Bruins trailed, 3-1, with under 10 minutes left. Claude Julien’s crew was staring down the barrel of a 2-0 series deficit.
Old-time Spoked-Believers were no doubt readying fatalistic comparisons to the 1971 Bruins, perhaps the Biggest and Baddest Bruins team of them all. But a team that fell victim to the Canadiens Curse in the first round in one of the more disheartening demises in Bruins playoff history. The 1971 loss to the Canadiens made the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline “Catastrophe in Boston” — only a slight bit of hyperbole.
However, these Bruins have a penchant for dangling a couple of skates over the precipice, only to turn an apparent steep fall into an uplifting comeback.
The Bruins came to life in the third, scoring three goals in five minutes and 32 seconds to change the tone of the game and the tenor of the series. It wasn’t quite the comeback for the ages the Bruins had against Toronto last year in Game 7 of the first round, but it was wild.
“It was a tough game. It’s the playoffs. It’s supposed to be tough, and it was,” said Bruins forward Jarome Iginla. “But it’s a wild, wild finish and those feel pretty good when they go your way.”
Young defenseman Dougie Hamilton scored at 10:56 of the third. The Bruins then got a bit of puck luck, in hockey parlance, to tie it at 14:17 of the third. Patrice Bergeron wheeled around and fired a short-side shot from outside the right faceoff circle.
It would have been a routine save for Price. But the puck deflected off Montreal defenseman Francis Bouillon and past Price.
Just 2:11 later, Reilly Smith, one of the players acquired in the dumping of Tyler Seguin, gave the Bruins a 4-3 lead, roofing a cross-ice feed from Torey Krug. Milan Lucic delivered the last rites to the Canadiens with an empty-net goal with 66 seconds left.
An afternoon of pent-up frustration for the Bruins, which reached its peak in the second period, when Julien got a bench minor, became one of unbridled exultation.
“We’ve been there before,” said Bergeron. “I think we’ve got the resilience in here, and I think we’re a confident group being down by a few goals. We definitely don’t want to be in that situation. But when we are we know we can come back in games.”
That’s all well and good, and there is a poetic justice to turning the tables on Montreal, which built a dynasty on snatching victory from the mouths of hungry challengers. For one day the CH got some karmic comeuppance.
But the Bruins have some work to do if they’re going to win this series. Before Smith’s goal, the Bruins, who jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first period, had led for exactly 8:06 of the series, despite controlling the play.
Every Montreal goal in this series has been either the result of a power play or a Boston giveaway. There was an egregious example of the latter that set up Montreal’s first goal, a Mike Weaver knuckler that Tim Wakefield would have been proud of at 1:09 of the second.
The goal came with the Bruins in scramble mode after Brad Marchand made a charitable donation in the neutral zone that he can claim on his taxes.
The Bruins also need to do a better job on the two PKs — their penalty kill and handling P.K. Subban, whose blistering shots on the power play cause you to hold your breath. After scoring two goals in Game 1, including the double-overtime winner, Subban connected with Bruins-killer Thomas Vanek for two Montreal power-play redirected goals Saturday, including one that gave Montreal a 3-1 lead in the third.
The Canadiens are 4 of 9 on the power play in the series.
If you thought Subban was going to get some special dispensation from the Spoked-Believers after being the target of vile and repugnant racist tweets following Game 1, think again. Subban was vociferously booed by the Garden crowd every time he touched the puck, per usual.
The Spoked-Bs also need to exhibit more poise. They were whistled for nine penalties Saturday and came unhinged in the final four minutes of the second period.
“I think in the first and the end of the second period, I think emotions got the best of us,” said Smith.
But another Garden party comeback wiped it all away and gave Boston a clean slate in the series.