Arthur: Bruins have Chicago hope
First-round comeback against Leafs a reminder Boston can come back against Blackhawks
Chris Kelly #23 of the Boston Bruins scores a goal in the first period against Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Six of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 24, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Photograph by: HARRY HOW, GETTY IMAGES
BOSTON — The morning of their biggest game of the season — the game that could stop their legs from moving, deaden their eyes, steal the life out of their bodies as if a string had been cut — the Boston Bruins looked the other way.
They faced Game 6 against the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night, the first elimination game of the Stanley Cup final, a test of belief. So the Bruins looked back.
“We didn’t come this far to lose, right?” asked Milan Lucic. “It would have been easy to quit two months ago against Toronto in that Game 7. But we dug deep, and we pulled it out.”
It hasn’t quite been two months, though it can feel that way, but that first-round Game 7 was nearly three rounds back, and remains the most singular, remarkable, memorable game of these playoffs, and maybe others. We have seen triple overtime and comebacks, shootouts and last-second goals, hockey games that spin into higher places, into the ether. And that was the most indelible one, and the Bruins have been talking about it ever since.
“You play that game, 99 times out of 100, you lose,” said Bruins forward Chris Kelly. “That one time … “
That one time, Nazem Kadri had scored make it 4-1 with 14:31 left, and Bruins play-by-play man Jack Edwards was bellowing into his microphone, “the Leafs are running the Bruins out of their own building!” and it felt like one of those 99. “Unless they suffer a colossal collapse,” intoned Edwards, “the Leafs are going to eliminate the Boston Bruins.”
On the bench the Bruins told themselves the lies that you tell yourself, the homilies — we can still do this, we can still do this — but in the dressing room, where the injured Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference were clustered with the black aces and some Bruins staffers, hope started thin before thickening.
“I thought it was over, actually,” says Seidenberg. “I was going through different scenarios, wonder what would be next. And then we scored, and I thought, there’s a chance. And then we scored again, and I was like, now it’s getting tight. But we had a feeling, we were pushing really hard, and I just had a feeling something was going to happen.”
“In Game 5 we just blitzed them [in the third period], and probably spent 95 per cent of the time in their end, but we couldn’t pull it off, because their goalie was hot, and we just couldn’t put the puck in their net,” Ference said. “And we needed one goal in that game. You thought they were susceptible. If it is going to happen against anyone, it’s going to happen against a younger team that doesn’t have the experience.”
And instead of coming in an avalanche, the comeback came in set pieces, one by one. With 10:42 left, Nathan Horton scored from the slot, then the game just … carried on. Toronto’s Matt Frattin had a breakaway with 3½ minutes left, and skidded it wide. The clock kept ticking. Boston pulled Tuukka Rask with precisely two minutes left, and Lucic scored on a rebound with 1:22 left, and all of a sudden, possibility.
“Honestly, I really believed,” Patrice Bergeron said. “I had a good feeling. Just one of those nights, I had a good vibe. Two minutes, we score two goals, if we score one early it’s enough time. I truly believed in it. If you don’t believe it’s not going to happen, and I just had a good feeling.”
And with 51 seconds left, Bergeron took a wrist shot from the point after a furious series of victorious puck battles, and it slipped through everything, and James Reimer’s water bottle jumped. Bergeron wasn’t aiming for a mailbox in the upper left corner of the goal. He was just trying something. Possibility.
“I was trying to beat, I think it was [Nikolai] Kulemin. He was coming at me, and I was waiting for him to get off my shooting lane,” said Bergeron. “I didn’t look at the net; I was just looking at the first guy, and try to get it through. It had eyes, I guess.”
They nearly won when Rich Peverley swiped at a puck in the slot with Reimer down with 14 seconds left, and then all they had was a shot, in overtime. That wasn’t guaranteed, either.
“[Frattin] scores, it’s over,” Kelly said. “But even when you get to 4-3, 1:20, you score one late goal, how many times do you score two late goals? Yeah, we’re staying positive, we’re hoping. But that’s what it is, it’s a hope. And then we score the tying goal, and we’re ecstatic, but how many times have you seen a team tie it up and be satisfied with that?
“The overtime goal was probably the luckiest of all of them, where their guy just missed the clearing attempt, and it went right to Bergy’s stick.”
By then the Leafs’ legs had gone straight, and Boston was coming, and Jake Gardiner — the kid who was plucked from the bench only due to injury, and had been Toronto’s best defenceman in the series — tried blindly to clear it. “I was trying to sniff for the back door for the rebound, trying to read the play, because I knew his back was turned, and he was going to try to just get it out,” said Bergeron. “And fortunately enough it was on the ice and I was able to go get it.”
Nobody had ever come back from a three-goal deficit in the third period of a Game 7 before, and it changed everything that came after. It has become an avatar of possibility, an example of how anything can happen in this pinball game. It’s distant now, buried under a drumbeat of games that went to overtime, that went further, that were decided in stunning fashion, that were violent and fast, heavy and slow, lucky and unlucky. Boston won four of five from the Rangers, swept the Penguins, and as they did they have spent parts of the last month-and-a-half later reaching back to that Game 7, wondering at it, reminiscing about the crack of daylight that allowed even Monday’s opportunity to be knocked out of the final or play one game for everything. Or another one, anyway.
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