By DJ Bean and Scott McLaughlin
The Bruins gave Boston its latest Game 7 scare by blowing a pair of leads, but advanced to the second round of the postseason in thrilling fashion Wednesday night thanks to a Nathan Horton series-clinching goal in overtime that gave the B’s the 4-3 win. It was Horton’s second overtime goal this series.
With the victory, the Bruins will get a shot at redemption, as they will face the same Flyers team that came back from a 3-0 Boston series lead to eliminate the B’s in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season.
With the teams tied at two midway through the third, Chris Kelly put a rebound from an Andrew Ference shot under a diving Carey Price at 9:44 of the third period. P.K. Subban would erase the lead with a blast past Tim Thomas on the power play at 18:03 of the third. That set up Horton’s heroics.
Johnny Boychuk opened the night’s scoring by sending a shot from the point through traffic and past Price. Mark Recchi would follow with his first goal of the playoffs at 5:33, giving the B’s an early 2-0 lead and filling TD Garden with quite a buzz.
The Habs would come roaring back thanks to their special teams, with Yannick Weber scoring on the power play at 9:49 of the first period and Tomas Plekanec beating Thomas on a shorthanded breakaway at 5:50 of the second. Thomas would have 29 saves in regulation for the B’s.
The Bruins will begin the conference semifinals in Philadelphia, as the Flyers (ranked No. 2) are the higher seed. It is the third straight year in which the B’s have advanced to the second round of the playoffs. The B’s have been eliminated in the conference semifinals in each of the last two seasons.
With the win Wednesday, the Bruins have their first Game 7 victory since 1994, when the B’s eliminated the Habs at the Boston Garden. It is also the first time in Claude Julien‘s four years in the Boston that he’s led the team to a Game 7 victory. Julien’s first three seasons in Boston ended in Game 7 losses.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR BRUINS
– The B’s got off to a fast 2-0 start in the first 5:33 of the contest. Sure, they ended up blowing it, but Boychuk getting the B’s on the board early in the first period with a blast from the point was reminiscent of the team’s 7-0 victory over the Habs back on March 24. In that game, of course, Boychuk scored 1:01 into the game and the B’s never looked back.
– Kelly had just two goals and three assists in 24 regular-season games with the Bruins … and then topped that in one playoff series, tallying three goals and three assists against the Canadiens. More importantly, he produced in the biggest of situations. In Game 4, he scored the game-tying goal in the third period and then set up Michael Ryder for the overtime winner. Wednesday, he buried a rebound with 10:16 remaining in the third to give the B’s a 3-2 lead.
– The Bruins started the third period playing much better than they did in the second. They were able to string together good shifts from each of the top three lines, something they didn’t do in the middle frame. The B’s dominated time of possession for the first half of the period and were consistently swarming around Price. The pressure finally paid off when Kelly buried a rebound 9:44 into the period to give the B’s a 3-2 lead.
– Andrew Ference may give crowds the occasional finger, but he was huge for the Bruins this series. He scored a key goal in Game 4 (Finger Gate) and had two assists Wednesday, including on Kelly’s go-ahead goal in the third.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR BRUINS
– No use in having a two-goal lead when you can’t hold it. In front of a crowd that was trying to forget last year’s 3-0 collapse vs. the Flyers, the B’s let the Habs erase Boston’s 2-0 lead and clearly grab the momentum in the second period. It was a very rough period for the B’s, who ended up being outshot, 12-7, in the second.
– The B’s made Price’s night rough early, but they hardly poured it on once they grabbed their 2-0 lead. Following a timeout called by Jacques Martin, the B’s got only two shots on goal for the rest of the period. That means the B’s had as many goals in the first 5:33 as they did shots in the final 14:27 of the opening period. Hardly terrific, but given the two goals part, they’d probably take that every period.
– It was bad enough that the Bruins couldn’t score on the power play. It was even worse when they allowed Montreal to tie the game while Lars Eller was in the box for cross checking. After failing to get set up for the first minute of the power play, Recchi couldn’t control a pass from Dennis Seidenberg in the neutral zone, allowing Plekanec to skate in on a shorthanded breakaway and beat Thomas. Boston couldn’t get set up after the goal, either, and concluded the man advantage without a shot on goal. The B’s had a lot of bad power plays in the series, but this one was the worst, which is really saying something.
– Midway through that second period, Brad Marchand opted out of a golden scoring opportunity to make a pass to no one in particular. He took a feed on the left wing on a 3-on-1 and had an open lane to the net, but instead tried to pass the puck across the top of the crease to one of his two linemates. Unfortunately, one of them was tied up by a defender and the other was already past the right post by the time Marchand made the pass. What should’ve been a grade-A scoring chance became nothing more than a dump into the corner and an easy clear for Montreal.
– Poor officiating. Just a horrid penalty called on Shawn Thornton called late in the first period. With Habs forward Ryan White seemingly holding Thornton in blatant fashion, Thornton was called for an elbow that replays failed to show.
A hooking call on Michael Ryder on Plekanec at 8:22 of the first wasn’t much better. Plekanec seemed to go down rather easily on a play in which it seemed Ryder was simply outmuscling him. Boychuk’s boarding call late in the second period looked to be the closest to a penalty of all the ones called on the Bruins, as the late high-sticking call on Patrice Bergeron seemed to be more James Wisniewski theatrics than anything else.