Resilient Bruins keep their composure
MONTREAL -- Winning in the Stanley Cup playoffs is all about luck, dedication and resiliency.
The Boston Bruins had all three of those aspects during Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Montreal Canadiens en route to a 5-4 overtime victory Thursday night at Bell Centre.
It was a thrilling hockey game that featured just about everything, and it ended when Michael Ryder netted his second goal of the game at 1:59 of overtime, as Boston evened the series at two games apiece. Game 5 will be played Saturday night at TD Garden.
Amazingly, the home team has yet to win a game in the series. The Canadiens definitely had the momentum in Game 4, and it appeared they'd be too much for the Bruins to handle. But Boston stuck to its game plan and battled its way back.
"It's really incredible we won this game," said Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, who made 34 saves. "We really needed to win this game."
If the Bruins are able to win this series and advance in the playoffs, this victory could be looked at as the turning point.
"We didn't get rattled tonight," Bruins coach Claude Julien said.
There was some thought that Julien should have called a timeout once the Canadiens gained a 2-1 lead at 6:52 of the second period, but he did not. It didn't take him long, however, to ask for his lone timeout when Montreal gained a 3-1 lead less than a minute later.
"I just wanted to slow things down to start with," Julien said. "At the same time, I told our team to relax and that there's still a half-game left to play. We had to stick to our game plan, and as the game went on, we got better and better, found a way to get back into it and we found a way to win at the end."
At the moment Julien called the timeout, Montreal had all the momentum and the Bruins were a bit white-knuckled.
"It was a back-and-forth game, and we started to grip our sticks a little tighter," defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. "Then when we called that timeout, it was key. He told us to calm down, make the simple plays and stop gripping our sticks so tight. After that, we started making the smart plays and we battled back into that game."
For a team to advance deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs, it's generally thought that its top players need to be at their best. While the line of Mark Recchi, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand has been solid for the Bruins, it was Ryder, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly who proved crucial in Game 4.
Kelly, who needed to wear a full cage to protect a facial injury he suffered in Game 3 on Monday night, scored a goal and added a pair of assists. Ryder netted two goals and added an assist. Peverley chipped in two assists.
"Our line didn't have a great first period, but we bounced back well in the second and so on," Kelly said.
Thomas made some spectacular saves at critical times. Even though the penalty kill allowed a goal, Boston's PK came up with a major kill with the game tied at 4 at 17:41 of the third period.
It was a complete team effort by the Bruins on Thursday night. Sure, there were times when they didn't look good, but the end result is what counts.
"It took everything we had," forward Shawn Thornton said. "I'm definitely happy with our character, but it definitely wasn't an easy one."
It was clear all the players were pumped with this come-from-behind victory. This game could set the tone for the Bruins the rest of the way. If they can't capitalize on this moving forward, shame on them.
"It was a great win and a great comeback," Bergeron said. "We had a good feeling [going into OT]. We thought we were playing pretty well."
There have been many games of this nature for the Bruins this season, but the way the Canadiens had control early, only to lose it due to Boston's resolve, made this a major character win for Boston.
"At the end of the night, you kind of look at it and after you get the win, you say, 'It was nice to see us go through this,' and you hope your team grows from it and learns from it," Julien said. "It's certainly good for the confidence. At the same time, you have to realize it's a 2-2 series. We're back to scratch, and now it's the best out of three."
The Bruins need a win on home ice Saturday to make Thursday's effort meaningful.
"We need to build on our game and not worry about where the game is being played," Julien said. "We have to look at how we've been playing and how we played here and the good things we've done. We need to take that home; it's as simple as that. At one point, you hope the home team is going to win the game, and hopefully that's us."
Boston needs to continue to be lucky, dedicated and resilient in order for that to happen.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.
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