Saturday, May 3, 2014

Boston Bruins' Gameday: Thornton's tirade inspires epic Bruins comeback; series tied at one

During the third period TV time out in his Boston Bruins' matchup with the Montreal Canadiens and down by a score of 3-1 on Saturday afternoon, Shawn Thornton got up in his teammate's collective face and told them that all it was going to take was a goal every five minutes to tie the game.

They got those two goals faster than ordered, and then some.

Bergeron (37), Marchand and Andrej Mezsaros celebrate a tie game...
Dougie Hamilton started an offensive blitzkrieg that saw the Bruins' erase that two-goal deficit and take the lead in the space of five and a half minutes of the final frame - then added an empty net goal as the Bruins evened their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinals series with the hated Habs at one apiece with a resounding 5-3 victory in Game 2 at TD Garden in North Boston.

Hamilton's point drive was followed by a Patrice Bergeron tough angle shot from the right wing to tie the score with just under five minutes to play, and a Reilly Smith snap from the right circle with three and a half minutes remaining gave Boston the lead for good.  Milan Lucic added an empty net insurance goal to drive the point home.

Point being?  This is the second game in a row that the Bruins have erased a two goal deficit in the final period - and that, perhaps even more than the win itself, is the Canadiens' cross to bear as the series shifts to Montreal for Games 3 and 4, scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday nights at the Bell Centre.

Even before the opening faceoff, Bruins' left wing Brad Marchand and Habs' right wing Brendan Gallagher set the tone for a physical battle, throwing elbows trying to gain position and establish the upper hand right off the bat, and it worked like a charm as Boston's bigger bodies hammered the Canadiens at every opportunity...

...eventually taking a 1-0 lead when Daniel Paille, who played on the third line being centered by Carl Soderberg instead of his usual spot on the Merlot Line, took a pass from the big Swede as the trailed down the slot and beat Montreal netminder Carey Price top shelf for the Bruins' first lead of the series with seven minutes remaining in the first.

The Canadiens came out of the room after the first intermission with an urgency, slipping the deliberate targeting of the heavy Bruins and grasping the momentum, putting Boston's plodding defense to task with their quick-twitch passing and suddenness on goal - Gallagher getting the best of Marchand just a minute into the middle frame, picking his pocket in the neutral zone and carrying the puck back into the attacking zone...

...firing a shot in on Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask, who stopped the blast but couldn't direct the puck out of the crease as the Canadiens crashed the net.  A scrum ensued and Gallagher eventually came out of the pile behind the net and hit defenseman Mike Weaver with a pass into the right circle, and just like that the game was tied at one just over a minute into the second.

Bruins' killer Tomas Vanek accounted for the next two Montreal goals, both Power Play offerings and both tip-ins off of P. K. Subban drives - one in the waning moments of the middle frame and the other six-and-a-half minutes into the third - giving Montreal a 3-1 lead and setting the table for a comeback that will undoubtedly find itself in the annals of rivalry lore.

"We had a two-goal lead. We have to manage the puck better and do smarter things out there, making sure we are being smart with the puck and putting ourselves in a good position," lamented Subban, "Nine minutes left to go in the game, we have to shut it down. Good teams know how to shut things down when they have the lead. We are a good team, we have done it before."

Maybe so, but for the second straight game, the Canadians couldn't do it - and this time, it cost them the game.

Following Thornton's tirade on the bench, Hamilton took a Marchand pass at the blue line, faded to his left and ripped at slapshot that somehow found the net through the forest of players in front of the net that got the TD Garden crowd back into the game - the players seeming to feed off of their energy, and things just snowballed from there.

"Well they poured it on at the end of the game," Price said. "They got pretty lucky, I thought. They were playing desperate at the end of the game and they found a way to put it in the net. We've just got to regroup, realize the situation we're in, we're in a good spot, and move forward."

If luck really had anything to do with things, the Canadiens would be down 2-0 in the series, as the Bruins missed several wide open chances in the first game and the first two periods of Saturday's matinee - but when they started to find the target, the Canadiens were finished.

Bergeron hit a twirling sniper shot from the bin-side dashers to tie the game at 3-3 three minutes after Hamilton's drive, then Smith's laser from the dot on the right circle gave the Bruins the lead minutes after that - then Lucic potted his empty-netter to leave no doubt as the Bruins score four unanswered goals to take Game 2.

In all, the Bruins have scored seven of their eight goals in the series in the third period, while the Canadiens have scored just two of theirs in the final frame and one in overtime, but seem to have issues with the Bruins at even strength as all but three of their seven goals have come with the man advantage.

"Well obviously we've got to find a way to not get into that position, if we can," said Bergeron of falling behind their rivals. "But I think we're a resilient group and we've been there before and we have the confidence that we can actually come back in games. Tonight was a perfect example of that."

"That being said, they outplayed us for more than half the game, so we've got to be better."

Staying out of the penalty box seems to be a perfect way to accomplish that, but as far as the Bruins are concerned, they are never out of a game - and that has to be wearing on the Canadiens as Game 3 looms on Tuesday night.

"We came here wanting to get one win, obviously we would have liked to have two, but we got one." Subban offered, trying to put a positive spin on things. "We have home-ice advantage, we're going back to Montreal, and we'll be ready to play."

He'd better hope they're ready to play for a full 60 minutes, because 50 minutes just isn't cutting it.

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