After a less than stellar Game 6 performance led to a second straight Leafs victory, the Bruins headed back to Boston on Monday night to host a Game 7 after leading the series three games to one. Would they fall victim to another epic collapse like the one to Philadelphia in 2010, or would their experience prevail and push them on to the next round?
For a long while, it looked like the former was the fate of the black and gold. Then, something amazing happened, and history was written.
Down by three goals heading into the game’s final 10 minutes, the Bruins, the same team that blew nine third period leads this season, climbed back and pulled even before their death certificate was finalized. Then, a little more than seven minutes into overtime, they wrote a death certificate of their own.
In the unlikeliest of scenarios, Matt Bartowski drew first blood in the game when he ripped a wrister past James Riemer at the 14:21 mark of the first period. It was the first goal in the career of the 24-year old Bartowski, who slid into the last defensive spot for the Bruins with Wade Redden getting the healthy scratch.
Cody Franson tallied the equalizer on a Toronto powerplay less than five minutes later. With Zdeno Chara in the box for a high-sticking minor, Franson swept a rebound past Tuukka Rask to make it a 1-1 game. Dougie Hamilton had a chance to clear the puck out of the crease, but couldn’t clean it out before Franson got to it.
Dennis Seidenberg only recorded 37 seconds of ice time during the first period after a collision with Matt Frattin by the boards. Seidenberg was seen stretching his leg on the bench after the collision and didn’t return to the ice after the first period, though he did remain on the bench.
Franson got back in the goal column in second period, scoring his second of the night when he blasted a point slapshot through a couple screening Bruins defenseman and into the top left corner of the net past Rask.
Things started getting testy towards the end of the second period, with both teams mixing it up like you would expect two division rivals to in a Game 7 playoff matchup. The Bruins caught the short end of a couple calls but also caught a break when the refs missed Chris Kelly deliver a vicious elbow to the face of James van Riemsdyk in the Bruins offensive zone. The officiating was certainly not the strong point of this series finale, which is something that you hate to see as a hockey fan.
It seemed pretty fitting that Phil Kessel, who has played well to quiet the skeptics in the latter half of this series, was the one to help deliver what appeared to be the daggers through the heart of the Bruins. Kessel put his Leafs up 3-1 just over two minutes into the third period when he stuffed home a rebound on what basically was an empty net.
Kessel again had a hand in another devastating Toronto strike just three minutes later when he dealt the first assist on a Nazem Kadri goal that put the Leafs up 4-1.
At this point, it looked like the Bruins were just playing out the rest of their season for poops and chuckles.
Then, Nathan Horton wound up adding a tally for the black and gold at the midway point of the final period, giving Bruins fans a glimmer of hope heading into the final 10 minutes.
With Rask pulled and an extra skater on the ice, Milan Lucic added to that glimmer when he set up shop in front of the Leafs’ net and muscled a rebound past Reimer to cut the lead to 4-3 Toronto with 1:22 left on the game clock. Just another example of why Lucic should make the front of his net his office all the time.
Claude Julien called a timeout, hoping to rally his team and spark another goal before the final buzzer. Apparently, that goal came when Patrice Bergeron found the twine from the point. I wouldn’t really know because I’m pretty sure I blacked out from pure disbelief at this point. Let’s consult the replay for confirmation:
Yep, that just happened. Two goals in :31 seconds, and this thing is going to overtime.
It took over six minutes of furious, desperation hockey from both teams before one flatlined. And the Grim Reaper? None other than Patrice Bergeron. His assistants? Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand. All three guys who comprised the most criticized line of this series waited until crunch time to light off their fireworks and send their opponents packing.
Just the way they drew it up. Poor Toronto.