Choke’s on Toronto as Bruins storm back to win Game 7, series
The Bruins refused to be labeled with the “choke” tag Monday night and instead plastered it on the foreheads of all 18 active members of the Toronto Maple Leafs. With some fans already getting a jump on I-93 traffic, the Bruins chipped away late in the third period of a stunning Game 7 and wound up winning in overtime as Patrice Bergeron’s rifle of a shot flew past Toronto goaltender James Reimer in a 5-4 victory that will be recalled for decades to come.
The furious Bruins comeback was captained by Bergeron, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, the first of whom knotted the game at 4 with just 51 seconds left in regulation. Lucic, who also assisted on Horton’s goal 9:18 into the third, scored at the 18:39 mark in the final regulation frame on the goal which gave B’s fans legitimate hope for the unprecedented rally.
For much of the night, many Bruins fans were likely discussing what the team should do this offseason as old friend Phil Kessel, accompanied by Nazem Kadri, silenced the TD Garden crowd early in the third period as Kessel hit a wide-open net off a rebound 2:09 into the third and Kadri also netted a rebound on a 2-on-1 three minutes later to make it 4-1.
The Bruins’ power play also continued to come up empty early on as Boston did not have a power play shot on goal through the first two periods.
Meanwhile, Toronto’s Cody Franson was having a career night as he scored for the second time off a perfectly set-up screen 5:48 into the second period. It was the first time in Franson’s career that he had a two-goal game.
Another sign that it might not be the Bruins’ night early in the game was when Milan Lucic was sent to the penalty box, without Dion Phaneuf, for roughing at the 13:02 mark of the second period.Boston’s Matt Bartkowski had the Garden crowd juiced early on as his wrister blew past Toronto goaltender James Reimer just 5:39 into the contest. Toronto’s Joffrey Lupul nearly tied it , 1-1, moments after Bartkowski’s goal but Tuukka Rask made a phenomenal right leg save on a tight shot to preserve Boston’s early lead.
It wouldn’t last long, however, as the Maple Leafs put tremendous pressure on Rask nine minutes into the first. Franson finished off Toronto’s relentless attack with six seconds to go on a power play to tie it, 1-1. The two teams finished a physical first period knotted at one as Toronto had 18 hits to Boston’s 13.
What they’ll be saying: It’s not hyperbole to say the Bruins staged the most improbable comeback in their storied history Monday night. They were still down by two goals with less than 90 seconds remaining and Bergeron did not tie the game until the 19:09 mark of the third.
Boston was seconds away from possibly entering an offseason filled with questions. Head coach Claude Julien could have very well been fired later this week. Instead, Julien and the Bruins will open up a semi-finals series against the New York Rangers at TD Garden on Thursday (7:30 p.m.).