The obituary for the 2013 Bruins was already being constructed in the third period of Game 7 as the Maple Leafs took a 4-1 lead on Nazem Kadri’s goal at 5:29. What happened after that is something never done before in NHL playoff history: Boston rallied from a three-goal deficit and won it 5-4 in overtime as Patrice Bergeron tied it with 51 seconds left (with Tuukka Rask pulled), then won it at 13:55 in overtime. Improbably, the B’s not only advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals but they’ll have home ice against the New York Rangers - an Original 6 rival. Game 1 is Thursday (7:30 p.m., NBCSN) vs. New York and Game 2 is Sunday afternoon (3 p.m., NBCSN).
It’s hard to say if this was more of an epic comeback by the Bruins or a choke job for the ages by the Maple Leafs, probably a combination of both. Whatever it was, let’s agree that it turned out to be one of the most memorable games in Bruins history.
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“They had us on the ropes,” admitted Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “They (Toronto) believed in themselves and players got out of their comfort zone. They gave us an unbelievable push.”
After losing in OT at TD Garden in Game 7 last season vs. Washington in the first round, not to mention blowing a 3-1 lead in this series, it says something about the Bruins’ resiliency that they were able to push all of that bad karma aside and stay focused. Making things even more difficult for the home team, Andrew Ference missed his second straight game with a foot injury and Dennis Seidenberg only skated two shifts in Game 7 before leaving for good with an injury. That left Boston with five healthy defensemen: Zdeno Chara played 35:46, 7:16 more than any teammate or Maple Leafs player.
The Bruins never gave up though as their top line produced two goals. Nathan Horton cut it to 4-2 at 9:18 then Milan Lucic made it 4-3 Maple Leafs with 1:22 left and Rask on the bench. Just 31 seconds later, Bergeron tied it thanks to a wrist shot with Chara screening James Reimer (30 saves). Julien stressed that in overtime he wanted his team to “take shots, any shot on goal is a good one.” Indeed, Bergeron’s game winner came after a loose puck then giveaway in front of Reimer. Ironically, the two Bruins that were rightfully the most criticized during the series - Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand - had the assists on the series clinching goal.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter @RichSlate