That was a chorus of “boo” that the Boston Bruins heard from their home ice crowd when they left the ice at the end of the second period.
Usually when you hear what sounds like resounding displeasure from the crowd during a game at TD Garden , it’s actually the fans chanting the name of Tuukka Rask after a nice save…
…but not on Monday night – not when their season was down to its last 20 minutes and their team looked either tired or disinterested or both, the Toronto Maple Leafs skating around and through the Bruins’ defense for a 2-1 lead in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Not when this Boston Bruins team had a 3-1 series lead just days earlier, but scored just two goals in two ensuing games – both with the man advantage after coach Claude Julien had pulled Rask in desperation for any offense at all – and had struggled on both ends of the ice with the speed and aggressiveness of the Maple Leafs all series.
They wanted to let the Bruins’ players know what the game meant to them, and that they needed to see how much it meant to the Bruins in the third period.
Five and a half minutes in and with ex-Bruin and current nemesis Phil Kessel scoring one goal and assisting on another, the life had been effectively sucked from the Garden crowd, as they joined the Bruins players in somberly counting down the minutes to a horribly disappointing end to their season…
…and suddenly, just as all hope seemed lost, the Bruins shifted into a gear that we have not witnessed this season – the long-rumored “Extra Gear” that all hockey teams possess for situations just like this one – and in the space of 11 minutes, Toronto’s 4-1 stranglehold on Boston evaporated to nothing and the game and series that appeared to be going north of the border was instead headed for overtime.
Boston’s shocking rally is one that will forever live in Bruins’ lore, and the team that looked defeated and disinterested at the end of the second now looked like world beaters, as Nathan Horton took a swing pass from Milan Lucic from behind the Toronto net and snapped the puck past Maple Leafs’ goal tender James Reimer’s back shoulder to get the lead down to 4-2.
Lucic, who epitomized Boston’s prominent split-personality all season long, gave the Bruins’ life with his intense play when all seemed lost, scoring the Bruins third goal after Julien pulled Rask to gain the extra skater, his tip in of the rebound from a Zdeno Chara shot made the score 4-3 with just 1:22 left in regulation…
…and Patrice Bergeron’s rocket from the high point beat a Chara-screened Reimer to tie the game 31 seconds later sending the game into overtime, whipping the capacity crowd in TD Garden into full frenzy – and from that point there was little doubt that the Bruins would win the game, Bergeron’s goal 6:05 into overtime more inevitability than destiny…
…Bergeron’s snap shot from the bottom of the right circle cleanly beating Reimer who lay sprawled face down on the ice in front of the goal as the Garden exploded with celebration, the players in a huge black and gold pig pile against the sin bin glass.
Rask gave up four goals and looked overwhelmed at times but never gave up on himself or his team, making two incredible saves and staying disciplined, and when the Bruins started scoring his 24 saves kept them in the game.
But when the Bruins shifted into that now-fabled extra gear in the third period, they not only changed the course of this Game 7, but also may have changed the course of their season.
Now Boston moves on to host the New York Rangers, the blue shirts upset winners over the Washington Capitals in their quarterfinals series, and a team that the Bruins handled well in the regular season – a team that Boston should be favored over.
After what we witnessed tonight, is anyone willing to bet against these Bruins?