Bruins refuse to lose; Leafs can't close the deal

Tuesday, 05.14.2013 / 12:36 AM
Shawn P. Roarke  - Senior Managing Editor

BOSTON -- So how exactly did the Boston Bruins rally from a 4-1 deficit to fashion a dramatic 5-4 overtime win on hockey's biggest stage -- Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Playoffs series.

It depends on who you ask.

Toronto coach Randy Carlyle thought his team's gas tank hit empty after Nazem Kadri scored 5:29 into the third period for a 4-1 lead. He says his players didn't have the energy reserves to successfully navigate the 14-plus minutes of the contest.

So instead of riding out the storm and pocketing a victory, the Maple Leafs allowed three goals in the final 10:42 of regulation to force overtime, which ended when Patrice Bergeron scored his second goal of the game at 6:05.

"Just trying to chew the clock, get the game down," Carlyle said of his team's mindset after delivering what seemed like the knockout punch to the Bruins. "You know they scored the one goal that gave them some life and we got it to a minute and a half and you knew the goaltender was going to be coming and we give up a goal that we thought, we still had a chance with the goalie out and they found a way to push one over the line. It just seemed like we ran out of gas."

It wasn't fatigue, Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf said. Rather, it was a five-minute loss of focus -- during which Milan Lucic and Bergeron scored sixth-attacker goals 31 seconds apart that tied the game at 4-4 with 50.1 seconds left in regulation.

"It's extreme disappointment," said Phaneuf, who was on the ice for the tying and winning goals by Bergeron. "It was a seven-game series that was extremely hard fought. Give Boston credit. They are a team that played an extremely hard series. We came into their building tonight, Game 7, and played 55 minutes of really good hockey. It's just extremely disappointing any time a year comes to an end, and this one is probably the toughest loss I ever had in pro hockey."

For Reimer, who had been brilliant for Toronto throughout this series, it was just luck -- or a lack of it -- for Toronto in the dying minutes of the game

"It's not like we were getting away from our game at 4-1," Reimer said. "They came with some pressure and some desperation and they were able to squeak a few lucky bounces in."

For Lucic, it was a matter of resetting the team's mindset and executing while staring elimination in the face. He said the club just decided to go for broke and that resulted in far crisper execution. The results were there for all to see.

On Nathan Horton's goal with 10:42 left in regulation, the Bruins left their own zone with speed and attacked the Toronto end cleanly in transition -- and, just like that, it was 4-2.

Lucic himself scored a 6-on-5 goal with 82 seconds left to make it 4-3. This time, he said the club worked on getting to loose pucks and funneling everything toward Reimer. The fact that he scored on the rebound of a point shot by Zdeno Chara is testament to the feasibility of that simple plan.

Finally, Bergeron scored another 6-on-5 goal to tie the game. He took a pass from David Krejci at the blue line and threaded a wrister past Reimer, using Chara as a perfect screening element.

"I can't really explain it. We got the bounces, we got the breaks," Lucic said. "Once we got that second goal, it felt like a weight was lifted off our shoulders. You know, especially on those 6-on-5 goals, we were able to win puck battles, settle it down and get the puck to the net and it paid off for us because you look at our 6-on-5s during the year, it usually ends up in the back of our net."

Instead, Boston got the goals it needed to force overtime, and it struck with a fourth straight goal to wriggle out of the most desperate of circumstances.

That, said coach Claude Julien, is a testament to the veteran core of this club, which won a Stanley Cup championship two seasons ago.

"They certainly keep you in check; I’m a tired coach, I can tell you that much," Julien said in describing the Jekyll and Hyde nature of his team. "Trying to really find a way to get these guys to give us what we want out of them, and we make it tough on ourselves. We’re being honest here, not being able to close it in Game 5; we’ve had trouble. We’ve always had trouble with the killer-instinct.

"But that’s maybe a fault of ours, but a strength of ours is the character you saw tonight."

In the end, the Bruins will take their character win into the second round against the New York Rangers with their dreams of a Stanley Cup championship still alive.

Toronto, meanwhile, is left to wonder what exactly happened down the stretch -- when its own dreams turned into nightmares as the parade of Boston goals grew longer and longer.

The answers won't be easy. They will, however, be painful.

"The low feeling you're feeling right now, that's in the top five of lows of your life," Reimer said in a near-silent visiting dressing room at TD Garden.

On a night when extra explanation was needed constantly to determine what had been witnessed, no further clarification was needed.

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