WASHINGTON -- Benoit Pouliot was in street clothes, shuffling between the press box and the visiting team's dressing room at Boston's TD Garden. His teammates at the time were living the childhood dream -- skating in overtime of Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Playoff game.
Pouliot can't recall the details of how the game finished -- he just remembers hearing and feeling TD Garden erupt. Nathan Horton beat Carey Price at 5:43 of the first overtime, as the Boston Bruins advanced to the 2011 Eastern Conference Semifinals and the Montreal Canadiens returned home for the summer.
Pouliot was a healthy scratch that night for Montreal, for the fourth straight Stanley Cup Playoff game. Days later he would pack his Canadiens gear one final time, slated to become an unrestricted free agent two months later. The Bruins, meanwhile, went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Now, nearly one year later, Pouliot is back in the postseason -- this time as a Bruin. And the man taken just three picks after Sidney Crosby in the 2005 NHL Draft has no reason to worry about being made a healthy scratch again this spring.
Through the first two games of the Bruins' first-round series against the Washington Capitals, Pouliot has been one of Boston's most consistent performers.
"I feel pretty good, but I think compared to last year I'm in a much different situation," said Pouliot, who signed a one-year deal with Boston July 1 after spending parts of two seasons with Montreal.
"With Boston we finished in second place and with Montreal we were [sixth] so it's not really the same thing. The expectations and the teams are different, but personally I feel very good."
Pouliot fell short of the lofty expectations placed upon him when the Minnesota Wild selected him fourth in 2005 and the Alfred, Ontario native was traded to Montreal in 2009. But now, playing for his third NHL team and still only 25 years old, Pouliot seems to have found his niche on Boston's third line with Brian Rolston and Chris Kelly.
Pouliot finished with 16 goals (one shy of his career-high) and 32 points in the regular season, but played especially well at the tail end with 7 goals and 14 points in the final 16 games.
The momentum seems to have carried into the postseason, where Pouliot notched his first NHL playoff goal Saturday in his 24th career playoff game.
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"He really picked up game at the right time," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "When your game picks up, you want to keep it going, and I think that's what Benoit has done so far. He's been a real good player for us so far in these playoffs, and you hope that it can be contagious and that other players will jump on board with what he's doing right now."
With the Capitals having held Boston's top eight regular-season scorers without a point through Games 1 and 2, Boston's third line of Pouliot, Rolston and Kelly have combined for two goals and four assists.
"I think if you want your team to have success in the postseason, you need success from all four lines," said Kelly, who notched the overtime goal in Game 1.
"It's no secret that your top two lines are always going to generate more awareness and attention than your so-called bottom two lines, but if you want to have success you need all four lines to be contributing at different points and so far we've just tried to do our part."
As the only forward in the Bruins lineup without the experience of winning the Stanley Cup, Pouliot has also learned to keep his eyes and ears open and embrace the winning environment that surrounds him.
"It's been a good year I think," he said. "From what happened in Montreal and the way things developed and the way things ended, it's unfortunate, but hey, I got my chance in Boston. The year went pretty well, we won the division, and personally I felt good for myself and ready to play, and it's going to pay off in the long run."