MONTREAL - Through the first three games, the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens had been defined by the lack of a single lead change.
Game 4 blew that trend right out of the water.
The Bruins were down 3-1 halfway through Thursday night's game and wiped that deficit out in time for the second intermission, then fell behind 4-3 early in the third and erased that deficit as well to pave the way for some heroics from an incredibly unlikely source. Michael Ryder, a former Canadien who was a healthy scratch as recently as March 29, scored his second goal of the game 1:59 into overtime to cap a wild night of hockey at the Bell Centre, giving the bruins a 5-4 victory and allowing the Bruins to head back to Boston tied 2-2 in the series.
"We've done that a few times during the regular season this year, but this is the playoffs," said Bruins goalie Tim Thomas of his team's ability to come back. "It was great to see we can do this under playoff pressure. It was fun to be a part of."
It was also fun to watch, although the vast majority of the 21,273 Canadiens fans at the Bell Centre would likely beg to differ.
"I hope people feel like they got their money's worth," Thomas said, "because it took two years off my life."
The game was very much a continuation of Game 3, where the Bruins jumped out of the gate to take a 3-0 lead only to see the Canadiens dominate the second half of the game and cut it to 3-2 before allowing an empty net goal.
The Canadiens vowed to be better off the start and they were, owning a 29-12 advantage in shots and a 3-1 lead at the 7:47 mark of the second period.
Except the Bruins did not allow that to get them demoralized, and a timeout by Bruins coach Claude Julien at that point appeared to calm his troops and got them to re-focus their energy on simply climbing back into the game.
"We knew we had to be better," said Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, who had a dominant night a goal and an assist, seven shots on goal, and 17 faceoff wins in 29 tries. "We had to find a way to have huge shift to get the momentum back, and we did that. Then we went from there and got the big goal."
That big goal came from Andrew Ference, who rifled a shot from the blue line past Carey Price at 9:59. Bergeron then tied it at 17:04.
And after P.K. Subban scored a power play goal at 1:39 of the third to give the Canadiens another lead, the Bruins' third line of Ryder, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley took over.
Kelly, who was questionable for Game 4 as recently as Wednesday and finally suited up with a full cage after going face-first into a goal post in Game 3, scored the tying goal at 13:42 of the third and assisted on Ryder's overtime winner.
"He came in, had a short morning skate, and besides the first shift that line had they were really good the rest of the night," Julien said. "Michael scored two goals, but that whole line was really good for us tonight."
Kelly and Ryder both finished with three points apiece while Peverley had a pair of assists, and each member of the line was in on the overtime winner that came off a 3-on-1 break where Peverley took a shot that went wide, but Kelly corralled the puck off the end boards and fed Ryder in front.
"You need those kinds of things in the playoffs," Julien said. "You need guys to step up, and that line did for us."
The Bruins pulled off the improbable feat of winning two games at the Bell Centre after failing to win in Montreal in three tries in the regular season.
The Canadiens must now regroup in time for Saturday's Game 5 in Boston, finding themselves tied in a series they looked to be running away with when they came back from the first two games in Boston with a 2-0 lead.
"It's going to be a battle, and we knew it was going to be a battle," said Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill. "We went there and played hard for two games in Boston and found a way to win. We have to make sure we get that, and we've got to get it quick."
Price was tagged with his seventh straight playoff loss at the Bell Centre, a stretch that began in the 2008 playoffs.
Through the first 28 minutes of the game, it looked very much like that streak would come to an end as the Canadiens were thoroughly dominating play.
But perhaps they believed that to be true as well, opening the door to the unlikely Bruins comeback. The Canadiens players who had the best view of it were Scott Gomez – who was seen laughing on the bench during that pivotal Bruins timeout – and captain Brian Gionta. They were the only two Canadiens players who were on the ice for each of the Bruins final four goals.
Still, the Canadiens remain steadfast in their belief they can come back to Montreal for Game 6 on Monday with a chance to win the series.
"There's nothing to panic about," center Tomas Plekanec said. "We have to learn from the games we lost and get ready for that next one. We're capable of winning again and coming back with a game in hand again."
Momentum being what it is come playoff time, it would appear that the likelihood of that happening it quite slim.
However, the same could have easily been said of the Bruins chances of coming to Montreal down 0-2 and leaving with the series tied, which is exactly what they did.
Boston is fully aware of the danger of taking Game 5 for granted.
"It's only one game," Bergeron said. "Yes, we're happy, but we have to make sure we carry that over to Saturday. We know they're going to be ready."