"It's been great, it's exciting. It's where you want to be as a player. It's a chance you really want to get and I'm thankful to have," Kuraly said following the team's pregame skate.
But as excited as Kuraly was to be back in uniform, he could have never imagined what was in store for him in Boston's win-or-go-home Game 5 against the Senators. Inserted back into the lineup because of his energy and ability to wreak havoc on the forecheck, the Ohio native did not disappoint.
Kuraly potted two goals - the first two of his NHL career - including the winner midway through double overtime, to lift the Bruins to a 3-2 victory over Ottawa at Canadian Tire Centre and force a Game 6 Sunday afternoon back in Boston.
"He was buzzing," said Tuukka Rask, who made 41 saves. "Hard-working guy, he does the right things, chips pucks in, goes in and bangs bodies and gets his nose dirty. It just goes to show that when you do that, you get rewarded, a great example."
Video: BOS@OTT, Gm5: Kuraly nets two, keeps Bruins alive
On the winner, at 10:19 of the second overtime, David Backes won a faceoff clean back to Charle McAvoy at the right point. McAvoy let rip a slapper that deflected off Backes' stick and Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson, before trickling over to Kuraly, who was wide open at the top of the crease and backhanded it into an open net.
"It feels good, we came here to do what we had to do," said Kuraly, who landed a team-high six shots on goal in just over 18 minutes of ice time. "It was a good night…a sweet way to end it."
Kuraly's heavy style of play was exactly why Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy wanted the big body back in the lineup.
"I liked his game early in the series, but we had guys that had been here, [David Krejci] came back…we liked him, we just had guys ahead of him," said Cassidy. "One door closed, another one opened…he took advantage of his opportunity, started at the bottom of the lineup. We needed him more. He had the energy."
Video: Kuraly, Chara, Backes react to Game 5 win in Ottawa
Boston needed plenty of vigor after falling into a 2-0 hole by the 30-second mark of the second period on breakaway goals from Mark Stone and J.G. Pageau. The Bruins season was on the brink and they needed something to spark their game, particularly with David Krejci exiting the game with a lower-body injury in the first period.
David Pastrnak started things off by when he deposited a Brad Marchand feed at 8:40 of the second to cut the deficit to 2-1. It was Boston's first goal in over six periods of play.
Kuraly then followed up with his first of the night to knot things at 2 with 2:55 remaining in period. David Backes joined Kuraly on the forecheck in the right corner, won a puck battle, and cycled it back down the boards. Kuraly was there to grab it and circled the net, before throwing the puck off Chris Wideman in front.
The puck deflected off Wideman and past Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson for Kuraly's first career NHL goal.
"He's got the tools, he's flying," Backes said of Kuraly. "He makes a play by getting in on the forecheck, I'm able to be the second guy in there, he gets into open ice and brings it to the net hard the way we've talked about and scores his first NHL goal.
"With Krech out, we need some guys to step up. Certainly tonight was his night…great kid that works his butt off. You love to see it….that's as fun as it gets."
Video: BOS@OTT, Gm5: Pastrnak finishes Marchand's wrap
The game remained tied through the first overtime, thanks to a number of stellar stops from Tuukka Rask. Without the lockdown performance from Boston's ace netminder throughout the game, the series may very well be over.
"I think Tuukka was like the rest of us, when he saw the temperature of the game go up, he said, 'Listen, these guys are here to play. If I make some saves we'll get back in it,'" said Cassidy. "Good for him for hanging in there and giving us a chance to win."
The Bruins also had to overcome two controversial calls in the first overtime, starting with what appeared to be the winner from Noel Acciari. Once again, Kuraly was in the middle of the action when he stormed the net and attempted to punch home the puck before bumping into Anderson, who fell backwards into the net. Acciari followed up the play and punched home the rebound.
But after a review, the goal was negated for goaltender interference (it was the second time in as many games that Acciari had a goal wiped off the board).
Video: BOS@OTT, Gm5: Rask stones Turris' break in 2OT
Later in the first overtime, a chance from Backes was blocked down in the crease and it seemed that Pageau covered the puck in the blue paint. By rule, it would have been ruled a penalty shot, but no call was made by the officials.
"All you had to do was look at the Jumbotron to know how I felt," said Cassidy. "I'm a passionate guy and I felt that they did not go our way…I think our guys were angry, but also said, 'We're going to get this, this isn't happening to us tonight.'"
Boston also killed off a delay of game and a too many men on the ice penalty during the last five minutes of the third period.
"There just seemed to be too much that we played through…once you get through some of that, you almost feel like, 'OK, we're good now,'" said Cassidy. "The goal we thought we scored, another in front of the net that we thought there was potential for whatever call - penalty shot.
"Nothing seemed to break our way…we've had the word resiliency for us all year. Tonight it really came through."
Video: Kuraly's two goals lift Bruins to 3-2 win in 2OT
Krejci Leaves With Injury
Krejci exited the game in the first period after taking a knee-on-knee hit from Chris Wideman in the neutral zone. Krejci, who missed the first two games of the series because of injury, did not return with what was termed a lower-body injury.
"He'll be listed as day-to-day until I hear anything different," said Cassidy. "I don't know right now, there's a lot going out there. We'll see in the morning."
Video: BOS@OTT, Gm5: Krejci leaves game with injury in 1st