ST. LOUIS - Charlie McAvoy stood at his locker following the Bruins' victory on Sunday night and described, quite candidly, how he was feeling heading into a do-or-die Game 6 against the St. Louis Blues.
"Just the thought of it being over tonight was terrifying," said the third-year blue liner.
With their season on the brink as they faced a 3-2 series deficit in the Stanley Cup Final, it was natural that nerves, tension, and anxiety were aplenty before the game.
Enter Patrice Bergeron.
Over the course of his 15-year NHL career, the 33-year-old alternate captain has been through it all. As one of Boston's unquestioned leaders, he has made countless speeches and delivered plenty of motivational pep talks through the years.
But his pregame speech ahead of Game 6 may end up above the rest.
"Patrice stepped up. He stepped up big time tonight," said McAvoy. "It's within us [was] the gist of it. But it was exactly what we needed. It was an element of what the dream is growing up, everyone of us shares the same dream. Kind of just bringing us all to a point where we could all be on the same page. We were all a little kid once and we all wanted that.
"I think it was just an element of savoring this moment and not letting it end tonight. It was exactly what we needed. When he talks you listen. That's the presence that he has."
Video: McAvoy discusses bond between teammates
Bergeron did not get on the scoresheet, but his message clearly resonated as the Bruins rallied en route to a convincing 5-1 victory to send the Cup Final back to Boston for a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday night at TD Garden.
"He's a legend. He said some words that I don't know if he necessarily wants me to repeat. They weren't bad words…it was just about what we all dream about doing," said Jake DeBrusk. "Everyone that grows up playing hockey dreams of being in this moment. It was something along those lines and to see him set the tone that way wanted us all to run through a wall."
It was a fitting message for a group that has relied on each other all season long. To a man throughout this postseason run, the Bruins have spoken eloquently about the brotherhood within their dressing room. They did not want it broken up on Sunday night.
"We're a family. We believe in each other and we all love each other," said McAvoy, who delivered a game-high five hits in a team-high 25:22 of ice time. "We've come all this way and we really come together when it matters. I think tonight was just a good example. We're thankful; we're blessed for a chance to play in Game 7 now. It's gonna be the same thing. It's a roller coaster and you've just got to ride it."
With Bergeron's words fresh in their minds, the Bruins rode that adrenaline into the first period, and after an early kill - following Sean Kuraly's delay of game penalty at 2:42 - settled in and eventually struck for the game's crucial first goal.
After going 0 for their last 5 on the power play, Boston took advantage when Brayden Schenn drilled Joakim Nordstrom into the boards from behind. Brad Marchand took David Pastrnak's feed and ripped a one-timer by Jordan Binnington for a 1-0 lead at 8:40 of the first and the Bruins never looked back.
"We're fighting for our lives," said Marchand, who added an assist on Pastrnak's third-period goal. "When you play desperate, normally you see everyone's best game and I think that's what we had tonight. [Tuukka Rask] obviously made the big saves when we needed them. But we were able to rely on everyone tonight."
Video: BOS@STL, Gm6: Marchand goes top shelf for PPG
That the Bruins did. Third-period insurance tallies from Brandon Carlo, Karson Kuhlman (making his Stanley Cup Final debut), Pastrnak, and Zdeno Chara (empty-nettter) and 28 saves from Rask sent things back to Boston for the first-ever Stanley Cup Final Game 7 on Causeway Street.
"Of course it is," Bergeron said when asked if it was a character win. "I thought we stuck to what's been good to us all year and these playoffs. Took care of the puck. I thought we played well defensively and smart and we capitalized on our chances.
"Of course you've got to rely on your experience in these games. You need to know what's coming and obviously we expected a big start from them and I thought we managed that pretty well in getting that first goal. It was huge."
Ultimately, however, it was Boston's championship winning core that made the difference. From Bergeron's speech, to Marchand's goal, to Rask's stellar night between the pipes, to David Krejci's nifty helper on Kuhlman's tally, to Chara's empty-netter and shutdown defense, the Bruins' experience shone through.
"Tremendous," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "I believe those veteran guys come in handy for the game, they'll come in handy [on Monday] and Tuesday for us. We're gonna have to live with a bit of what St. Louis did today. Now you're going home, the Stanley Cup is in the building, someone's winning. You've got a lot of new friends all of a sudden - or old ones are coming out of the wood work. I think the message, they've been good at that, stay in a bubble. Take care of your immediate family, but catch up with your friends on Thursday type of thing."
After all, right now, the brotherhood in the Bruins' dressing room is what matters most.
"We are a hell of a group, been through so much the whole year, worked together, one for the other the whole season," said Pastrnak, who had a goal and an assist. "We've become an unbelievable family. Our job is not done."
Video: Bruins force Game 7 with 5-1 win against Blues