BOSTON, MA — Monday night’s Game 7 victory by the Boston Bruins will go down as one of the greatest comebacks in sports history. The Bruins, trailing 4-1 late in the third, rallied to tie the score with 51 seconds left in regulation on a goal by Patrice Bergeron, before the B’s alternate captain netted the winner at 6:05 of overtime.
A major reason for the Bruins ability to finish off their miraculous comeback was the play of the B’s defense corp, which was depleted for much of the night. Andrew Ference and Wade Redden (who played in Game 5, but was day-to-day after missing Game 4) did not dress, while Dennis Seidenberg played just 37 seconds before not hitting the ice for the rest of the game.
After the game, B’s Head Coach Claude Julien said there was not yet an update on Seidenberg, but that the team should know more on Tuesday.
“We’ll know better tomorrow whether it’s a short-term, or long-term,” said Julien. “He wanted to [try to continue], but when he couldn’t, it was better to take [him] out than to make it worse. It wouldn’t have helped us, plus, it would have made his injury probably even worse.”
As a result of Seidenberg’s absence, Zdeno Chara played a game-high 35:46 – over seven minutes more than the next highest which was Johnny Boychuk with 28:30. Matt Bartkowski also stepped up and notched his first ever NHL goal, while Dougie Hamilton played with his signature poise, and Boychuk and Adam McQuaid brought their ever-present veteran leadership in an extremely tough situation.
“I think [Chara] played about 36 minutes tonight or something like that,” said Julien after the win. “You have to find a way to give credit to those two young guys on the back end—Hamilton and obviously Bartkowski. Bartkowski was moving the puck and carrying it so well tonight, and he scored a big goal for us. I saw Dougie Hamilton get more and more comfortable as the game went on as far as carrying the puck and making plays.
“You talk about people coming in, well we were minus three real good veterans in our back end, so that’s half your core, and those guys come in and do a heck of a job. They deserve a lot of credit.
“But again, we’re so used to a guy like Zdeno doing it night after night, sometimes we don’t give him the credit he deserves. If it’s not for Zdeno—the way he played tonight—we’re not sitting here going to the next round.”
The rest of the defensemen also praised the work of their relentless captain.
“I think everyone knows how good he is and how fit he is,” said Hamilton, who played 21:08. “We were just back there laughing at his 35 minutes [of ice time]. And it’s obviously just a credit to him for being able to do that all game, and working that hard and I think being a big part of the comeback.”
Hamilton grew more comfortable as the game went on - the more he played, the better he felt.
“When Seides got hurt first shift, we had to play more,” said the rookie. “And I think everyone will say when you play more, you get more into the game, and I think that’s what we did. We just kept rolling and I thought we played pretty well.
“I think I was a little bit nervous in Game 2, and I wasn’t really nervous today. So hopefully I can keep going if I stay in the lineup. I think it’s been good, and I’ve been working hard with – as we call ourselves – the ‘B’ team, and I think that’s been good too.”
Two young players being thrown into a Game 7 without much playoff experience could be a daunting task, especially when having to play extended minutes, but Hamilton and Bartkowski played well at both ends of the ice.
“They did a good job,” said Boychuk. “Bart’s just skating really and Dougie’s making smart plays and hitting guys when he could and playing well defensively even though he’s gifted offensively - he showed why he should be here. And same with Bart; they did such a good job.”
The work of the youthful duo did not go unnoticed by the forward group either. Milan Lucic, who scored the Bruins third goal that brought them within one of the Leafs, was impressed with their effort.
“Bart steps up and gets a huge goal for us here, and it’s his first goal in the NHL and it ends up being a big one in a Game 7,” said Lucic. “When three defensemen go down like you talk about, you need guys to step up, and as a five-man unit there for two periods, they really stepped up and played well for us, especially with Bart and Dougie who don’t have much playoff experience."
“They were able to step up for us, and we talk about it all the time, we’re a team that relies on everyone and everyone needs to be pulling their weight.”