By John Bishop, Bostonbruins.com
Boston -- The Boston Bruins inched closer to the .500 mark, raised their record to 4-5-2 and defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second time this season, 6-5, at the TD Banknorth Garden Saturday night – a new era NHL barnburner which featured back and forth action throughout.
Veteran Bruin forward Glen Murray potted the game winner just 17 seconds into the sudden death overtime period, completed a miraculous Boston comeback and sent the Boston faithful into the chilly autumn air thoroughly entertained and certainly a little bit more confident in their hockey club.
But it almost didn't happen that way.
Entering the 11th game of their season, the Boston Bruins stood at a crossroads. Would they continue down the path of inconsistency like their forebears, the 2005-06 version of the Black & Gold, and perhaps struggle to even be in the playoff hunt?
Or were they truly the team that had roared out of the locker room on November 2 versus Buffalo, clawed its way to a 4-1 lead on the NHL best Sabres and then completely dominated the league leaders for 52 minutes?
Although the B's didn't dominate, and the season is long from over, on this night the Black & Gold chose the latter.
The Lightning would prove to be no pushovers, however, as they skated into the TD Banknorth Garden with Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Ruslan Fedotenko amongst other formidable hockey artillery filling out their impressive roster.
And they would counter Boston starter Hannu Toivonen's acrobatic approach with the Quebecois stopping style of Marc Denis, a former teammate of Patrick Roy and another example of Quebec's foremost export – goalies.
However, the good news for Boston backers was this -- coming into Saturday, in seven lifetime games versus the B's, Denis was 2-4-1 with 28 goals against, a 4.33 GAA and a .873 save%.
Acting as advertised, Boston's sparkplug center Marc Savard
started the game off right for the Boston contingent, put the home team up 1-0, and earned his third goal of the year at 4:08, with assists going to P.J. Axelsson and Glen Murray.
The Lightning eventually struck back at 12:13 as Fedotenko scored his sixth of the year and beat Toivonen to the stick side to tie the score at 1-1.
And following the first intermission, what might have looked like a goaltending duel went right out the window – fast.
The second period featured no less than seven goals, four from Tampa (Brad Richards, Nikita Alexeev, Martin St. Louis and Dimitry Afanasenkov) and three from Boston (Savard, Kessel, and Axelsson).
But the second wasn't even the most exciting period in the game.
The most exciting moments of the game, for Bruins fans at any rate, came in the last minute of the third stanza and the first minute of the overtime session.
With relief goaltender Tim Thomas
pulled for an extra attacker, a 6-on-4 power play pile up in front of the net created a chaotic situation where a rebound off of Denis popped up in front of the Bolt's goalie and the net and seemed to hang in the air. Boston Captain Chara was hit from behind, knocked the puck into the net and thereby scored a goal that was reviewed for several minutes before it officially tied the contest.
The momentum clearly swung toward the home bench and Boston capitalized quickly in the OT.
With Boston on a 5-on-3 advantage, Murray, who had earlier been cut by the Cory Sarich high stick which had resulted in a double minor for the Lightning that in turn had created the earlier Chara power play marker which knotted the game, tipped a shot from Paul Mara past Denis to throw the Garden into pandemonium.
"We haven't given our fans much to really cheer about," said Murray in the victorious locker room following . "Obviously, wins make the fans happy – plain and simple.
"That was a big win for us tonight so hopefully we can get on a roll."
"We lost some games early in the season," said Chara. "Now we are actually improving.
"We are getting better in our structure and there is a better feeling in the locker room. Especially tonight.
"This will help a lot…it was big for us," said the captain.
"The thing I liked best about the game was that the guys didn't back down," said Head Coach Dave Lewis. "They just kept coming.
"Their mindset was strong. They were determined and it wasn't the prettiest game, that's a fact, but they found a way to win a hockey game and that is what we have been preaching about."
It doesn't get any easier for the Bruins and their head coach as they travel to face the Southeast Division leading Atlanta Thrashers on Monday. Game time is 7:00 and the contest can be viewed on Versus and heard on WBZ NewsRadio 1030.