They took the long way around, but the Boston Bruins are back in the Eastern Conference Second Round.
Boston fell behind the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round before a 4-2 win in Game 6 on the road and a 5-1 triumph in Game 7 at home to eliminate Toronto for the second straight season and third time in seven seasons.
[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Maple Leafs series coverage]
The Bruins will play the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 1 of the second round at TD Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
"It's a great feeling," forward Marcus Johansson said. "Any team in the playoffs, you can't take anyone lightly, there's such good teams all over the League and if you make it in the playoffs it's for a reason. This was a tough-fought series. Toronto, they're not easy to play against, all the credit to them. We had to really battle our way back into this series. It was big for us."
Here are 5 reasons the Bruins advanced:
1. Depth charge
Boston had two players who hadn't scored a goal through the first six games of the series, Johansson and center Sean Kuraly, score in Game 7, and a third, forward Joakim Nordstrom, had scored an empty-net goal in Game 4 before he opened the scoring in the deciding game.
"You rely on everyone in the playoffs and that's how teams are advancing and I thought [Tuesday] was a perfect example," center Patrice Bergeron said. "Everyone's got a job to do and obviously contributing offensively is great and you take away those goals … I thought they were in their zone for most of the night creating some momentum for us and got things rolling basically."
Third-line center Charlie Coyle scored three goals in the series, and defensemen Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy and Zdeno Chara scored one goal each.
Video: TOR@BOS, Gm7: Kuraly pots one top shelf on the rush
2. Been there, done that
The Bruins increased their desperation after being pushed to the brink of elimination. Led by Stanley Cup champions Bergeron, Chara, forward Brad Marchand and center David Krejci, Boston didn't panic; along with the championship pedigree, most of the Bruins have played in numerous series and multiple Game 7s.
"I think we've been there before," Bergeron said. "I think a lot of guys, we try to rely on their experience, we try to share that with the other guys. Most of the young guys were with us last year and lived it also."
3. Riding Rask
The Bruins defeated Toronto in the playoffs last season despite goalie Tuukka Rask's .899 save percentage. They had no such issues this time around.
Rask made 32 saves in the 5-1 win in Game 7 and finished the series with a .928 save percentage. One big reason for his effectiveness was playing 46 games during the regular season, his fewest in six seasons; backup Jaroslav Halak played 40 games.
"I personally felt good from the start of the series," Rask said. "I felt pretty good all year, obviously the workload hasn't been too much so I feel fresh. It's all about feeling confident, preparing yourself the right way, trusting your teammates. We battled hard all year and it showed again today."
Video: TOR@BOS, Gm7: Rask on Game 7 win, depth scoring
4. Shutting down Tavares, Marner
John Tavares and Mitchell Marner, two of the Maple Leafs' most potent scorers, started the series quickly, with four points each through four games. In the last three games they were held to one goal, by Tavares in Game 7.
"Well, one is puck management," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said when asked about slowing Tavares and Marner. "I thought on the power play we did a good job of keeping them quiet … that's another way to keep them quiet. If they're not getting excited on the power play, it sort of carries over, and I think it can help us.
"So I think we had a good game plan there, and at the end of the day I think [Bergeron] takes a lot of pride and [Marchand] obviously, the matchup. We've always trusted [forward] Danton Heinen, so he goes in there. [Chara] and Charlie [McAvoy] were real good. In fairness to [the Maple Leafs], I thought they did a good job against [Bergeron's] line too as well, so it was a really good matchup both ways with guys keeping some pretty good offensive players at bay for the most part."
5. Marchand huge in clutch
Marchand was uncharacteristically quiet in Game 7, but with the Bruins trailing the series 2-1, he had a goal and two assists in a 6-4 win in Game 4. In Game 6, with Boston on the brink of elimination, he had two goals and an assist in a 4-2 victory. The Bruins might not have pushed this series the distance, let alone won it, without Marchand; he led Boston with nine points (four goals, five assists).
Video: Bruins outlast Leafs in seven games to advance
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