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Fraser's OT goal resets Bruins-Canadiens series

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL -- The Stanley Cup Playoffs are a riveting experience because of just how random they can be.

One day you're eating a double chicken burrito with guacamole for lunch, wondering what you will do with your day, and the next you're giving the season of the team with the NHL's best regular season record a second wind.

One second you look over your left shoulder for a puck that took a strange bounce in front of your net, and the next second you realize you should have looked over your right.

This is how the lives of Matt Fraser and Carey Price crossed paths Thursday night -- a 23-year-old playing his first career playoff game the day after he was summoned from the American Hockey League and a goalie who is among the best in the world at his position.

Fraser and Price, two lives that couldn't be much more different coming together for a brief moment to hit the reset button on the Eastern Conference Second Round series between the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens.

The best-of-7 series is now a best-of-3 after Fraser was at the right place at just the right time to score the game's only goal at 1:19 of overtime and give the Bruins a much-needed victory.

History doesn't necessarily have anything to do with this group of Bruins players, but the franchise has never come back to erase a 3-1 series deficit in a playoff series in its 90-year history, a task that was staring the Bruins in the face all night.

Now, thanks to Fraser, they won't have to worry about that particular piece of history.

"I'm happy that anyone scored it," Bruins forward Jarome Iginla said, "but it's a pretty cool story."

The Canadiens probably disagree.

They had an opportunity to put their most bitter rival in a deep hole and take a stranglehold on this series going back to Boston for Game 5 on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). Instead, all of the hard work spent putting one of the NHL's best teams on the ropes in the first three games is gone.

Following Game 2 in Boston, when the Canadiens blew a 3-1 lead in the final 10 minutes of regulation time and lost 5-3, they had to convince themselves that getting a split on the road was good enough, that they hadn't squandered an opportunity.

Here they are two games later, forced to convince themselves of the exact same thing.

"You've got to regroup and realize the situation we're in," Price said. "The series is tied 2-2. The series is best-of-3 now."

It is, and we're still waiting for the offensive star power to arrive. Whichever team finds it first has a good chance of advancing to the Eastern Conference Final.

The Bruins top line of Iginla, David Krejci and Milan Lucic has been dormant in the series, and might have had its worst game Thursday. The trio combined for 10 shot attempts in the game, half of which hit the net, and created very little in terms of legitimate scoring chances or even sustained pressure in the offensive zone.

A line that had 189 points in the regular season has five in this series; two of those came on an empty-net goal.

"We know they might not be at the level they should be, but I think both teams can say the same thing," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "When we look at the players who have scored, it's not always the one's we expect. We've been playing the best players against the best players, and they neutralize each other."

He's exactly right; Canadiens coach Michel Therrien did in fact say practically the same thing.

Therrien already split up his top line of Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Thomas Vanek because of its lack of production, replacing Vanek with Brendan Gallagher in the hopes of sparking his old linemates Pacioretty and Desharnais.

It hasn't worked so far, with the three of them going pointless in back-to-back games.

"They got better as the game went on," Therrien said. "Obviously you want your No. 1 line to be productive, but if they keep working good things are going to happen."

Heading toward a Game 5 where the winner will be on the verge of advancing one step closer toward the ultimate goal of a Stanley Cup, it's easy to get the impression that whichever team gets production from its top players first will advance.

This series has been just that close.

And while the Bruins waited for their stars to act like stars, they got their biggest goal of the season to date from the unlikeliest source imaginable.

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