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Sean Kuraly keeps season alive for Bruins

Rookie forward, scratched the past two games, scores in overtime against Senators

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

OTTAWA -- As Sean Kuraly threw his gear bag over his shoulder, he wasn't quite sure where the first puck had gone. A Boston Bruins employee had the second one, the one from his goal in double overtime that sealed the 3-2 Game 5 win against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Friday, but for the moment the whereabouts of the other was unknown.

It was located a short time later, in the possession of equipment manager Keith Robinson, so the puck could be taped and labeled and photographed with a smiling Kuraly, per tradition.

Kuraly, 24, had scored that one, his first of the night and the first of his NHL career, at 17:05 of the second period, tying the game and giving life to the Bruins in their Eastern Conference First Round series just as they were on the brink of a season-ending loss.

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Senators series coverage]

 

The other? That was all the more important, coming at 10:19 of the second overtime as the clock had reached 11:46 p.m. ET, nearing midnight on the Bruins and their bid to extend the series. They will, courtesy of a faceoff win by David Backes, a shot from the point by rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy, a tip by Backes, and a rebound score by Kuraly, perhaps the unlikeliest of Bruins.

"A lot of good plays leading up to it," Kuraly said. "I was just at the tail end of it. Puck lands on my stick and I pass it into the back of the net ... and those are the good ones. You don't get many of those. But hey, bounced on my stick tonight. Happy that it did."

Video: BOS@OTT, Gm5: Kuraly buries game-winner in 2OT

Happy that he was in the lineup, too.

Kuraly was only in the game because of a decision by coach Bruce Cassidy, who opted to go with him over third-line center Ryan Spooner, based on the way Kuraly played in the first two games of the series.

It looked like the wrong decision in the first period, after David Krejci left with a lower-body injury, leaving the Bruins with 11 forwards, and with a first-line center, a fourth-line center, and a forward playing his 11th career NHL game, his third in these playoffs.

But Kuraly, who played eight games in the regular season and two in the playoffs, was everything the Bruins needed him to be. In the end, he was rendered speechless.

"Yeah. Wow," he said. "It's - yeah. Feels good. Keep the series going. Do what we came here to do. Yeah, it was a good night."

But Kuraly was not overmatched. He was not overwhelmed. Instead, he was flying all over the ice and in position to do damage.

At 14:25 of the first overtime, Kuraly's shot was stopped by Senators goaltender Craig Anderson. Kuraly tripped over Anderson's pad as Bruins forward Noel Acciari pushed in the rebound, but the play was ruled to not be a goal on the ice because of goaltender interference, and was upheld by review.

So on they played, and that gave Kuraly more opportunities to be the hero.

"He was buzzing," goaltender Tuukka Rask said. "Hardworking guy, he does the right things. Chips the puck in and goes out there and bangs bodies and gets his nose dirty. It just goes to show that when you do that you get rewarded. Great example."

The images of Kuraly were priceless. There was the reaction after the first goal, a wonderment of youth-hockey glory at the NHL level, a smile as wide as he could make and a desire to embrace everyone in sight.

"You don't really know until you score your first goal," Kuraly said. "It felt great. You work a long time to do that. For it to go in, it felt good. It was a good one."

Video: BOS@OTT, Gm5: Kuraly ties game with first NHL goal

Sitting on the bench, Kuraly was put into a headlock by Backes, who had the primary assist on each of his goals. The veteran celebrated the moment, celebrated the joy with the rookie.

"He's got the tools and he's flying," Backes said. "With [Krejci] out, with some of the other guys out, you need some guys to step up, and certainly tonight was his night. For a young kid, you can't be happier. Great kid that works his butt off. Again, tonight's his night. You love to see it.

"[He] needed a headlock there. Probably needs a noogie after that last one. That's as fun as it gets."

That moment was topped hours later with an even more exuberant release, a leap up the slot with his stick in the air and into a mass of jumping and smothering and screaming humanity, all of whom knew that their season was not over, that they would get another chance on Sunday at TD Garden in Game 6 (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports).

They felt they deserved it, the way they played in the third period, the way they survived two penalty kills in the final five minutes of the third period, the way they nearly had the game-winner twice in overtime.

It felt right. It felt deserved.

"The coaches just told us to stick with it and stick with the game plan, and eventually we did," Kuraly said. "It was a sweet, sweet way to end."

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