By Dan Rubin
For the past two days, the Boston Bruins sat in Lake Placid, NY, practicing their craft on the same ice where, 31 years prior, a bunch of college kids, (predominantly from New England) shocked the mighty Soviet Union hockey team with a 4-3 win in the 1980 Olympic Winter Games. The talk on the local radar spoke of a bonding experience, how the Americans, undermanned and outgunned, rallied past a team with superior skills and results.
In the all-important fourth game, with the Bruins needing a win to even the series and regain home ice advantage against the Montreal Canadiens, a teeter-totter, wild game wasn’t enough for three periods. The Bruins rallied from a 3-1 and 4-3 deficit to force overtime, where Michael Ryder, a man who played a handful of decent offensive series in three years and someone who arguably shouldn’t have been in uniform for the playoffs, notched his second goal of the game to lead Boston past Les Habs, 5-4.
The Canadiens jumped on board first just 8:13 into the game when Brent Sopel beat Tim Thomas on the top shelf from the right circle. They continued the barrage on Boston, peppering Thomas throughout the first frame en route to a 15-8 shot advantage. The Bruins defense, meanwhile, did nothing to help themselves, committing the same errors they did throughout much of the series. Clear attempts went right to red jerseys, and shots on Thomas deflected away right to opportune, type-A areas. Thomas was able to hold the fort in the face of a very cracked and very faulted defense despite that one tally.
Not long into the second period, Michael Ryder put a wrister snap shot right by Carey Price after Tomas Kaberle found him on a cross-ice pass. Ryder, much maligned for his lack of offensive pop, potted his less than three minutes into the period, tying things at 1-1. It was a shot Price should’ve stopped, not that the Boston faithful complained at the even score.
Montreal jumped right back on the offensive, swarming the front of the net for four or five second-chance opportunities that Thomas turned away. The defense began relying on Thomas far too much, and, unable to clear, Montreal responded with two goals in a matter of a minute. At 6:52, Michael Cammalleri potted a rebound officially assisted to Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez, before Andrei Kostitsyn tipped in a Tomas Plekanec rebound less than a minute later. This prompted Julien to call his timeout, during which both he and his team looked like a team defeated by superior athleticism.
Price, so dominant for stretches of the first four games of the series, began to morph back into the question mark Hab fans worried he’d be, allowing a second soft goal off the stick of Andrew Ference at the 9:59 mark, to cut it to a 3-2 count. This was followed by a great offensive series, culminating when an awakened Patrice Bergeron stood in the slot and banged a feed from Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi into the back of the net to tie the game at 3-3. It closed out a wild second period that featured five goals, including three by the B’s.
But Bergeron went from hero to goat to open the third. Whistled for hooking just 32 seconds into the period, PK Subban notched a goal from the left-wing circle that handcuffed by Thomas to give Montreal a 4-3 lead. The Bruins had a great opportunity to tie the game less than two minutes later, when Johnny Boychuck tried to stuff a rebound by Price. But Price sprawled perfectly to cover the crease and cover the puck as bodies went flying, freezing the puck and maintaining the lead.
The breakthrough came with 6:18 to go, when Ryder found Chris Kelly in front of Price. Kelly, sporting a full face shield because of a broken face, held his own in that lower slot, and beat the Habs netminder through the five-hole to tie the game late at 4-4. But with 2:12 left, however, Plekanec self-fed a pass that Dennis Seidenberg went for a check on. The check drew an interference call, giving Montreal a powerplay during the extremely late goings. But Boston killed it, and the game went to overtime.
In the OT frame, Ryder found himself on the receiving end of a feed from Kelly. Price made the right lateral move, but it wasn’t in time as the winger buried it to even the series at 2-2. This came after Montreal had a chance to beat Thomas and the Bruins in the first 30 seconds, and it regained Bruins home ice heading back to Boston.
Ryder finished with two goals and an assist, a cathartic performance for a player much maligned over his time in black and gold. He also joins the ranks of Petr Klima as a player who probably shouldn’t have been in uniform to start a series but had a career-defining moment. Klima had a triple-overtime game-winner in the 1990 Stanley Cup Finals for the Edmonton Oilers over the B’s at historic Boston Garden, despite barely making the playoff roster.
The win also provided the first spark in weeks that the Bruins may have needed. After going down two games to none, they rallied to sweep Montreal’s first two games at the Bell Centre. It also ratchets the pressure on the Canadiens, who will need to win Game 5 to avoid a potential 7th game at TD Garden. Game 5 is set for Saturday night on Causeway Street, with a time as yet to be determined.