By Matt Noonan
Win or go home is the message every coach tells his or her team prior to Game 7.
The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens met on Wednesday evening at the TD Garden for Game 7 and clearly this final NHL Stanley Cup Playoff opening round matchup was intense and simply “in your face” hockey.
This game had that special Game 5 feeling written all over it, especially when Nathan Horton scored halfway through double overtime. It also had moments of Game 4, when Boston rallied to tie the series 2-2 at the Belle Center in Montreal.
Although, who exactly was going to win this game remained the question for nearly 65 minutes, but yet again, Horton netted another overtime winner and punched the Bruins tickets to the NHL quarterfinals, where they’ll face the Philadelphia Flyers for the second time in two years.
Horton was one of the major off-season acquisitions by the Bruins and clearly, this particular move paid off. He finished the season with 26 goals, 27 assists and 53 points. So, I think it is certainly fair to say that he made a dent on the Boston Bruins organization.
Although, before the Bruins celebrated Horton’s exciting game winner, Boston began the game with two quick scores that came off the sticks of Johnny Boychuck and Mark Recchi. Then Yannick Weber scored Montreal’s first goal nearly four minutes after Recchi had scored. Indeed, the Canadiens had washed away any thought of a Bruins shutout, as Webber’s goal was one of those, “we’re not giving up” moments.
Boston would be held scoreless in the second period, as Carey Price baffled the Bruins offense that continuously attempted shot after shot. Price finished the game with 30 saves and every time he deflected the puck, it was simply magical.
In the second period, the Canadiens did more than just watch Price stand on his head, as they scored their second goal of the contest when Tomas Plekanec took advantage of Boston’s shorthanded unit and pushed the puck passed Tim Thomas. Thomas hung his head and the TD Garden fans were suddenly in a state of shock.
Boston’s power play was miserable for the seventh night in a row, as Montreal finished the game 2-for-4. Yet, why exactly has Boston’s penalty killing unit played so dreadful is way beyond me, but just consider this, the Bruins never scored a single goal when they were on the power play all series, which is quite frightening.
Entering the third and final period, both teams played their “hearts out,” as both Chris Kelly and P.K. Subban recorded goals for their teams to force overtime and once the sudden death period began, it only took Boston 5:43 to secure their fourth win of the series.
So now Boston moves onto round two, while Montreal returns to Canada for the summer. Was this series the best? That’s debatable, but between Games 4, 5 and 7, it’s certainly easy to say that the Bruins proved they were indeed the better team. Experts picked them, fans believed in them and callers who were raged with excitement bombarded radio stations in Boston because of their success during the regular season.
The Bruins indeed beat the Canadiens, but while the celebration shouldn’t last long, it’s now time to turn the page and prepare for the defending Eastern Conference Champions, the Philadelphia Flyers.