By Wayne Whittaker, Boston Bruins Correspondent
It’s human nature to dwell on the past. When the final horn sounded in Montreal at the end of Game 6, one has to imagine some players on the Boston Bruins’ roster may have been thinking “here we go again”.
Since Claude Julien became head coach of the Bruins in 2007, each season had ended in a Game 7 loss for Boston. In 2008, the Montreal Canadiens eliminated a gritty Bruins squad who wasn’t expected to give the Habs any trouble. In 2009, the top seeded Bruins were knocked out of Round 2 by Scott Walker and the Carolina Hurricanes. In 2010, history was made by the Philadelphia Flyers, who rallied passed the B’s, winning four straight after dropping the first three contests.
This year, the Northeast Division champion Bruins were paired up against a Canadiens group who had given the B’s fits in the regular season.
After dropping the first two games at home, it appeared all was lost. The intensity was lacking, the effort was minimal, and the offense was non-existent.
But Boston accomplished what seemed to be virtually impossible, and stole two games in Montreal.
Returning to Boston with the series tied at two games a piece, Nathan Horton scored in the second overtime to give Boston the series lead.
Almost predictably, the Habs would take Game 6, setting up a dramatic Game 7 at TD Garden.
There was noticeable tension in the arena as thousands of fans watched their hometown Bruins take an early two-goal lead thanks to Johnny Boychuk and Mark Recchi.
Montreal was able to utilize their power play, just as they had throughout the entire series, as Yannick Weber cut Boston’s lead to 1 midway through the first period.
The Habs would tie the game on a shorthanded goal in the second period, and for a moment it seemed like the same ol’ story for Boston.
But midway through the third, Chris Kelly would give Boston the lead after a Roman Hamrlik embellishment came back to haunt Montreal. After a phantom high-sticking call on Patrice Bergeron, P.K. Subban would once again tie the game for Montreal with under two minutes remaining in regulation.
In the opening moments of overtime, it seemed as though Boston was living on borrowed time. The Habs were putting constant pressure on Tim Thomas, and there were a number of near-misses for the bleu blanc et rouge.
Five minutes and forty-three seconds into the overtime period, Nathan Horton would once again be the hero for the Bruins. As Adam McQuaid pinched in on the halfwall, Horton moved to the far point, where he would hammer a shot off of the sprawling Jeff Halpern and passed Carey Price to send the Garden Faithful into a frenzy.
This win was much more important for the Bruins organization than it may seem at first glance. For the first time in club history, the B’s would rally from an 0-2 deficit to win a playoff series. For the first time since 1994, the Bruins would win a Game 7. And most importantly for this Bruins squad, they were able to exorcise the Game 7 demons that have haunted them since 2008.
One round is in the books, and Boston advances to a second round rematch against the Philadelphia Flyers. There are sure be plenty of painful memories rehashed by the media as the Bruins look to move on from last season’s meltdown. For the 2010-2011 Boston Bruins, they now have the confidence to know that they too can string together some post-season heroics.