There were plenty of heroes in Boston’s thrilling, 2-1 double-overtime win over Montreal in game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals Saturday night. And though not all of these heroes showed up on the scoresheet, the real fan knows and appreciates what each brought to the table last night.
Thomas has heard the doubters before – in fact, he’s heard them his whole career.
Despite winning the Vezina Trophy two years ago and his record-breaking 2010-11 season (.938 save percentage and a likely second Vezina), Thomas has been plagued by talk that despite his regular season success, he is not a big-game goalie that can steal a playoff series.
Last night, Thomas may have finally silenced a few of those doubters – at least for a night.
Thomas was brilliant all night, stopping 44 Montreal shots. There were no giant rebounds, no bad angle goals, and no lack of confidence from Thomas – things that plagued him in Games 1 through 4 of the series.
Of his 44 saves, none was bigger than his stop on Bruin-killer Brian Gionta 5 minutes into the second overtime. Travis Moen and Gionta worked a perfect 2-on-1, with Moen feeding a pass across the slot to Gionta. The former Boston College standout, who had scored many big goals at TD Bank Garden, one-timed the pass toward the empty net. Just when it looked like the Canadiens would once again drive a stake into the hearts of the Bruins and their fans, Thomas’ left leg flashed across to make the amazing stop.
“When it started I actually came out and was playing it as if Moen would have a breakaway, because that’s what it looked like, a break, right off the start,” Thomas said. “Then I realized my D was going to get back and make it a 2-on-1, and I was out pretty far so I had to make sure I started to get my backward momentum going so I could play both the shot and the pass. And I was just barely had enough speed to be able to make that push over on the pass. And I was just fortunate enough to get a leg out and cover that part of the net.”
Gionta, who has been one of the best players on either team in the series, thought for sure he had the game-winner when Moen fed the pass to him, saying, “As soon as it left my stick, I thought it was in.”
Just a few minutes after Thomas’ acrobatics and heroics took the breath out of the nearly 18,000 fans in attendance, Horton sent them into a frenzy.
Another guy who had struggled through the opening four games, Horton was in the right place at the right time, knocking home the rebound of an Andrew Ference shot to win the game for the Bruins. It was the first playoff goal for Horton, who is paying in his first postseason after floundering through six seasons with Florida.
“It feels so good,” Horton said. “We had control of the puck and I saw the rebound come out. It was just sitting there. It felt good to put that in the net and win the game. It’s a pretty special moment.’’
Horton’s goal may finally get the monkey off the back of Boston’s first line, which had been held scoreless in the series until Horton’s game-winner. The trio of Horton, Milan Lucic, and David Krejci looked much better in Game 5, however, as the line created multiple scoring chances – especially in the two overtimes.
Horton and his linemates picked the perfect time to break their drought.
Ryder, the hero of Game 4, was on top of his game again Saturday night. He had a lot of jump in his step, and he created a number of opportunities. He and linemates Rich
Peverley and Chris Kelly were outstanding all night at both ends of the ice.
Ryder, who has been known for his goal-scoring abilities, did not score a big goal. Instead, he made perhaps the biggest defensive play of his career. In the first period of a scoreless game, Ryder found himself in the crease staring down Montreal center Tomsa Plekanec. Montreal’s top center tried to go just under the crossbar, but Ryder flashed the glove up and deflected it away.
The way Montreal plays with a lead – especially an early on – Ryder’s save was huge.
It turns out making saves isn’t foreign territory for Ryder, who played goalie for a team in his native Newfoundland.
Marchand went from a nobody to a Calder Trophy candidate this season, and he has been one of Boston’s best players in the playoffs. He is in the middle of everything, stirring up the pot, and scored Boston’s first goal in the third period.
The rookie winger has ingratiated himself to the Bruin faithful, and has been drawing comparisons to legendary NHL agitators Pat Verbeek and Ken Linsemen in recent weeks. He definitely draws the ire of the opponent, as evidenced by injured Montreal player Max Pacioretty’s tweet last night, which stated the “game was longer than Marchand’s nose.” The tweet disappeared later, and Pacioretty apologized. His Twitter handle, by the way, is @MaxPacioretty67.
Bergeron was his usual excellent self, playing great two-way hockey, laying out a few hits, winning face-offs, and blocking shots. He also assisted on Marchand’s goal.
Bergeron won 66 percent of his total faceoffs (23 of 35), including 8 of 11 in the defensive zone.
Shockingly, Bergeron led the Bruins in hits with 6 and added an impressive 3 blocked shots in 28:14 of ice time. His all-around play has earned respect throughout the league and has earned every cent of his contract with his play this season.
The often-maligned Seidenberg played perhaps his best game in a Bruins’ uniform, logging a team-high 38:15 of ice time. He did not turn the puck over a single time, and led the Bruins with 6 blocked shots. Most importantly, he provided stability on the blue line and helped contain Montreal’s speedy forwards.
(Steve Kendall is a freelance writer with 20 years experience covering hockey at all levels. In addition to thehockeywriters.com, he has written for The Boston Herald, The New England Hockey Journal, and The Worcester Telegram & Gazette.)