BOSTON — There might have been doubt among the 17,565 inside TD Garden Wednesday night when the Bruins skated off the ice after the second period. But among those who had seen it all before, there was none.
Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron were among the veterans to step forward and remind everyone in the dressing room of what it was going to take to win the third period, erase a 4-3 deficit and win Game 7 against Toronto to advance to the second round. Chara and Bergeron, who helped author the miracle against the Leafs in Game 7 five years earlier and countless big come-from-behind moments on the run to the Cup in 2011, stood up and told everyone what it was going to take and more importantly, that they had confidence in the group to get it done.
Obviously, it was going to take more than words to get the job. When Torey Krug’s slapper beat Frederik Anderson 70 seconds into the third, the Bruins had the kick-start they needed and rolled the Leafs 4-0 in the final 20 minutes for a 7-4 win.
“Yeah, it’s huge. It’s, you know, a momentum shift for sure,” Krug said. “You know, we didn’t care how long it took, but eventually we were going to get it. It was a big play, and we kept it going foot on the gas pedal and we just went to work, so it was obviously a big moment and we needed it.”
When rookie Jake DeBrusk scored his second of the night 4-on-4 to give the Bruins the lead for good at 5-4, it was apparent the message of the veterans hit home with every player of every age.
“I don’t get out there for four-on-four too much so I just went to the net and kind of caught their defenseman off guard right away with just my speed and then I tried to make a move and actually tried to raise it, and I didn’t even see it go in,” DeBrusk said. “I just heard the crowd go pretty nuts and it was a very special feeling, especially making it 5-4 at that point and I knew as soon as we got the lead there the next goal, we’re going to be fine, and it was very special.”
What the Bruins need now is that same type of third-period effort on a much more consistent basis against a Lightning team that led the East for most of the season before the Bruins caught them in the standings, only to finish second on the final day of the season. The Bruins won 3-of-4 against Tampa this season and held superstar Steven Stamkos to one goal and a minus-3 in three games. There’s reason for the Bruins to think they can get the job done against Tampa again in the playoffs.
“They won the Eastern Conference. I think it’s equally a formidable if not even more so task,” Bruins GM Don Sweeney said Thursday. “Not a lot of holes in their lineup. We had some success in the regular season against them. We’re going to have to find a way to replicate that and probably be even better. We had pockets of our game in this past series that we know we need to improve upon and it’s going to take our best effort from start to finish to play against Tampa. We’re a confident group to go in. We deserve to be here. We’re moving on and I’m sure they feel the same way.”
“Every guy seems to have a support person there that’s been there and done it,” Bruce Cassidy added. “We’re not here without the core group obviously, but we’ve supplemented with some good young guys that can play and are respectful, that want to learn. That’s part of it. You can be good, but if you don’t want to learn, obviously, the veteran guys, after a while will say hey if this guy doesn’t want it, then we’ll just move along. So, that’s the other part. You’ve got to be willing to learn, and they have been.”
Chara didn’t want to offer specifics on his comments but Krug offered this insight.
“Didn’t matter how long it was going to take. We were going to do the job,” Krug added. “You know, it’s kind of how we were all season long. You know, coming back, you know, in games, losing guys to injury. It was just kind of like the definition of our season, so it didn’t matter. We were going to break them, and we were going to out-will them and we did.”
“It was only a one goal game, so you win a period it’s either overtime or you win a game,” Tuukka Rask added. “We just decided we’re going to win it. There was no ifs ands or buts. We said we’re going to win it and we went out there and played like we wanted to win. We were down, we scored a goal, we scored another one and never looked back. We didn’t give them a whole lot there, like we did in the first two periods. It was a great character win again.”
The 41-year-old Chara did exactly what you would expect from a team captain that has now playing in 12 Game 7s.
“We kind of refocused, really reset our minds and went into the third with the right mindset,” Chara said. “Going in there with a lot of energy. Putting pucks in the areas where we could retrieve them. We had some great individual efforts to get the lead and tie the game. Then we played really strong defensively. And then add that goal. I’m very proud of this group. We showed that resiliency the whole season. We were behind a number of times this season going into the third and we were able to come back. And I think that’s just a reflection of this team. How we are able to never give up and keep pushing. I’m very proud of this team and this group.”