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NHL playoffs: Bruins stun Leafs 5-4 in OT, win Game 7 with epic comeback

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Patrice Bergeron (left) and Boston pulled off a comeback for the ages against Toronto. (Brian Babineau/Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

You might see the agony on James Reimer’s face as you watch him on TV or look at him in pictures, but you can’t begin to imagine what was going through his mind. Or Phil Kessel’s. Or Cody Franson’s.

They had it. The Maple Leafs had it! Game 7, on the road, in Boston. A 4-1 lead over an exhausted, depleted Bruins squad midway through the third. Control, absolute control. It was just a matter of running out the clock before Toronto booked a date in the second round with the New York Rangers. With home ice. Home ice!

And then, just like that, everything changed.

Nathan Horton buried a Milan Lucic pass from the slot to make it 4-2 at the 9:18 mark of the third period but, oddly, the Bruins barely reacted. To them, the game was still out of reach, the goal felt like another too-little, too-late marker, like the one Lucic scored in the final minute Sunday night. Nothing to get excited about.

GAME 7: Recap | Boxscore | Highlights | Complete postseason schedule

It barely fazed the Leafs, either. As time wound down they stuck to their plan, working the boards, active sticks in the lanes, clearing the zone, keeping it simple. Sitting back a bit, maybe, but not too passive. Matt Frattin almost got the goal back on a breakaway, but the puck rolled off his stick just as he tried to shoot. That’s OK; time was melting off the clock.

Then, with 2:04 left, Tuukka Rask headed to the bench and the Bruins, finally, found the full measure of desperation that had eluded them since the game’s opening minutes. Work it around, work it around. Patrice Bergeron to Zdeno Chara. A shot from the point, uncontested. Not a Leaf within 20 feet. Where was the pressure? The rebound fell right to the stick of Lucic, the one Bruin who had something going all night. He banged it home and made it 4-3 with 1:22 remaining.

That one was different. That one meant something. And Toronto knew it immediately. You could see it etched deeply on the stunned face of every Leaf on the bench. That “this isn’t happening” look.

Out they came for the face-off. Bergeron won it, of course. He went 16-of-22 on the night. Almost unbeatable. Rask bolted for the bench and the Bruins swarmed the Toronto end. This time Chara got to the front of the net, a 7-foot-tall screen planted in front of Reimer. The puck came to Bergeron, alone in the high slot. He held it, held it … and the Garden erupted before Reimer even realized it was behind him.

There were 51 seconds left on the clock. That’s all the Leafs had to do, hold on for 51 lousy seconds.

Overtime was still to come, but by that point an air of inevitability has settled over the visitors. The Leafs had it. They earned it. But when Bergeron pounced on a fat rebound coughed up by Reimer 6:05 into OT, Toronto finally choked it away.

GALLERY: NHL’s Great Game 7s

The Leafs were the better team in the series, spending more time in control of the play than the Bruins. But in the end, they couldn’t match Boston’s experience, the palpable calm the Bruins exuded as they reeled the most important game of the season back in, then landed it.

Four unanswered goals. Amazing. No one will remember that the Bruins played like the Skating Dead for probably 45 minutes. They’ll simply remember that the Bruins never gave up. That they found a way. And that, in the end, it was Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand, the most maligned of Boston’s underperforming forwards, who combined on the OT winner to seal the greatest comeback in Game 7 history.

But over there, on the other side of the ice, you saw the aftermath of the greatest collapse in Game 7 history. You saw Reimer sprawled there, face down in his crease as the Bruins swarmed off the bench in celebration. You saw the demon-slaying Kessel, who scored his fourth goal of the series early in the third, but swung back to the point instead of closing on Seguin down low on the winner. You saw Franson, who scored twice to give the Leafs a 2-1 lead, but lost sight of Bergeron just as he found that loose puck.

You see them all, and yet you couldn’t begin to imagine what was going through their minds.

  • Published On May 14, 2013
  • 16 comments
    GeoffreyHolland
    GeoffreyHolland

    the pathetic thing was that when the OT goal went in and Reimer was laying on the ice, all the TO players headed to the bench area. If there had been a bus going by, they'd have thrown Reimer under it. (cue "but it would have gone through his legs" joke).

    Knuckles1
    Knuckles1

    I've never seen a a whole team more afraid of a single player in my life as the Leafs were of Lucic.

    Sportfan
    Sportfan

     @Knuckles1 Should have called up Komisarek for old time sake :P

    Knuckles1
    Knuckles1

     @Sportfan  @Knuckles1 I thought he would have went as far away from Lucic as he could but he goes and signs with Toronto.  What a fool.  He's buried somewhere.  I dunno if he is still with Toronto or not.  Who cares.

    MikeM3
    MikeM3 like.author.displayName 1 Like

    Best ever??  This same Bruins team blew a 3-0 series lead and 3-0 Game 7 lead to the Flyers just a few years back. That, my friends, is the best comeback ever!!

    ThierryGomez
    ThierryGomez

     @MikeM3 What you are describing had happened before, but never had we witness what we did last night... so yeah, greatest comeback ever in a game 7

    Thirty_Three
    Thirty_Three

    All 4 of the goals were clean, and a long time coming:  3 goals in 3 games?  Leaf's D  is not that good, sorry Toronto fans.  B's got what they had earned and were owed, it's just too bad that Toronto was so close to coming out on top when all the debts got called in.  Great job, Toronto.  Looking forward to seeing you guys in the playoffs next year! 

    joshsmit
    joshsmit

     @Thirty_Three

     Earned? OWED? What are the Bruins owed? The Leafs were the better team, period. This time next year, any experience Boston has will be null and void. Not saying the Leafs are going to win the Cup, but with a few tweaks, the Buds will be a top team. This is a team on the rise and Boston looked a lot like the Celtics in 2010: a team that overachieved in advancing and will come crashing down soon. The Bruins will be a playoff team, but Toronto showed they aren't the team they once were. Toronto earned the series win, and in a year's time they will get it. Saying the Bruins earned or were owed anything is ridiculous. If anything, the opposite is true.

    Knuckles1
    Knuckles1

    This was as much about a bunch of men, a team, not wanting things to end as it was an incredible and lucky and beautiful comeback.  This Bruins team was going to be blown up.  Claude was on the hot seat.  It looked to me that Claude was jumping up and down for his job in the overtime win.  Horton was gone, still may be.  Tuuka and Ferrence contract's are up.  This team would look totally different next year and the way they were playing Claude may have been out of a job as well.  So we will see if things click for them now because The Ranger's are ripe for the picking.  they just don"t score enough to beat the Bruins.  Boston in 5

    Jim22
    Jim22

    I don't know the worst choke, the Leafs or Sergio Garcia ???????

    mefoster86
    mefoster86

    "But when Bergeron pounces on a fat rebound coughed up by Reimer 6:05 into OT, they finally choked it away."Were you even watching? That was a pass straight from a leaf defender's stick, not a rebound.

    Winger7
    Winger7 like.author.displayName 1 Like

    How about renaming the Leafs the Toronto Leaf-Blowers in honor/honour of the lead they blew in game 7?

    Knuckles1
    Knuckles1

     @Winger7 You would think Canadians would know to not count your chickens before they hatch.  Phaneuf was dead tired.  He was cooked.  JVR invisible.  Kadri?  Small and insignificant.  I've never seen a whole team more scared of a player like the Leafs were of Lucic.  Embarassing when your captain get's crosschecked in the face and first he takes it like a Patrick Kaleta to draw a penalty and that no one else did squat about it.  EVER....!!!   Unless you consider giving the puck away and getting run over by Lucic doing something.  Ya, ya he drew a 2 minute minor.  Well worth it to get that big, fat, coward frenchie to fight and he still couldn't muster the courage.  i forgot he was front and center to see Lucic beat Aulie a few weeks back didn't you Phaneuf?

    bdyftns
    bdyftns

    What an unbelievable comeback. Matches the greatest comeback in a 7th in NHL History.  Oh to be a Toronto fan that was celebrating in the streets before the game was over : ) Oh the pain. GO BRUINS !!

    Knuckles1
    Knuckles1

     @bdyftns Just makes it hurt extra bad to snatch it away at the last second as they were tasting it, smelling it.    Just         about            touching         it.. No!