By Josh Houreas| Follow me on Twitter @JHoureas
Game 7. A dream to win, a nightmare to lose. It was a win and move on, or pack up the equipment and hit the golf course. A sold out crowd of 17,565 packed the TD Garden for the final game of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The Boston Bruins were one win away from making Toronto fans wait another season for the Stanley Cup and at a 46-year drought for the club, you almost had to feel for the organization.
Boston quickly jumped out to a 1-0 lead thanks to a screaming wrist shot off the stick of Matt Bartkowski. An unexpected player to get his name on the score sheet, but nonetheless the Bruins were on the board first in the deciding game of the series.
Now there were three possible situations that could have happened following Bartkowski’s goal. Scenario 1: Boston Holds a lead for the remaining 54 minutes of game play and moves on to the second round comfortably. Scenario 2: Toronto scores the equalizer, gains enough momentum to go ahead and WIN game 7, letting their fans continue to hope until the inevitable happens. Scenario 3: Boston goes down by almost a handful of goals only to stage a miraculous comeback that’ll be talked about for generations.
I had turned the game off after the first period had come to an end. It was a school night, I was tired, but I still hoped that the Bruins would find a way to win the game. The next morning, I got more than I bargained for as I scratched my head wondering how did it end up being a 5-4 game. It was 1-1 when I had turned the game off last night.After I watched the highlights, I had something else to scratch my head over.
But not before things took a turn for the worse. For the longest time, it seemed like scenario two was going to be what transpired in the final game of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Toronto was running Boston out of their own building, and they were doing it in dominating style. After two goals from Cody Franson, and two more from Phil Kessel and Nathan Kadri, it was 4-1 Toronto with less than fifteen minutes left in the third period. In an interview with NBCSN, Ronaldo Lista said “It was so bad people started leaving.” The situation almost begged the question, would you have left if you were at the game? Jamie Babineau, daughter of famed Bruins photographer Steve Babineau reiterated in the same interview that fans just started piling out of their seats, leaving.” Toronto buried 4 goals. Yes, 4 past Tuukka Rask who had a .929 save percentage that season.
The Bruins needed an answer, and their season was about to come crashing down if they didn’t find that answer in 20 minutes.
11 minutes left in the season.
Then, something that the Garden faithful desperately prayed for occurred. Boston found a way to get the puck past Leafs goaltender James Reimer. Fans who were heading for the exits started to turn around. 10:42 remaining. 4-2 Leafs. If you are superstitious like I am, you are most likely to agree with someone who says that a two goal lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey.
Scenario 2 looked like a possibility, but as the night marched on, in game seven, it was more than likely going to become a probability. Boston still had faith, and as a two goal comeback needed to happen in less than ten minutes, some fans stayed in their seats. While ten minutes turned into five, and five turned into two, it happened. Milan Lucic buried one past James Reimer, and with 1:22 remaining, it was a one goal game.
You had to think… just maybe this comeback of epic proportions was going to happen. Scenario two then turned into scenario 3, when Bruins veteran Patrice Bergeron fired the game-tying goal with 50.2 seconds left in the final period. From 4-1 down in the final 12 minutes, it was a 4-4 game.
“There was one guy who fell two rows in front of me” said Robby Binall, just one of the 17,565 fans in attendance that night.
Which left Toronto fans scratching their heads in disbelief, and after a last-second chance from Rich Peverly was poked out of the crease, the two teams headed to a highly unexpected sudden death overtime. Bruins superfan Patrick Kearns, who you can follow on Twitter @BigScaryManGuy told NBCSN in a segment called “I Was There” which you can watch here “It was either going to be the best or the worst. There was no in-between at that point.”
If the Garden faithful wasn’t loud at the end of regulation, after watching their beloved black and gold stage a comeback that’ll be talked about for generations, it was deafening when Shipping Up To Boston, a staple song in Beantown sports lore started to blare across the speakers.
The sheet of ice was resurfaced by the Zamboni. The next goal would win the series. Would Toronto break the hearts of New Englanders all across the region, or would the Bruins turn three straight goals into four, and complete a comeback of gigantic proportions?
We got our answer five and a half minutes into overtime, and who else to provide that answer than Patrice Bergeron? When a scramble for the puck right in front of Toronto netminder James Reimer occurred, the Bruins veteran skated in and put the loose puck into the back of the net. Bruins fan Ronaldo Lista spoke in the same interview with NBCSN “I just saw the puck going that way, and he (Bergeron) came out of nowhere.” Former Bruins radio play by play announcer Dave Goucher uttered the words that would be heard all throughout New England. “BERGERON! BERGERON! IN-GAME 7! AND THE BRUINS WIN THE SERIES!”
Toronto fans watched in shock and horror as their team had been eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Hockey is a game of 60 minutes, and Toronto proved to the world that on that day, it can also be a game of 50 minutes. Ten minutes was all it took for Boston to go from down and out to winning the heavyweight fight.
Boston would carry that momentum all the way to the Stanley Cup Final that season, but fell short of the ultimate goal as the Chicago Blackhawks capped off an incredible season of their own, winning their second title in 3 seasons.
It is a game of comebacks. It’s a game where one team wins and the other loses, and sometimes those wins and loses are games that will never be forgotten. Other times, it’s a game you want to erase out of your mind.
But it’s the reason you watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 186 that we recorded below on 7-20-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!
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