A packed house, a must-win game and a pile of free cake. It was a fantastic day to be at TD Garden, well, at least for the final five minutes of the Bruins 3-2 OT win against the rivaled Flyers.
Zdeno Chara's powerplay goal 7:07 into the opening frame opened the scoring, providing a momentary sigh of relief for an otherwise battered and frightful fanbase. The Bruins, for their part anyway, managed to dictate play for the better part of the opening twenty. With the exception of a rough frame by the teams newly formed second line - Milan Lucic, Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak - things appeared to be headed in the right direction. Dennis Seidenberg limited his number of turnovers to a number you can count on one hand and Adam McQuaid only looked foolish once; drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, dropping his gloves following a push from Zac Rinaldo.
Matt Bartkowski was on the end of a rather iffy tripping penalty, and Philadelphia capitalized. Jakub Voracek's 20th tally of the year drew the Flyers even at 1, and cast a sense of "oh boy, here we go again" over another sellout crowd at TD Garden. Again, the Bruins held an edge in dictating play. It was all too familiar, the Bruins were playing well and slowly but surely the game appeared to be on the cusp of slipping away.
Nick Schultz did his best to spoil our Saturday afternoon, throwing a wrist-shot with eyes through traffic and watching as it trickled by Tuukka Rask. We've been here before. The crowd, stunned. The team, deflated. My stomach, grumbling for more free cake.
The goal was the result of the 4th line, more specifically centerman Gregory Campbell, committing another atrocious error. Campbell's failure to gain the red line, resulting in an icing, setup the Flyers for a goal that, at the time, shifted the Eastern Conference playoff picture significantly. The Flyers were on their way to pulling within 2 points of the Bruins, and the door was open for Florida to swoop in and tie Boston at 72 points.
Thankfully, the score didn't hold and our worst nightmares didn't come to fruition. A Wayne Simmonds tripping penalty put Boston on their fourth powerplay of the game with under two minutes to play. Rask was pulled following a timeout, and the Bruins went to work completing one of their better comebacks in recent memory.
Steve Mason played phenomenally all afternoon, yet Boston found a way with under thirty-seconds to pull even at 2 and force overtime. After a bevy of pressure in the final ninety-seconds, a Dougie Hamilton wrist shot was tipped in front by Brad Marchand. It was the rat's 19th goal of the year, and arguably his biggest.
For a fan base mentally scarred by shootouts, today was a nice, and much needed, change of pace. Marchand dangled his way into the Philly zone, after being sprung by nice touch pass from Max Talbot in the neutral zone, and beat Mason with a backhander that proved, maybe after all, the hockey Gods don't completely hate the Bruins.
The team celebrated with more enthusiasm and excitement than the 17,565 in attendance. A tall task, considering how loud the building became after Marchand's second goal on the afternoon.
Today was a relief, and while it may only serve to be temporary, it's still a step in the right direction. People have called into question this team's mental toughness, and today they answered those somewhat numbskull-esque critics. They earned two points, they survived a horrendous slew of coaching decisions in the games final five minutes and they restored faith into a fan base that worships face-punching. More importantly, they won - and I hear that's pretty good.
Now excuse me, there's some leftover cake calling my name.