It's two days later and I still can't believe what I saw. Did the Bruins really score four goals in 16 minutes to knock the Maple Leafs out of the playoffs in overtime in a winner-take-all Game 7 Monday night?
I know the newspapers say so, and I can watch it again on television (bet me that ESPN doesn't run the tape of the winning goal ad nauseam for the next few days), and I know what my eyes saw. But I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around what really happened.
Believe it or not, it's not the most incredible hockey comeback I've ever seen. I don't think anything can ever compare to Boston University scoring two goals in the final minute of regulation time with an extra attacker in the 2009 NCAA championship game, then beating Miami of Ohio in overtime. If you watched that game, you'd know what I mean.
The only other Bruins game that comes close, in my memory, occurred in the 1990 playoffs when the B's scored four third period goals to beat the Whalers 6-5 in Hartford, when the Whale was on the verge of taking a 3-1 series lead (the B's ended up winning the series in seven games). Somewhere, Dave Poulin, who scored the game-winner that night, is smiling.
But as amazing as those comebacks were, the Bruins' rally on Monday night was absolutely stunning. It may not be the most amazing comeback I've ever seen, but it was easily the most dramatic.
I still don't believe it. Did the Bruins really do that?
Especially since they played so poorly after scoring the first goal Monday. Especially since they frittered away Games 5 and 6 to the Leafs after taking a 3-1 series lead. Especially because they'd scored only three goals in the eight periods they had previously played before that stirring comeback.
I've only recently come around to the Bruins way of thinking (see "Ex-Habs fan in B's territory", Berkshire Eagle, April 21, 2009) so for me, anyway, these are kind of uncharted waters. Until 2007, I would have reveled in the B's demise for most of Monday night. Instead, I spent most of the game cursing the B's for their lack of effort, and working up a hatred for all things Toronto, which really isn't that hard because I went to college in Montreal.
When NESN showed Maple Leaf fans cheering outside of the Air Canada Centre after every Toronto goal I got angrier and angrier. Halfway through the third period, I had begun yapping at the screen (if you don't believe me, ask my wife). Brad Marchand may be the little ball of hate, but I was turning into the big ball of anger. My two dogs wisely decided not to sit with me. The cat left, too.
To assuage my frustration, I switched to the NBC Sports Network, where the Rangers were blanking the truly snakebit Caps. I grew up a Rangers fan, so at least that was good to see.
When I switched back to the Bruins game, the B's had cut the Maple Leafs' lead to 4-2. "Still a chance," I thought. Less than two minutes left, the Bruins pull goalie Tuukka Rask, Milan Lucic scores, and it's 4-3. Could the Bruins really tie the score? Patrice Bergeron scores 31 seconds later with Rask again on the bench. We're going into overtime? We're going into overtime!
At this point, I was more nervous than angry. Sure, the Bruins came back to tie the score, but do they have enough to win it? Nothing's been decided yet, and overtimes in playoff hockey are anything but typical. The longer they go on, the more anything can happen. Then a Bruins rush, a jucy rebound, Bergeron swoops in. It's over? It's over!
Maybe it's because I once played the position, but I instantly felt sorry for Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer, who lay on the ice for a long time after Bergeron's goal, looking as though he hoped a hole would open and swallow him. I've been there, and even though it happened 40 years ago in high school, you never forget it.
And those Leaf fans who were cheering wildly during most of Monday night's game? My animosity toward them is gone. It reminded me of what it was like to be a Red Sox fan before 2004.