At least it wasn’t Michael F. Ryder.
The last time the Bruins won Game 4 in Overtime at the Bell Centre to send a deadlocked series back to Boston, the hero was a former Canadien.
On April 21, 2011, Ryder beat Carey Price 1:59 into OT to give the hated visitors a 5-4 win.
Playing on home ice with a chance to take a 3-1 stranglehold in that quarterfinal series, the Canadiens blew leads of 1-0, 3-1 and – with a it over six minutes left in regulation – 4-3.
Thursday night’s Game 4 was a lot tighter.
Like soccer tight.
Bot teams were aware that Game 4 was pivotal.
Had the Bruins lost, they would have faced the daunting prospect of having to beat Carey Price three times to win the series.
Now they have to do it twice … and will have two games, if necessary, at TD Garden to do it.
Just to complete the history lesson, Boston won Game 5 of that 2011 series. Nathan Horton’s OT goal was the 51st shot Price faced in a 2-1 loss. Then after the Canadiens stayed alive with a 2-1 win at the Bell Centre in Game 6, Horton got another OT winner as game 7 ended 4-3.
Boston went on to win the Stanley Cup.
The Canadiens went on to finish last in the Eastern Conference in the 2011-’12 season.
Overtime hero Nathan Horton ended up in Columbus.
Matt Fraser, who tipped the puck past Price after a crazy bounce off the end glass, may end up back in the AHL next season. But how ironic was it that the OT hero who restored the Bruins’ home-ice advantage in this terrific series was recalled from a city called Providence.
The Rhode Island city takes its name from a word meaning divine guidance or care. Maybe Smith had the help of unseen powers while scoring the only goal of an excellent game.
God may or may not have been in the Bell Centre. But Gary Bettman was there, and the NHL commish watched a game that did credit to the league.
The Canadiens and Bruins stuck to hockey, as they have for most of the series. There were three minor penalties. The Canadiens took two of them and killed them both off, extending Boston’s playoff futility. The Bruins haven’t scored a power-play goal against the Canadiens in the postseason since 2009.
The winning goal could have been prettier. Had the Canadiens cashed regulation-time opportunities, however, Fraser would never have had the chance to poke that puck laying loose under Mike Weaver.
Tuukka Rask looked jittery early in the game. But the Boston goaltender settled down to deny Brian Gionta on a breakaway and snakebit Max Pacioretty on a shot from the faceoff circle. The Boston goaltender made 14 saves in the third period but faced no shots in the overtime.
While Price and Rask both excelled, neither goaltender had to make acrobatic saves or foil a lot of gilt-edged scoring chances. The Canadiens and Bruins played tight team D from the opening puck drop to the the siren that ended regulation time. There were few wide-open looks, fewer odd-man rushes.
Many second-guessers on Twitter and sports radio were lamenting the on-ice presence of Weaver and their favourite whipping boy, Douglas Murray, in Overtime.
But the Canadiens began OT with P.K. Subban and Josh Gorges. Weaver and Murray came on when Claude Julien deployed his third line. And the other Canadiens watching Fraser score were Lars Eller, Brian Gionta and Rene Bourque, who have been Therrien’s best line in the series.
Murray had six hits, to match Zdeno Chara, and blocked four shots in his 13:56 of ice time. On the TSN 690 postgame show, Conor McKenna called the big Swede the worst player in the NHL. Has the sportscaster forgotten Yannick Weber already?
I think Murray’s physical presence keeps the Bruins honest. I’d keep him in the lineup for Game 5, but Michel Therrien may fear the match-ups Claude Julien can concoct with last change in Boston.
I didn’t think any Canadien – or any Bruin, for that matter – played poorly in Game 4.
The Canadiens’ big guns have fallen silent. Max Pacioretty had one shot on goal. Thomas Vanek none.
Michäel Bournival continues to impress and had four SoG. I love the kid and he’s going to be a good player, but you have to think the Canadiens would be more dangerous if Alex Galchenyuk were playing left wing with Vanek and Tomas Plekanec.
Pacioretty is way overdue for a goal. And I wish he’d be more physical, especially against Boston. But the guy scored 39 times during the regular season, and maybe all Max needs is a greasy one to get going on one of his hot streaks.
I’ll go way out on a limb here and predict Pacioretty outscores Boston’s OT hero in this series.
For one long night, however, Matt F. Fraser was Michael F. Ryder.