MONTREAL -- They weren't saying much while the play was under review. The Bruins mingled around their bench at the Bell Centre, and waited, and wondered.
Would something wicked this way come? None of them knew.
"As a group," said Mike Knuble, "we all had our fingers crossed. We had our fingers crossed, hoping that the guys we had on the ice saw what we were hoping we saw."
As it turned out, crossed fingers, and no doubt a silent prayer or two, prevailed.
With 30.6 seconds remaining in regulation last night, the Bruins were awarded the tying goal (3-3) after the wide-shouldered Knuble swept a dying, doorstep puck just inside the right post -- ultimately leading to Boston's 4-3 win over the Canadiens in double overtime.
The Bruins this morning have a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, in large part because Knuble's desperation no-look sweep shot made its way onto the scoreboard after initially being waved off by referee Mick McGeough. But in one of those oh-so-rare moments in Montreal -- where the Bruins and their fans were conditioned for decades to expect every form of emotional tsunami -- the NO GOAL turned into TYING GOAL.
"I was preparing our guys for a faceoff, in case it wasn't a goal," said coach Mike Sullivan, who grew up around Boston and therefore knows never to expect good things to happen here. "I couldn't be concerned. I knew the officials would make the call. And all our guys who were on the ice were back at the bench, saying it was in."
Captain Joe Thornton was one of those guys. Jumbo Joe began the scoring play by winning a faceoff vs. Jim Dowd to goalie Jose Theodore's right with 35.4 seconds to go. Glen Murray, who later had his name on the winning goal, unloaded a shot from high in the circle as Knuble jockeyed for position in front of Theodore like some 16-wheeler trying to angle down an alley in the Back Bay.
"Set play, and that's where I go -- that's my job," said Knuble. "You know, X marks the spot."
Murray's shot didn't have enough mustard. Option No. 1 for Knuble would be, provided the puck was moving fast enough, to provide a tip or deflection. He had position, he didn't have a whole to work with, and worst of all, the clock was working against him.
"It was a lost cause," said Knuble. "It didn't make it through with enough on it. I had to grab it and shoot, kind of a hope-and-a-prayer thing, I guess you'd say."
To McGeough's eye, it was no goal. But the referee was behind the cage, at a bad angle. He could base his decision only on what he saw after the puck had ricocheted out of the net. The referee emphatically waved it off -- no goal -- and the clock kept running until a stop in play froze it with 22 seconds to go. McGeough skated to the scorer's table at mid-ice to confer with replay officials. If his first call proved right, the Bruins stood 22 seconds from going home with the series deadlocked, 2-2.
"Cash saw it right away on replay," said Murray, referring to assistant coach Wayne Cashman. "And he called right down to the bench and said it was a goal."
Down at his end of the ice, netminder Andrew Raycroft was figuring the same. He's only a rookie -- we forget that sometimes -- but he has grown accustomed to the cage here. His read of the ricochet had to be a good omen.
"The way the puck bounced out," he said, "it looked like it had to be a goal. Finally, they called it, and I had to refocus right there. One second you're worried about not winning, then the next second you're worried about not letting the next goal in."
McGeough, after only about a minute on the telephone, wheeled around and pointed to center ice. His gesture this time was as emphatic as his first call of NO GOAL. Down the street at the Forum of their horrors, the Bruins weren't accustomed to such dramatic reversals.
Upon McGeough's initial call, said Knuble, it was impossible not to think the Bruins had used up their chances.
"Yeah, a little bit," he agreed. "Then I started to look at our guys, and Joe gave me this nod. He knew it was in. Of course, you still have to wait, but Joe sort of gave me that knowing nod -- and then other guys were saying it was in, too."
Murray had plenty on his winning shot with 9:27 gone in the second overtime. He swooped in when Alexei Kovalev, shaking his hand in pain after taking a slash from Travis Green, bumped into teammate Sheldon Souray and lost possession of the puck.
"A good non-call, I'd say," said Murray, referring to the slash.
The way Knuble saw it, it was a non-call based in the theatrics that occured here late in Game 3, when Habs forward Mike Ribeiro overdramaticized a hit he took from Knuble. After Ribeiro showed up the officials with his histrionics, felt Knuble, no way were they going to call the slash on Green.
"That's it right there," said Knuble, noting how the non-call was payback for Sunday night. "That's it coming back right on you. There were hacks and whacks all night, and they didn't call it. And when you're the last guy between you and the goaltender [as Kovalev was], you can't embellish it. The refs weren't going to go for it tonight. "
Knuble was asked if that was the price Montreal paid for Ribeiro crying wolf.
"If you're intelligent at all," he said, "you see it probably was."