Thrills worth double take
There might be better things in sports than Stanley Cup playoff overtime hockey, but I can’t think of any right now. Overtime playoff hockey isn’t a fabricated duel of penalty shots. It’s not football, where you usually win if you correctly call the coin toss. It’s not baseball, where you know you have one last shot if you are the home team. No. Hockey’s playoff overtime is two teams skating up and down the ice until one drops to sudden death.
First goal wins.
Sudden life for the Boston Bruins.
The Bruins last night beat the Sabres, 3-2, on Miroslav Satan’s backhander past Ryan Miller in the eighth minute of the second overtime. Boston takes a 3-1 series lead back to Niagara Falls tomorrow night.
After a spring in which we worried about early tee times for our winter franchises, the Celtics and Bruins are both on track to make it into the second round. Certainly there will be no sounds of silence on Causeway Street this month.
What a week at the New Garden. Celtics Saturday. Bruins Monday. Celtics Tuesday. Bruins again last night. Four games in five nights. All playoffs. All sellouts. All victories. Lots of noise. Good tips for the wait staff at Legends. Lines out the door at the Four’s and West End Johnnie’s.
The Bruins and Sabres were exhausting to watch as they skated through the two overtimes. It took only a little more than 20 minutes to play the first extra period because there were hardly any whistles. In one exhausting stretch, the teams skated for almost 9 1/2 minutes without a stoppage in play.
“When you see players in here after an overtime, everybody is exhausted, because you can’t lose your focus all that time out there,’’ said ancient winger Mark Recchi. “You have to keep your focus and listen to your coach.’’
This series has thus far unfolded exactly as advertised: close games, low-scoring, plenty of hits, peppered with fisticuffs. We’ve seen good goal prevention and UZR by both Miller and Tuukka Rask.
“It’s really exciting,’’ Rask said after 88 minutes between the pipes. “It’s crazy. I think I spent more energy celebrating than I did in the whole game.’’
The Bruins made it hard on themselves, allowing Buffalo to score first for the fourth consecutive game.
Buffalo wing (has a nice ring to it, no?) Tim Kennedy — who got beaten by Recchi for the de facto winning goal in Game 3 — took advantage of some Bruins defensive confusion and scored from point-blank range less than three minutes after Rene Rancourt finished the anthem.
The best part of the initial period came in the final seconds as linesman Greg Devorski put Patrick Kaleta on his back while pulling Kaleta off Zdeno Chara. It got the crowd in the mood.
Former Bruin Steve Montador made it 2-0 in the seventh minute of the second and you could hear Bob Lobel asking, “Why can’t we get players like that?’’
In those dark moments, it looked like Miller was going to win this game all by himself. He was Gump-like (Worsley, not Forrest). Miller is the Michigan kid who came within one save of winning the gold medal for our lads in Vancouver.
Watching any goalie stop the Bruins is no surprise. If Ken Dryden could stone the table-hockey-scoring 1970-71 Bruins, you know Miller can stop the 2009-10 Teddy Bears when he’s at the top of his game.
It’s important to remember that the Bruins were down, 2-0, after one period in Game 2. They were on the brink of falling hopelessly behind in the series. But they rallied at the
Trailing, 2-0, after one period is serious stuff. Trailing, 2-0, after two would normally be lethal when Miller is between the pipes.
He’d made just about every kind of save you can make until David Krejci finally broke through at 2:07 of the third period. It was the Bruins’ second power-play goal of this series. More important, it established that it would be possible to get the puck past Miller.
Four and a half minutes later, Patrice Bergeron took a nifty pass from Daniel Paille and fired a wrist shot past Miller to make it 2-2 with 13:20 remaining. There was bedlam in the barn.
Both teams had 25 shots on goal in regulation.
It was officially the 13th-longest game in Bruins history when Satan potted the winner. More bedlam in the barn.
“The crowd was great, even when we were down, 2-0,’’ said Recchi. “This is a great sports town and a great hockey town.’’
And this is shaping up as one the great sports weeks in our town.
Condolences to the family of Bobby DeCristoforo, who died this week at 61 and was honored with a moment of silence before last night’s game. Bobby D was an usher at Fenway and both Gardens for most of the last five decades. He loved college hockey and made the trip to the Frozen Four in Detroit to see Boston College win the national championship. He was a tireless champion of youth sports in his beloved North End. He will be missed.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.