Sports often times bring the absolute worst out in people. We saw that in Boston after Game 2 of the Bruins’ first-round series when a Maple Leafs fan was knocked out leaving TD Garden. We saw it a couple of days later when someone brought an extremely distasteful “Toronto Stronger” sign to Game 3 at Air Canada Centre.
But hopefully, when something like Wednesday night in Game 4 of the B’s-Leafs series happens, we can all sit back and say to ourselves and each other, “This is really the reason we’re hockey fans.”
The Bruins and Maple Leafs played one of the most entertaining hockey games many of us have seen in a long time. It had everything. It had drama and theatre. It had blood and sweat. It had two teams laying it all on the line just to win a hockey game.
And while nothing will ever justify the disgusting, aforementioned incidents, games like Game 4 are the reason we care so deeply about sports. The ups and downs that fans — even those neutral fans who just want to see a good game — go through are the reason we all continue to come back.
David Krejci scored the game-winner at 13:27 of overtime that crushed a fanbase in Toronto while simultaneously sending fans in Boston into a frenzy. But to just go off of the result would be selling this one very short. The Bruins and Maple Leafs battled for 73 minutes and 27 seconds, hurrying back and forth, up and down the ice at a ferocious pace.
On more than one occasion, like when Matt Frattin hit the post in overtime, it looked like the Leafs would walk away with the win. But then again, there were a few times when it looked like the B’s would be the victors, like when Tyler Seguin missed the net by the narrowest of margins with just seconds to play in regulation.
As is usually the case in these games, some players were able to rise the occasion. James Reimer, who has been shaky at times in this series, made some improbable saves. Nazem Kadri, who had to be bailed out by his teammates after an ill-advised high-sticking penalty in the third period, was all over the ice in overtime. Phil Kessel, a focal point in the series, found an extra gear for overtime.
On the Bruins’ side, there was Tuukka Rask, who tied a career-high in saves (45) previously set in Game 3, stopping all 11 shots in overtime. Zdeno Chara was on the ice for both Toronto goals in the first period, but he bounced back to have a four-assist night. Nathan Horton, someone who’s career was altered by a big hit in the playoffs, took another big hit from Dion Phaneuf (the game’s eventual goat) to move the puck in overtime. And there was Krejci, who took the puck from Horton and capped a hat trick with the game-winner.
Toronto coach Randy Carlyle played in 69 Stanley Cup playoff games in his career as a player. Wednesday marked his 66th as a head coach. He, better than any fan, can sum up the feelings.
“I try to be as calm as I possibly can, but inside your guts are churning, simple as that,” he told the media after the game. “Every shot that is directed towards the net, the emotions are up and down. When it’s against you, your breath’s taken away. And when it’s for you, I found myself climbing up on the bench more than I’ve ever done.
“That’s the excitement that’s there on the bench and the adrenaline that you do get when you’re at ice level. Being a former player, I’ve always said that’s the closest you can be to being a player. “
Unfortunately, not everyone gets to feel that. However, when you watch a game like Game 4 on Wednesday night, you get a little taste — and it’s awesome.