BOSTON — The Bruins and Penguins had played almost 100 minutes of heart-stopping, ulcer-inducing playoff hockey. Then, in an instant, it was over.
After 93 shots, 80 hits, 91 faceoffs, a couple of goals, four intermissions, 11 unsuccessful power plays, probably an orange slice or 23, a handful of hockey pucks ringing shiny red posts and almost five full periods of hockey, it was over.
Because of it, the Eastern Conference finals are now probably over, too.
The Bruins took arguably the Pittsburgh Penguins’ best punch round after round after round on Wednesday, and they still came away with a 2-1 overtime win. The Bruins knew they were going to get a better effort from the Pens after the B’s throttled Pittsburgh 6-1 in Game 3, and the Penguins certainly brought it. For more than 95 minutes, it looked like the Penguins might actually get one. And then, as you know, it was over.
In the wee hours of the night, as the TD Garden staff worked overtime (literally) to clean the arena that was filled to capacity and damn-near had its roof blown off not long ago, the scoreboard remained unchanged. Bruins 2. Penguins 1. Period 5 — 4:41.
It was, naturally, Patrice Bergeron who sent the Black and Gold faithful home with something to smile about. Of course it was. It was Bergeron who rescued the B’s from the dead just a few weeks prior with the game-tying and game-winning goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Now it was his double-overtime tally from Brad Marchand that has the Bruins one win from the Stanley Cup Final.
The win sent the Bruins and their fans into exultation, but on a night like this, there’s also relief. It’s a unique feeling, one that can only be felt by the victors.
“It’s holy …” Marchand said of the feeling, before thinking better of letting an expletive fly. “I’m exhausted, I can’t even move. I can’t even go into the pile right now. It’s over; we’re very excited. It’s just a relief most of all.”
As the beat Bruins steadied their legs for one last hop over the boards and “sprint” to the corner to mob their teammates, the Penguins found themselves slowly exiting the ice. Just 16 seconds after Pascal Dupuis‘ backhander became the 54th Pittsburgh shot (and the 53rd save for Tuukka Rask), the Pens were left to slowly glide off and down the tunnel.
The downtrodden bunch retreated to the dressing room — where a table of sports drinks, bananas and yes, orange peels sat in the middle — sat in front of their lockers and did what they could to answer questions.
“Yeah, it’s frustrating,” Penguins forward Craig Adams said. “But the thing is — it’s not like we played the game that we played tonight three times and didn’t win. We played an OK game in Game 1, we didn’t play a good game in Game 2 and that’s the type of game we’ve got to play — the one we played tonight. if we played that one seven times, you know, I like our chances. But that’s not the position we’re in.”
Just down the halls, the Bruins were full of smiles, in between yawns, of course. The steely reserve that has become a trademark of this team under Claude Julien is in full effect right now. But despite the obvious confidence and momentum the Bruins are riding, they’re not going to be getting too far ahead of themselves any time soon.
“We’re not even thinking about that right now. It’s one [more] win but we’re still a long ways away right now. We have to make sure we do everything right and prepare for the next game and come out very hard — because we know they’re going to.”
That is, of course, after at least maybe a little shut-eye.
“Great game,” Julien said, “but I’m looking forward to going to bed.”