Matt Fraser was a member of the Providence Bruins as he enjoyed some frozen yogurt on Wednesday. One night later, Fraser was playing the role of playoff overtime hero for the Boston Bruins.
Fraser scored the game-winning goal in overtime Thursday night to give the Bruins a 1-0 victory in Game 4 of their second-round Stanley Cup playoff series with the Montreal Canadiens. The dramatic goal sends the series back to Boston tied at two games apiece, giving the Bruins life in what’s been a difficult series with their rivals.
“Words can’t even describe that feeling,” an emotional Fraser told reporters moments after becoming the hero. “I just watched the replay of it, and I don’t even want to begin to try and explain that, because it’s something I wish every kid could feel.”
Fraser, 23, officially was recalled from Providence on Thursday morning. He quickly got himself to Montreal and was inserted into the Bruins’ lineup.
The idea of making your playoff debut in a near must-win game in Montreal is one that could cause a young, inexperienced player to crumble. Fraser showed no signs of that, despite admitting later that he was rather excited.
“I’ve played two exhibition games here before, and even then, I was like, ‘Whoa, OK, here we go,’ ” Fraser told a herd of media after the game. “There are more people here in this media scrum than there are at games in Providence. That’s not a diss to Providence, but it’s such a cool atmosphere and such a cool thing to be a part of.”
Any signs of Fraser being overexcited or even nervous weren’t visible. Fraser, who said in a postgame TV interview that he was eager to work off some frozen yogurt he worked into his diet Wednesday, fit in seamlessly on the Bruins’ third line. Along with Loui Eriksson and Carl Soderberg, Fraser helped that line be the Bruins’ most effective all night. They put six shots on goal, finally culminating in the overtime goal just 1:19 into overtime, as Fraser became the sixth player in NHL history to make his first postseason goal an OT game-winner.
Bruins coach Claude Julien had no doubt in his mind that Fraser would see ice time in the extra session. The youngster’s strong style of play helped the third line cycle the puck in the Montreal end all night, and the game-winning goal was the result of another good shift deep in the Canadiens’ end of the rink. If there’s one way to endear yourself to Julien and the Boston coaching staff, it’s playing smart, responsible hockey, which is what Fraser did.
“I liked his game, not because he scored, but his whole game he seemed to be strong on the puck,” Julien told reporters. “He was strong on the puck, made good decisions and didn’t turn the puck over. He seemed to be skating well, and it was nice to see that happen.”
The overtime winner is Fraser’s second in the last two weeks. The big forward scored in OT on April 25 to help Providence beat the Springfield Falcons in its first-round AHL playoff series.
The Bruins hope that magic carries over as their series shifts back to Boston on Saturday night. With the way he played Thursday night, Fraser certainly has earned his chance to stay in the lineup.
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