Bruins take series to seven ... again
Capitals forward Keith Aucoin is checked into the net by Bruins forward David Krejci over goaltender Tim Thomas during Game 6 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., April 22, 2012. (JASON REED/Reuters)
As he flicked the puck past sprawled Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby to save his team's entire season Sunday night, Tyler Seguin had no idea that he just made history.
Nor, for that matter, did he really care.
By beating Holtby at 3:17 of overtime to give his Boston Bruins a dramatic 4-3 victory in front a stunned capacity throng at the Verizon Center, the kid from Brampton, Ont., ensured that this was the first time in National Hockey League history that the first six games of a playoff series had each been decided by a one-goal margin.
Trust us, Seguin was unaware of all that.
What he did know, however, was that his first goal of this best-of-seven first-round playoff series allowed the Bruins to force a seventh and deciding game Wednesday at the raucous TD Garden.
And when it comes to Game 7s, no team in recent memory flourishes in seventh heaven like the defending Stanley Cup champions.
For Tyler Seguin, that's what really matters.
In their march to the Stanley Cup last spring, the Bruins won three Game 7s en route to hoisting the coveted trophy, a historic run that included deciding-game victories over the Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning and, in the final, the Vancouver Canucks.
Here we go again.
Asked about his team's experience at going the distance in series last spring, Seguin replied: "I think it helps a lot. I'm not personally aware of what the playoff experience is on their team but, having gone through what we did, we should have an edge.
"It seems that, going back to last year, we never want to make it easy. We always seem to go the extra mile.
"Game 7 at the Garden. That's what you work all season long to get home ice advantage for."
In just his second NHL season, Seguin's story is well-documented. Having been selected second overall by the Bruins in 2010 with one of the picks acquired by the Bruins in the trade that sent Phil Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Seguin was shown tough love in his rookie season by Bruins coach Claude Julien, who was not shy in having his talented freshman sit in the press box and watch.
One year later, Seguin has gone from spare part to key cog in the Bruins' efforts to repeat as champions. That's why he was so disappointed entering Game 6 without a goal in the entire series, which Boston trailed 3-2.
But by turning in his overtime heroics, frustration was replaced by jubilation.
"When you're a little kid, the dream is to get those big goals and keep your team alive," Seguin said. "Looking back at my career, this is probably one of the biggest goals I've got."
At the other end of the ice, Tim Thomas did what Tim Thomas does -- keep his team from being punted out of the playoffs. While he arguably should have had Alex Ovechkin's tying goal that trickled through his legs at 15:08 of the third period, he also made 36 saves, many of the spectactular variety.
"This series is crazy. It's back and forth," Thomas said. "One team goes ahead by a goal, the other picks up its game and fights to get it back. Nobody can get any dominant position. I supposed it's suppose to go seven games, right?"
In that regard, defenceman Andrew Ference, who scored one of Boston's four goals on the afternoon, said the Bruins will rely on their trio of Game7s from a year ago to help them keep their composure on Wednesday.
"It keeps your heart rate down," Ference said. "That's probably the biggest thing about playing in a lot of playoff games. In pressure situations, it's hard to play when your heartbeat isn't slowing down and you are sweating twice as much.
"It comes into a factor if you use it the right way. Hopefully we can ride the experience."
And, in the process, enjoy another journey that will end up being seventh heaven.