BOSTON - Living dangerously? Or just business as usual, showing off their resiliency and character?
It's probably a bit of both for the never-say-die Boston Bruins, who climbed out of what looked to be a deep hole with four third-period goals for a stirring 5-3 comeback win over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday afternoon.
The scoring spree started midway through the final period, lasted seven minutes 58 seconds, and buried the Canadiens who had seemed in control after Thomas Vanek's second power-play goal of the game gave them a 3-1 lead 6:30 into the third.
With each goal, the sellout crowd of 17,565 Bruins faithful at the TD Garden roared louder.
At golf courses across the continent, Toronto Maple Leafs must have felt the Habs' pain during the third-period collapse.
The Vancouver Canucks were probably also cringing at their summer retreats. It was the Bruins' first four-goal period in the playoffs since a 5-2 decision over the Canucks in Game 6 of the 2011 Stanley Cup final.
The win sends both teams to Montreal with the second-round playoff series tied at one game apiece. Game 3 is Tuesday at the Bell Centre.
"The way we just battled back through, I felt, a lot of crap that we put up with today was pretty indicative of what our team's all about," said Boston coach Claude Julien. "It just shows that if you focus on the things you need to focus on, this is a pretty good team that can accomplish a lot."
Asked to elaborate on what he meant by crap, Julien declined, saying "I think anybody who watched the game knows what's going on there."
That's coach-speak for bad officiating.
The Bruins took nine penalties to the Canadiens' six and were punished twice on the power play. One of those Boston penalties was a late second-period bench minor.
"The referee—I kind of told him that I didn't agree with his calls," said a straight-faced Julien, drawing laughter.
Trailing 3-1 midway through the third period, Boston pulled even on goals by Dougie Hamilton at 10:56 and Patrice Bergeron at 14:17. Reilly Smith scored the go-ahead goal with 3:32 remaining and Milan Lucic added an empty-net goal to cap a remarkable comeback.
"We've got to look at the big picture," said Montreal coach Michel Therrien, looking slightly more morose than usual. "I thought we played really well for 50 minutes. Even in the third period, the first 10 minutes we were almost perfect."
"We got some breaks last game and they got the breaks (today)," he added, referring to the Habs' 4-3 double-overtime win in Game 1 on Thursday. "So there's no way to panic. We're going home. We know it's going to be a long series. We're ready for that."
But then he offered a glimpse of the emotions behind the calm mask.
"It would have been nice, honestly," he said wistfully. "It would have been nice, because we were in a position to pick up two games here. It would have been a great accomplishment."
Hamilton's shot through traffic, on Boston's second shot of the third period, started the comeback. Bergeron then scored on an angled shot that deflected in off defenceman Francis Bouillon.
Bad coverage and a bad bounce was how Therrien saw the two goals.
Torey Krug found Smith cruising in towards goal and the Bruins forward rifled a shot past Carey Price for Boston's third goal in five minutes 28 seconds. Lucic's empty-net goal came with 66 seconds remaining.
"They were playing desperate at the end of the game and they found a way to put it in the net," Price said. "We've just got to regroup, realize what the situation we're in, we're in a good spot, and move forward."
Up until the comeback, penalties and ill discipline had cost the Bruins, who led 1-0 after the first period before giving up three straight goals. The Canadiens, who went 2-for-3 on the power play in Game 1, were 2-for-6 this time out.
"I think in the first and mainly the second period, emotions got the best of us," said Smith. "We spent way too much time in the penalty box. You're not going to come out of the period with a lot of positives after that happens.
"Third period, we tried to focus and regroup. After that second intermission, we tried to come out with a different outlook."
On Thursday, Boston came back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits before falling victim to a P.K. Subban shot in the second overtime.
Smith, for one, knows that the Houdini approach to playoff wins is probably not the preferred route to victory.
"It ended up working out great but it's tough when you're relying on the third period to come back in games, for sure."
Goalie Tuukka Rask said the comeback showed the Bruins' character.
"I think we make it unnecessarily hard for ourselves sometimes, but it's a great, gutsy win today."
Boston outshot Montreal 35-28 Saturday.
Including blocked and missed shots, the Bruins have directed 161 shots at goal to Montreal's 112 in the first two games. But the margin was much closer Saturday, with Boston holding a 63-54 edge,
The Habs pulled ahead late in the second on the power play.
Montreal, with four skaters to Boston's three after Andrej Meszaros joined a Hab and Bruin in the box, went ahead 2-1 at 18:09 of the second after Zdeno Chara failed to clear the puck. Montreal reloaded and Subban sent the puck to an unmarked Vanek in front for a tip-in goal.
Vanek scored again at 6:30 of the third, tipping in a Subban blast with Hamilton in the box for his third of the playoffs.
It was vindication for Vanek, whose play has been under scrutiny of late. Subban, meanwhile, extended his points streak to five games. On the negative side, he was minus-two for the game despite his two assists.
Montreal's line of Lars Eller, Brian Gionta and Rene Bourque, the best trio in Game 1 with a combined plus-six, was minus-nine Saturday. Chara, meanwhile, finished the afternoon at plus-five.
At the other end, Price frustrated the Bruins for most of a second straight game. The Bruins didn't help their cause managing just one shot on goal in the first 10 minutes of the third period until they came alive.
Despite all the talk of the need for discipline, there was plenty of niggle in this game with eight minors (four per team) called in the first period alone. Nothing major, but clearly no love lost either. The skirmishes started on the opening faceoff as Boston's Brad Marchand and Montreal's Brendan Gallagher, both little magnets for mayhem, tangled.
As he was in Game 1, Subban was booed whenever he had the puck. The subject of racial abuse on social media after his winning goal in Game 1, the Montreal defenceman got support from Gary Bettman before the game. The NHL commissioner condemned "bias and hatred," saying "it has no place in our game and it's not acceptable."
Subban, shaking his wrist, headed to the dressing room during the first period for repairs after getting tangled with Marchand in the corner and making contact with the Bruins skate. He soon returned, showing off his mobility as he skated circles around assorted Bruins.
Daniel Paille opened the scoring at 13:02 of the first after Carl Soderberg retrieved a long rebound off the back boards and fired a quick, accurate pass over to his teammate who was unmarked in the slot. It came on Boston's 10th shot, compared to five for Montreal, and followed some fierce Bruin backchecking in the neutral zone.
Boston outshot Montreal 13-6 in the period, with Pacioretty taking three for Montreal.
The Canadiens came out hot in the second and tied it up at 1:09 after a Boston turnover. The Habs missed two glorious chances—Rask stopped a Gallagher shot and Brandon Prust was unable to stuff in the rebound—before Tomas Plekanec retrieved the puck, circled the goal and passed to Mike Weaver whose shot beat Rask through heavy traffic.
Montreal had seven of the first eight shots of the second period.
A Boston goal with 4:36 remaining in the period was called off, with Lucic ruled to have directed the puck in with his glove. There was no complaint from Lucic, who didn't celebrate.
Seconds later, a sprawling Price denied Lucic with a spectacular pad save.
Montreal outshot Boston 15-13 in a second period that saw six minors called, with four against the Bruins.
Boston, whose power play ranked third in the league with a 21.7 per cent success rate during the regular season, is 0-for-5 with the man advantage through the first two games of the series.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter