BOSTON - The Boston Bruins figured out how to do it.
It wasn’t easy, it took five tries and almost 100 minutes on a night of the best hockey of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal, but a home team finally figured out how to win.
Nathan Horton scored at 9:03 of the second overtime to give the Bruins a 2-1 win at the TD Garden Saturday night for a 3-2 series lead and now the Montreal Canadiens must win Tuesday night in Game 6 or have their season end.
History isn’t skating with the Habs on this one.
The Canadiens have a 16-27 playoff record since moving into the Molson/Bell Centre in 1996, the latest two losses coming in Games 3 and 4 of this series.
Their winning percentage of .327 is the worst of any team at home in the playoffs since 1996, according to nhlstats.ca.
Horton found himself alone on the edge of the crease to bang home a rebound to give the Bruins the win and end a wonderful night of hockey.
“It was an exciting game for both teams, but in the end, it feels good to get it,” said Horton. “We knew it was going to be a greasy goal and it sure was. That’s all that counts.”
The Bruins don’t win without goaltender Tim Thomas making a spectacular sliding save on Montreal captain Brian Gionta off a 2-on-1 six minutes into the second overtime. He exploded to his left to get his left pad on Gionta’s low shot.
This was the best game of the series, tough and hard-fought. It was a crazy night where two Bruins skaters - Michael Ryder in the first period and Zdeno Chara in the overtime - stopped shots heading into open nets which rivaled Thomas’ big save.
But as is usually the case, winning in the Stanley Cup playoffs is rarely complicated or left to chance.
Unless your name is Alex Ovechkin, it is seldom so openly spectacular, often buried in the details or just the result of effort.
Like the kind of play Bruins forward Brad Marchand made shortly before he scored the third-period goal that would give the B’s a 1-0 lead just past the four-minute mark of the third period.
Shortly before Marchand buried his first playoff goal, he had raced into the Montreal underneath a long, fluttering shoot-in to the corner to the left of Canadiens goaltender Carey Price. Marchand, 5-foot-9, beat out 6-foot-7 Montreal defenceman Hal Gill for the puck and, seconds later, after trying to setup Patrice Bergeron in front, the puck appeared to bounce off the foot of Montreal defenceman P.K. Subban and go to Marchand at the left post. He slammed the puck into the net at 4:47 of the third period.
Or the play Canadiens centre Jeff Halpern made to tie the game at the 14-minute mark. Playing just his second game of the playoffs, Halpern won a draw in the Boston zone, then helped win a battle along the boards before going to the front of the net. Montreal rookie Lars Eller found him in front and he fired past Thomas on the stick side.
Guess you could say the Habs benefited from a Halpern hand.
“We haven’t lost yet,” said Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, who made 49 saves. “We’ve got to get refocused and come back with the exact same effort. I thought we did everything we needed to do. We deserved to win that one, but it is what it is. We’ve got our work cut out for us. We’ve got to buck up and put our work boots on.”
Now it’s back to Montreal.
The quality of the action took a big leap forward in Game 5.
Now, with some desperation added to the mix, maybe it will be even better in Game 6.