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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Nathan Horton scores in double overtime, Bruins win instant classic over Canadiens for 3-2 series lead

Not that you needed anymore proof but if you were wavering at all on what professional sport has the best playoffs, I hope for your sake you were watching Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals last night between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden.

The Bs won in double overtime on Nathan Horton's goal, taking an all-important 3-2 lead. Game 6 is Tuesday at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

Where to begin with a game that had it all? Ridiculous saves by goaltenders, ridiculous saves by a forward and a defenseman, clutch goals, great backchecks, etc.

I don't smoke, drink only moderately these days and am in relatively good shape and I still think this game took a few years off of my life but it was totally worth it. Holy shit, the tension was through the roof. Whichever team won this totally has control of the series and the opponent couldn't be more hated.

Let's start with the three stars of the game: Horton, Tim Thomas and Brad Marchand.

For a player that had never competed in the postseason before now (since he was stuck in NHL hell: with the Florida Panthers), it's safe to say this was the biggest goal of Horton's life. He's been a solid addition to the team and he's only going to get better. It was also nice to see the top line rewarded since they played much better last night but had nothing to show for it until then.

Last week, Mike Felger talked about how Thomas had never stole a playoff game in his career. Can we agree that last night broke the seal on that valid theory? He still gave up some juicy rebounds but when it was all over, Thomas made 44 saves and outshined Montreal goaltender Carey Price (49 saves), who was also excellent. Thomas' save on Brian Gionta in double overtime was as good as it gets. Given the stakes and the shooter, it was an off the charts stop.

Finally, you have to love Marchand if you're a Bruins fan and absolutely hate him if you don't like the Bs. He's little, he's annoying, always chirping after the whistle and getting in scrums. I'm not comparing his skill level but he has a lot of Dustin Pedroia in him in terms of cockiness and confidence. Just like Michael Ryder in Game 4 and Horton last night, Marchand's goal in Game 5 also had to be the top one of his life.

The first goal of Marchand's playoff career, it gave Boston a 1-0 lead at 4:33 of the third period from Patrice Bergeron and Tomas Kaberle. At that point, it felt like that might be the only goal needed to win it.

Props to the Canadiens though as they tied it at 13:56 as Jeff Halpern took advantage of yet another bad clear in the Bruins' defensive zone. Lars Eller and Mathieu Darche assisted on Halpern's first of the series. Thomas had no chance to save it from so close.

In a game like this, some plays stand out even if they don't result in goals. Two such cases were a sprawled out save that Ryder (yes Ryder) made when Thomas was out of position during regulation. Later in overtime, Chara's legs blocked a Montreal shot that similarly would have beaten Thomas.

The Bruins couldn't possibly have anymore momentum in this series after winning the last three games, including two at the Bell Centre and the last two in overtime. Still, that could all change if they lose on Tuesday. They have the Canadiens on the ropes and in the playoffs, you absolutely have to eliminate teams when you get the chance. Play your game on Tuesday, take the yahoos out of it and get the hell out of that joke of a city.

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