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Bruins avoid another 3-1 series lead in Game 7. Now they get a chance for revenge against Panthers – Hartford Courant

By KYLE HIGHTOWER (AP Sports Writer)

BOSTON (AP) — Boston Bruins coach Jim Montgomery wanted to do something different with his team heading into a Game 7 first-round matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Bruins were faced with the prospect of taking a 3-1 lead in the opening round and a sense of impending doom hung over the team.

Montgomery hoped a small change of scenery would be enough. So instead of sleeping in their own beds ahead of Saturday night’s winner-take-all game, they stayed in a hotel and took buses to TD Garden.

“The thought was we were 2-5 at home in the playoffs the last two years, and what’s going to allow us to eliminate the noise?” Montgomery said.

He thought back to a visit he made last year to the New England Patriots’ spring minicamp. There he spoke with former coach Bill Belichick about the importance of limiting distractions.

“It’s something that stuck with me. And it’s something I’ve been preaching as the playoffs approach,” he said.

It might have saved Boston’s season.

The Bruins overcame a deficit to tie the score, then David Pastrnak scored 1:54 into overtime and the Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs 2–1.

It was the kind of total team performance Montgomery has been striving for since taking a 3-1 lead over Toronto.

It was also a bad night for Pastrnak, who had four shots on target with his team after scoring just two goals and two assists in six games. His puck handling was integral in igniting Boston’s offense in the third period and in overtime.

“Also a little bit of relief,” Pastrnak said. “The happiness of the group and staying together throughout the entire series was obviously incredible and we couldn’t be more proud of ourselves.”

Boston advances to the next round, with netminder Jeremy Swayman playing at near his highest level of the season. Since Montgomery stopped alternating Linus Ullmark and Swayman in Game 3, Swayman has not allowed more than two goals in a game.

“He was our best player in the series and it’s not close,” Montgomery said.

It helped them narrowly avoid becoming the first NHL, NBA or Major League Baseball team to lose consecutive best-of-seven series after leading 3–1.

Montgomery said it’s an experience he thinks will help them move forward.

“I think we are a better team because of what we just went through. Now they know what it takes to get through it,” he said. “The first round is the wild, wild west. Usually that is the case. This year it looks like there will only be two Game 7s. But usually there are six.”

And next up is another chance at redemption against a Florida Panthers team that rallied from 3-1 in last year’s first round to send home a Bruins team that set league records for regular-season wins and points .

“That’s playoff hockey,” Montgomery said. “Last year had no influence on how this would turn out. We knew that. It’s a storyline, and that’s part of the playoffs. That’s going to happen. But in the end, we did a fantastic job of staying in the moment and believing in our group. And we came out on top.”


AP NHL Playoffs: and