Bruins show a champions' poise in forcing Game 7


Bruins show a champions' poise in forcing Game 7

WASHINGTON DC Things werent trending all that positively for the Bruins headed into the third period.

The score was tied at 2-2, of course and the Bruins were still hanging with the Washington Capitals while their Verizon Center home was rocking. The Caps had just outshot the Bruins by a 15-5 margin in the middle period and the Bs had frittered away a four-minute power play created when Alex Ovechkin gashed Zdeno Chara in the forehead with a high stick.

In an elimination game where Bostons playoff lives hung in the balance, things probably could have been moving in a more positive fashion. But thats when the Bruins hunkered down, tapped into their previous Stanley Cup-winning experience when their collective backs were against the wall and started treating things on the ice like it was go time for the reigning champs.

It certainly keeps your heart rate down, said a smiling Andrew Ference after he potted a pivotal third period rebound goal that allowed things to go to overtime. Thats probably the biggest thing with playing in a lot of pressure situations and playoff games. Its hard to play in them when your heart beat doesnt slow down and youre sweating twice as much.

While Ference brings 105 games of NHL playoff experience to the table and certainly isnt fazed by big game situations or elimination scenarios -- and even tosses the occasional unintentional bird out there at a particularly relentless crowd even relative newcomers to the postseason way of life can feel the difference. Gregory Campbell had never been to the playoffs before logging his 25 games of experience with the Bruins en route to the Stanley Cup last year. But he more than made up for it with a career full of experiences in last years sprint to the Cup, and recognized the quiet determination running their locker room headed into Sundays third period and overtime sessions.

The Bruins didnt know whether they were going to win or lose, but they werent going to blink when it mattered. Ference scored his goal to give the Bruins their go-ahead chance in the third period, and the Bs refused to fold when Alex Ovechkin tied it back up with a missile off an offensive zone face-off.

Its huge. For teams to win you always hear people resort to the face that we have experience. Fortunately we have a team-full of experienced players right now, said Campbell. Its not a guarantee, but it certainly is a huge help for us to have been through so many things during the playoffs: Game 7s or being down in series.

The playoffs are a roller coaster of emotions and were just riding the wave. Not only has the series been up and down, but every game has been up and down. Its been back-and-forth, and the key to it all is to remain calm.

That calmness was coming through loud and clear as the Bruins outshot the Caps 3-1 in the opening minutes of overtime, and they were simply looking for their first opening to force a Game 7 back in Boston. Seguin supplied that chance with a calm, poised, confident move setting up the overtime score that personified the champions swagger heading into the extra session.

The best part about Bostons heart of a champion coming to the forefront: the Bruins should have a distinct advantage on Wednesday night at TD Garden after taking home three Game 7 scenarios last year.

It comes into a factor if you use it the right way. The same goes for Game 7, said Ference. Maybe we can draw on some of that experience and ride that line of excitement and keeping your wits about you.

Game notes: Patriots vs. Steelers


Game notes: Patriots vs. Steelers

A quick look at the information you need to know about today's Patriots-Steelers game:

TEAM RECORDS: Patriots 5-1, Steelers 4- 2

GAME TIME: 4:25 p.m. EST


TV ANNOUNCERS: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Tracy Wolfson


NATIONAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Larry Kahn, Mark Carrier and Troy West

LOCAL RADIO NETWORK: Anchored by WBZ-FM (98.5 The Sports Hub)

LOCAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Bob Socci and Scott Zolak


LAST MEETING: Patriots 28, Steelers 21 on Sept. 10, 2015 at Gillette Stadium

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-- The Patriots are 8-11 against the Steelers in Pittsburgh in their history, but are 4-2 at Heinz Field. Included in those four Heinz Field victories are two in AFC Championship Games (in the 2001 and 2004 seasons).

-- Tom Brady is 8-2 against the Steelers in his career.

-- The last time Brady played the Steelers, in 2015, he set a Patriots franchise record with 19 consecutive pass completions.

-- The Patriots are 108-70 (.607) in road games since 1994, the best record in the NFL over that span. The Steelers (97- 82, .542) are second.

-- The Patriots have yet to throw an interception in 2016, setting a team record for consecutive games without an interception at the start of a season (6). The NFL record for consecutive games at the start of a season without a pick is 9, set by the 1960 Browns. The Patriots' franchise record for overall consecutive games with no interceptions is 8, set in 2010.

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-- Rob Gronkowski has 67 overall touchdowns and needs one to tie Stanley Morgan (68) for the franchise record.

-- Gronkowski has 66 receiving touchdowns and needs one to tie Morgan (67) for the franchise record.

-- Gronkowski has 22 100-yard receiving games, including two in 2016, and is tied with Jackie Smith for the third-most among all NFL tight ends. The only TEs who have more are Kellen Winslow (24) and Tony Gonzalez (31).

Haggerty: Bruins continue to stumble against Canadiens at home

Haggerty: Bruins continue to stumble against Canadiens at home

BOSTON -- One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Much like Charlie Brown was never going to actually kick the football before Lucy pulled it away, it feels like the Bruins are never again going to beat the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden. They failed again Saturday night, never holding a lead at any point as they dropped their ninth straight home game to the Habs, 4-2.

Bruins-Canadiens games in Boston have become the hockey version of 'Groundhog Day', as the same patterns emerge over and over again: Montreal's speed forces the Bruins into mistakes with the puck; Habs players draw the B’s into taking bad penalties; Carey Price dominates in goal. It's been that way ever since the last Bruin victory over Montreal at the Garden, on Jan. 12, 2012. To put it perspective, Tim Thomas and Tyler Seguin were still Bruins back then.

Saturday night's loss, though, had a little added twist: The B's second-period woes, such a problem last year, reared its ugly head again.

“[The second period was] terrible, and that’s where it really hurt us," said Claude Julien. "I thought we played well (in the first period) . . . But the second period came back to haunt us. We were flat coming out. We didn’t make good outlet passes, and we spent way too much time in our own end, and because of that, it gave them some momentum. And by the end of it, we cheated ourselves a little bit, and pucks ended up in the back of our net . . .

"[When] you give up four goals to Montreal, and you have Price at the other end, it’s pretty hard to beat that team. So we needed to be better . . . [We] shot ourselves in the foot with some real poor mistakes, and we can’t afford to do that against the Montreal Canadiens."

The Bruins were essentially done for after a couple of very typical Boston-Montreal plays went against them in the middle 20 minutes.

The first was a defensive coverage breakdown in the D-zone that allowed both Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher to operate with time and space. Five B’s players simply watched as Gallagher smoked a one-timer from the outside of the left circle that eluded Anton Khudobin.

Then, later in the period, John-Michael Liles misread a play where he pinched deep in the offensive zone and couldn’t control the puck. As a result, Alexander Radulov worked a 2-on-1 with Phillip Danault to skilled perfection on a typical Habs transition play.

"I think our second period has got to be better overall," said Patrice Bergeron. "We talked about them having a good forecheck . . . [but] we didn’t make the easy plays too many times. When you do that, it creates turnovers and you spend more time in your zone than you’d like to."

From there, it was just more of the same. Playing with the lead, Montreal was able to neutralize Bergeron and Brad Marchand; Bergeron never got a shot on goal. Price came up big when he had to, shutting down a couple of Ryan Spooner chances.

And Bruin weaknesses were exposed, things Julien and the coaching staff may have to address. It looks like it’s time to move on from the Joe Morrow/Torey Krug defense pairing; it's simply not working. (Krug, in particular, was a minus-3 and made mistakes all over the ice.) They also may need to switch things up with the forwards, as they're getting zippo offensively from their second and third lines.

To their credit, the Bruins never packed it in. They hung in and made plays in the third period to keep the game close, right up to the 6-on-3 advantage they had at the end. But there are no consolation prizes or moral victories in the Boston-Montreal rivalry, especially when the Habs have made it so one-sided.

To be a true rivalry, you need equal rivals. And the Bruins, especially at home, aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.