CHICAGO – Nobody would blame Chris Kelly if he started to wonder if the day would ever come that he’d be the playoff hero this spring.
He went 17 postseason games without a single point. Not only that, but he awas one of the B’s players that had a rough go it in the Game 1 triple overtime loss with a minus-3 and exactly zero shots on net in more than 27 minutes of ice time.
But Saturday night’s Game 2 was a new day, and Kelly made the most of it with a second-period goal that sparked the Bruins to a 2-1 overtime victory at the United Center.
The goal was his first in the playoffs since Game 1 in last year’s first round defeat at the hands of the Washington Capitals. It had also been 23 games overall for Kelly since he’d scored a goal, with his last coming on April 17 during the regular season.
“I think he's been snake bitten for quite a while,” said coach Claude Julien. “When you don't score, eventually you get scored on, and the minuses keep creeping up. That was certainly something that bothered him. [But] I thought he played well tonight. He's played well in some games. He hasn't been able to produce. So tonight is a good night for him, a good time to obviously have a great game.
“His effort and his will to be a better player was always there. You're just waiting and hoping for that moment. Tonight was a great night for that to happen.”
Kelly was more than overdue when he knocked in the rebound of a Daniel Paille wraparound attempt with little more than five minutes remaining in the second period. Tyler Seguin started the play by harassing Michael Rozsival behind the net, and forcing a turnover that was picked up by Paille. The B’s forward pulled out a toe drag move that left young defenseman Nick Leddy in the dust and pushed the wraparound attempt on Chicago goalie Corey Crawford, leading to the rebound for Kelly.
The first goal turned out to be a reward for Julien, who had the good sense to put Kelly and Paille together with Seguin to start the second period coming off a god-awful opening 20 minutes for the Black and Gold.
It’s a wonder both teams kept on playing after Kelly poked home the loose puck, given that the Bruins are now a perfect 7-0 in the Stanley Cup playoffs over the last three years when he scores a goal.
That’s why he was wearing the Bruins Army Ranger jacket at the postgame press conference on Saturday night, and talking about finally breaking a slump that’s been going on for the last six weeks.
“I think it's even more important to play the other parts of the game when you're not contributing offensively,” said Kelly. “I think you need to pick up other aspects of your game to make them better in order to be a better all-around player. Everyone would love to score and score consistently. For whatever reason, I haven't.
“I try to stay positive. As long as the team's doing well, I know that's kind of a cliché, but that's kind of how our room is. On any given night, someone can step up.”
It was more than time for Kelly to step up as the Bruins have been looking for more production and involvement out of their bottom-six forwards during the Stanley Cup Finals. David Krejci's line and Patrice Bergeron's line have carried the Bruins for much of the playoffs, but they needed somebody else to step up and provide some offense if Boston was going to come out of Chicago with a win.
Kelly was one of those guys in an important Game 2 win, and it’s been a long time coming for a conscientious team leader that’s endured a challenging season of many more downs than ups. But scoring a goal to snap Boston out of their first-period stupor has to be considered Kelly’s biggest “up” of the season.