CSNNE.com staff and wire reports
BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins thought they excised the specter of last season's postseason collapse when they finished off the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals this year.
Turns out it was just a warmup for Friday night.
The Bruins avoided another, less apocalyptic collapse by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 and advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals. But a collapse it would have been, since the Bruins a) couldn't protect a three-goal lead in Game 4, and b) couldn't close out Tampa Bay in Game 6 with a 3-2 series lead.
But the B's didn't focus on failures of the past.
"Our guys are not discouraged or disappointed," said coach Claude Julien prior to the game. "The past is the past. We've got an opportunity to win a hockey game and get into the Stanley Cup Finals."
An opportunity they took advantage of.
The Bruins spent most of this season trying to forget what happened in last year's playoffs, when the Flyers rallied from a 3-0 deficit to force a seventh game and then trailed 3-0 in Game 7 before winning to advance to the conference finals. Boston swept Philadelphia this year in Round 2, but that didn't mean Bruins fans were ready to get comfortable when the team got a big lead.
In Game 4, with Boston already leading the series 2-1, the Bruins opened up a 3-0 lead before allowing five unanswered goals. The Bruins also led 3-2 in the series, with a 2-1 lead after one period of Game 6 on Wednesday night, before the Lightning scored three in a row and eventually won 5-4.
That sent the teams back to Boston for Game 7.
But the Bruins felt the pressure fell on both teams equally.
"When it all comes down to one game, I think the pressure is on both teams," said Patrice Bergeron. "You shouldn't allow pressure to get into your head. Just go out there and play your game."
Although the Bruins could call upon their experience in Game 7 against Montreal in the first round, Tampa Bay was much more familiar with elimination games. The Lightning fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in the first round before winning three straight to advance; Wednesday's victory over Boston made them 4-0 this season in elimination games.
Now, however, it's 4-1.