MONTREAL -- The Bruins might still be embroiled in a playoff dogfight with the Montreal Canadiens that’s tied at 2-2, and they may have some top players who are still struggling to find their postseason groove. But the 1-0 overtime win over the Habs in Game 4 was all about 23-year-old Matt Fraser, who was called up to the NHL by the Bruins on Thursday morning with zero idea he’d end up playing the hero.
Popping the OT shot certainly made up for missing on a hot-potato rebound at his feet from a Dougie Hamilton point shot deflected by Carey Price at the end of the second period. It would have been sweet to score in regulation with his third line dominating play against Montreal’s bottom pairing defensemen, but Fraser was okay waiting until the first few minutes of overtime.
It's the kind of "different hero for each game" phenomenon that can oftentimes mark the portrait of a champion.
“Words can’t even describe that feeling” said Fraser, who headed to Montreal after putting up three goals and five points in five AHL playoff games for the Providence Bruins against the Springfield Falcons. “I don’t know that I can begin to describe it because that is something that every kid should feel. It just happened like a blur. The puck was bobbling around in front, and I just tried to sniff it out and whack it in.
“As you can tell from my voice, I’m pretty excited. I hardly slept today. I’m sure I’ll hardly sleep tonight. But at the same time you’ve got to keep it in perspective. It’s just one game, we’ve evened the series and now we need to go back to Boston with the same kind of effort.”
Old hand Jarome Iginla had an amused smile on his face in the post-Game 4 dressing room, talking about Fraser's playoff heroics.
“It’s pretty cool just getting the win, but those kinds of moments are the ones you dream about as a kid,” said Iginla. “Getting called up and an OT goal, and not just an OT goal but the only goal in the game. It’s a pretty cool story, and their whole line was getting chances all night.”
Coach Claude Julien was impressed by Fraser's play throughout the game, and credited general manager Peter Chiarelli for making the move.
“I liked his game,’’ said Julien. “Not because he scored, but his whole game . . . The GM probably deserves that credit, he's the one that called him up."
The GM also probably deserves credit for the fact that the Bruins' two game-winners in this series have come from two forwards (Fraser and Reilly Smith) acquired in the Tyler Seguin deal.
In any case, it was a whirlwind 24 hours for Fraser, who got the playoff word from assistant general manager Don Sweeney on Wednesday while eating lunch at a Chipotle in the Providence area. The Bruins decided they wanted a little more offense on the third line with Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson.
In his previous stints with the Black and Gold this season, Fraser had been forced to play his “off” right wing and that made the already difficult NHL adjustment all the tougher for a very skilled offensive forward. He was more comfortable Thursday night at his normal left-wing position.
No matter where he plays, Fraser has the NHL shot and release that allowed him to pile up 90 goals in the AHL over the last three seasons. But it wasn’t the shot or release that got him the goal in overtime on Thursday night. Instead it was a greasy dirty goal after he crashed the net, and beat Montreal's gargantuan defenseman, Douglas Murray, to a loose puck in front of the net.
The play had started with a big Johnny Boychuk blast from the point, and continued with Soderberg battling for a change in front of the net while jostling with Lars Eller. The attention paid to the Big Swede allowed Fraser to jump up into the play and somehow slip the puck past Carey Price.
A big-time moment under a very bright spotlight.
“There are more people in this media scrum than there are fans in Providence," quipped Fraser to the assemblage of reporters. "It’s not a ‘dis’ to Providence, but this is such a cool atmosphere here, and such a cool atmosphere to be a part of.”
Now Fraser and the rest of the Bruins head back to Boston, and will look for their next storybook hero for Game 5 now that the young B’s prospect had his cool moment in the playoff sun.