MONTREAL Three days ago he was being called Newfoundland luggage. But today Michael Ryder can shed the baggage and stand tall after coming through for a Bruins team in need.
Ryder has made a habit of doing that during the playoffs with Boston, and hes got 11 postseason goals in three playoff seasons.
The Bs right winger was held silent in the first three games of the seven game playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens, but Ryder's bookend goal explosion included the overtime game-winner for Boston in an epic 5-4 victory at the Bell Centre.
After we got down 3-1 we just regrouped a little bit, and we managed to get back to our game. We tied it up and kept pushing it from there, said Ryder, who notched his fourth career multigoal game in the playoffs on Thursday night. Its pretty exciting to score, but Im just happy that we won the game. It shows that in playoff-time you never quit. That was a big character win for our team.
I knew I was working hard. Even though I wasnt generating much from it, coach Claude Julien had a confidence in our line and it shows. Sometimes its about showing people that I can still play, and that Ive still got it.
The come-from-behind win most importantly evened up the playoff series with the Montreal Canadiens at 2-2, but also managed to illustrate Julien pushing all the perfect buttons to make the victory happen.
The Bs coach eschewed all suggestions he shake things up when things appeared to be at their worst and refused to make big lineup changes prior to the two games in Montreal. Instead, Julien stuck it out with proven playoff performers and criticism magnets like Ryder and Chris Kelly. Both maligned forwards came through with three points apiece.
Jaws could be heard dropping all over New England as Ryder, Kelly and linemate Rich Peverley alternated making plays during the final 42 minutes of Game 4, and essentially outplayed the more hyped trio of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton.
It was the kind of game that can tease everyone into thinking Ryder is capable of more than hes shown over his last two NHL seasons, but a couple of goals can also be a harbinger of an upcoming hot streak for Ryder. It was also the kind of team victory that shows something, but they had the Bruins having plenty of guts and real live cojones when it matters.
The first Ryder surprise strike came just minutes into the second period after the Bruins had been outplayed badly in the first 20 minutes, and was vintage Ryder with a quick snap shot over Carey Prices glove hand. That gave Boston life when they were wandering around the feverish Bell Centre without a spark, but the Canadiens answered right back with two more goals on defensive breakdowns.
A Shawn Thornton giveaway turned into a Mike Cammalleri score when Bostons fourth line was stuck out on the ice against Montreals best, and the Habs called again 55 seconds later with an Andrei Kostitsyn goal that made it a 3-1 lead for Montreal.
Thats when Julien put his second imprint on the games design. The Bs coach rarely calls a timeout in the first two periods of a hockey game, but he did on this day when Montreal had scored a pair of quick goals and looked ready to run the Bruins right out of the Bell Centre.
Highly predictable Julien became a little less easy to pin down when he threw out the hockey coaching manual, and simply went by feel.
It was good to let us take a deep breath, said Andrew Ference. Guys did a lot better job . . . where we learned our lesson after the first couple of games where they got the first goal. It was almost like we were reeling. It happened a few times tonight where they went ahead, but this a much different feeling on the bench. It was a different feeling in the locker room. It was nice when you look around and see in guys eyes that theyve learned lessons from things that happened before.
Montreal forwards Scott Gomez and Kostitsyn were both spotted giggling and laughing like hyenas on the Montreal bench while staked to a 3-1 lead in the middle of the second period, and message seemed to be clear that some of the Habs players thought the game was all over.
Instead the Bs outshot the Canadiens by a 23-9 margin for the rest of regulation and overtime, and Julien masterfully picked the right time to settle his players back into a game that had must win written all over it. The Bs coach also recognized that things werent working with the defensive pairings, and he finally made the correct call to yank way back on Tomas Kaberles ice time while placing him in a bottom-six role with Adam McQuaid.
Hes part of this team, and Julien has as good a read as anybody on the character of guys on thus team, said Ference. Thats job. Hes our coach and he knows us batter than anybody else.
The coaching decisions and technique have certainly come under a degree of scrutiny with playoff lives on the line, but theyve also been making good personnel and strategy decisions all over the ice. Doug Houda works with the defensive pairings, and along with Julien both have encouraged the proper perspective of putting together a group of defensemen pairings that shine with experience and offensive ability. Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara are chocking well over a combined 30 minutes in the last couple of games, and its translated into needed playoff victories.
I dont know if its about character as much as its about guys controlling their emotions and going out and having a solid shift even if theyre down after the other team has scored on them, said Ference.
The Bruins proved they could do that in one of the most difficult arenas to play on the planet. With the win, the players in the Bruins' locker room knew not only that they are characters, but that they have character, too.