You really got a hold on me

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You really got a hold on me

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

Following a sports team is like being in a relationship.

Some people just want to have fun. They're your Bandwagoners. Hop on while the thing is speeding toward Title Town and safely tuck and roll right before it crashes. These "fans" are thrill seekers, Good Time Guys (and Girls). They're the first ones to pop the cork on the champagne and start the chants. They also spook at the smallest threat of emotional attachment.

On the second tier sit the Day-by-Day, good-natured grinders. These fans watch at least 70 percent of games. They're invested but maintain some independence and outside interests. You will never hear a DBDer say "I could marry her" after two weeks of dating, nor would a DBDer freak out and say the entire Red Sox season is a wash after going 2-10 over the first 12. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen; it'll work out eventually. Fans this rational and mellow are considered mythical beings on par with centaurs and puck-moving defensemen.

Then there are those who believe in "till death do us part." These are diehard fans, or, masochists. They used to have six empty seats to each side during Celtics games and reveled in the exclusivity. They not only hated the post-2004 Red Sox popularity boon, but still fantasize about hunting down pink hats during the playoffs. They would never make fun of Tom Brady for anything, ever, because He raised Us up to Greatness. They're locked in to the Bruins for better or for worse, from preseason to offseason.

They're the ones hitting the ceiling of hell right now.

The Bruins are in the Eastern Conference finals (tied 2-2 with Tampa Bay) for the first time since 1992. It is, all at once, the most glorious and excruciating sports circumstance of the last two decades. The highs are astronomical: Tyler Seguin's two-goal, four-point accession in a 6-5 win. The lows feel irrecoverable: The surrender of a 3-0 lead -- mounted in the first period -- on five unanswered Tampa Bay goals.

"They'll only break your heart," they say.

I heard a lot of this grumbling on Saturday. When the Lightning evened the series at two, younger fans were angry but probably believed more in humanity's Rapture than Boston's.

The others were comfortably disgruntled.

"Figures."

How to cope? As in any relationship: Defense mechanisms.

They claim they never got their hopes up. They remember Ray Bourque and the ugly way he hit the wall in Boston. The guy -- one they loved -- dedicated his life to them for two decades just to realize he could only achieve ultimate happiness somewhere else. It was heartbreaking. Bourque returned to Boston with the Cup. He wanted to remind Bruins fans they had his heart; they showed up to reassure Bourque they still treasured it and the effort he gave. A bittersweet moment. Borrowed joy.

Someone Else's Cup would never be cheered again.

No matter how devoted, a person will grow impatient waiting for things to "work out". I get that. I know a girl who thinks, at 25, she's past due for an engagement ring and she doesn't even have a boyfriend. If I told her to imagine waiting 39 years, her head would explode.

It doesn't mean the oldest Bruins fan you know is too hardened to believe in Boston; he does. He's biting back so hard on hope he tastes blood.

He just won't gush about it.

There's too much to lose. If the Bruins blow the series, Bandwagoners will hop off and be no worse for wear. The Dailies will be disappointed but slide over to baseball for a bounce back. Diehards? Most will scoff and say they expected the worst all along. They'll cover the hurt with bitter bluster.

On the other hand, a series win -- a trip to the Stanley Cup finals -- will lift them up one cloud from Heaven.

Makes sense. The toughest relationships always seem to have the sweetest payoffs.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Bruins rebound from 3-0 deficit but wind up losing to Caps in overtime

Bruins rebound from 3-0 deficit but wind up losing to Caps in overtime

WASHINGTON -- The Capitals didn't exactly end their overtime victory with a raucous celebration.

No, instead Washington held a players-only meeting, still salty over blowing a three-goal lead.

Nicklas Backstrom scored 1:36 into overtime, helping the Capitals beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 to avert a disastrous defeat Wednesday night.

Justin Williams scored twice and Daniel Winnik also had a goal to put Washington ahead 3-0 about six minutes into the second period.

After Winnik's tally, Washington went over 26 minutes without a shot on goal. Boston dominated the final five minutes of the second period, when Dominic Moore and David Pastrnak beat goaltender Braden Holtby. Colin Miller's power-play score 8:19 into third tied it at 3-3.

Backstrom saved the day, but not the Capitals from feeling uneasy.

"In the second and third period they outplayed," Backstrom said. "We were lucky that we came up with two points. We're not satisfied at all. We're happy with the two points, but not the way we played."

The locker room remained closed for approximately 15 minutes after the win, Washington's second in a row after losing three straight.

"We had a little talking here," said T.J. Oshie, who returned to the lineup for the first time since injuring his shoulder on Nov. 18. "There are some things we've got to clean up. I think it's more of a mentality more than it is the systems or anything like that. ... Once we get a step up on someone, we have to get that mentality that we're going to finish them off."

Evgeny Kuznetsov had two assists for the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin got his first point since Nov. 26.

Boston arrived in Washington 4-0-1 over its last five games with three wins in a row, including a 4-3 overtime triumph against Florida on Monday night. The Bruins outshot Washington 34-20.

"Hell of an effort. We got a big point for us. To comeback from 3-0 against Washington, it's not that easy," Pastrnak said. "Too bad we couldn't get the two points, but in this case the one point is huge for us."

Backstrom patiently waited on the right side before firing the winner past goaltender Tuukka Rask, who entered second in the league with a 1.68 goals-against average. Rask allowed three goals in his previous outing, too.

Williams had two goals over the first 24 games this season, but he matched that total less than eight minutes in against the Bruins. He redirected Kuznetsov's lofted centering pass past Rask for a 1-0 lead just 23 seconds into the first period.

"To be honest it's nice to see the puck go in the net," Williams said. "I've been pressing and working hard. Hopefully this can springboard me to some more production."

Matt Niskanen left with an upper-body injury and did not return. With the Caps down a defenseman, Boston outshot Washington 11-2 in the second period.

"In the second period, we just sort of sat back," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "It's hard to protect leads in the league."

The Capitals' second goal also occurred in front of the net. Williams emerged from a scramble with a shot that slithered under Rask.

NOTES: With his 673rd career win, Trotz passed Mike Keenan (672) for eighth place on the NHL's career wins list. ... Williams' first goal was the fastest for Washington since 2012. ... Boston assigned F Noel Acciari to the Providence Bruins two days after the 24-year forward returned to practice. Acciari injured his right leg on Nov. 7. ... Holtby improved to 10-2 career against the Bruins. His first career win came in relief against Boston in November 2010. ... The three-game season series resumes Feb. 1 in Washington.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Host Colorado on Thursday night.

Capitals: Play at Buffalo on Friday night.