Bruins taking lessons, sense of fight into 2nd-round matchup with Panthers

BOSTON — Boston Bruins coach Jim Montgomery wanted to do something different with his team heading into a first-round Game 7 matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Bruins were facing the prospect of blowing back-to-back 3-1 leads in the opening round and a sense of impending doom hung over the team.

Montgomery hoped a little change of scenery might do the trick. So instead of sleeping in their own beads ahead of the winner-take-all game Saturday night, they stayed at a hotel and took buses to TD Garden.

“The thinking was, we’re 2-5 at home the last two years in the playoffs, and what’s going to allow us to eliminate the noise?” Montgomery said.

He thought back to a visit he made to the New England Patriots’ spring minicamp last year. There he spoke with former coach Bill Belichick about the importance of limiting distractions.

“It’s something that stuck with me. And it’s something that I’ve been preaching as the playoffs have been nearing,” he said.

It just may have saved Boston’s season.

The Bruins overcame a deficit to tie it in regulation, then David Pastrnak scored 1:54 into overtime and the Bruins beat the Maple Leafs 2-1.

It was the kind of total team performance Montgomery was aiming for since taking a 3-1 lead on Toronto.

It was also a slump-busing night for Pastrnak, who had a team-high four shots on goal after posting just two goals and two assists through six games. His puck handling was integral to jumpstarting Boston’s offense in the third period and in overtime.

“A little relief as well,” Pastrnak said. “Obviously, the happiness from the group and sticking together the whole series was unbelievable and we couldn’t be prouder of ourselves.”

Boston moves into the next round with netminder Jeremy Swayman playing at nearly his highest level of the season. Since Montgomery stopped alternating Linus Ullmark and Swayman in Game 3, Swayman hasn’t allowed more than two goals in a game.

“He was our best player in the series and it’s not close,” Montgomery said.

It helped them narrowly avoid becoming the first NHL, NBA or Major League Baseball team to lose consecutive best-of-seven series after holding a 3-1 lead.

Montgomery said it is an experience he thinks will help them going forward.

“I think we’re a better team because of what we just went through. Now they know what it takes to push through,” he said. “First round’s the wild, wild west. It usually is. This year it seems like there’s only two Game 7s. But usually there’s six.”

And next up is another chance at redemption against a Florida Panthers team that rallied from 3-1 in last year’s first round to send home a Bruins team that set league records for wins and points in the regular season.

“That’s playoff hockey,” Montgomery said. “Last year had no bearing on how this was going to bear out. We knew that. It’s a storyline, and that’s part of what comes with playoffs. That’s going to happen. But at the end of the day, we did a great job staying in moment, believing in our group. And we came out on top.”


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