Orfao: Bruins, Leafs meet again … oh, the memories

  • The Boston Bruins and their fans celebrate as they swarm center Patrice Bergeron, who scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference quarterfinals. AP file

  • Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, right, is embraced by teammate Zdeno Chara, left, after scoring the game winning goal off Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer during overtime in Game 7 of their NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Boston, Monday, May 13, 2013. The Bruins won 5-4. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa—AP

  • Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (37) and teammate Nathan Horton, rear, celebrate after beating the Toronto Maple Leafs during overtime in Game 7 of their NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Boston, Monday, May 13, 2013. Bergeron scored the game-winning goal as the Bruins won 5-4. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa—AP

  • Boston’s Patrice Bergeron (37) is embraced by teammate Zdeno Chara (33) after Bergeron scored the game-winning goal during overtime in Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference quarterfinals. AP file

Monitor staff
Thursday, April 12, 2018

I will always appreciate my neighbors for not calling the police.

It was a run-of-the-mill Monday night in western Pennsylvania as silence erupted into an array of screeches, howls and screams. It was the fourth such occurrence over the past hour, and this burst of shrieks was by far the most raucous.

Patrice Bergeron had just scored in overtime to cap a historic comeback for the Boston Bruins against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference quarterfinals, and I was running laps around my tiny apartment in Butler, Pa., like an exuberant dog circles the room when its owner walks through the door after a two-week vacation.

It was a rare example of the where-were-you moment; the kind of game many fans remember forever – where they were, the people they were with and the overwhelming feeling that followed.

Bearing down on my 33rd birthday, I can recall a handful of other Boston where-were-you moments – Patriots upset Rams for first Super Bowl (T.J.’s house), Aaron Bleeping Boone in 2003 (SNHU’s Hillsboro 27), Red Sox reverse the curse (SNHU’s Conway Hall), Celtics erase 24-point deficit to beat Lakers in 2008 Finals (Jillian’s), Malcolm Butler’s interception in Super Bowl 49 (Claremont) and Julian Edelman’s catch in Super Bowl 51 (Manchester) – but even though the Bruins went on to lose in the Cup finals, their improbable rally in Game 7 over the Leafs sticks with me like few others.

Maybe that’s because it’s the only where-were-you moment where it was only me. There were no hugs, no high-fives and no distractions from the disbelief. Just me, bouncing around like a mad man as my future ex-girlfriend tried to sleep in the next room.

On the eve of another East quarterfinal series between the Bruins and Leafs – and the first since that heart-thumping Game 7 – I decided to treat myself with the highlights from that night. I suggest every Boston fan does the same before the puck drops Thursday at 7 p.m.

In hindsight, it’s almost amusing to hear the life get sucked out of TD Garden when Nazem Kadri’s rebound goal left Tuukka Rask helplessly flailing between the pipes and gave Toronto a 4-1 lead with 14:31 to go. Even Jack Edwards, NESN’s passionate play-by-play man, had to admit the season was seemingly over as the Bruins were on the verge of coughing up a 3-1 series advantage.

“The Toronto Maple Leafs, unless they suffer a colossal collapse, are going to eliminate the Boston Bruins,” Edwards said. “Fourteen minutes is a lot of hockey, and Boston is going to have to score as many goals in that stretch of time as it has in the last three games.”

Nathan Horton gave the Bruins life with a goal assisted by Milan Lucic with 10:42 to go. With Rask on the bench for an extra skater, Lucic pounded in a rebound with 1:22 left to make it a one-goal game. Thirty seconds later, Bergeron sniped one past Toronto goalie James Reimer to force overtime.

Setting a screen in front, the 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara jumped from the ice like an 8-year-old scoring his first youth hockey goal when the puck hit the twine. Fans at TD Garden went insane, many throwing complimentary towels onto the ice to cause a slight delay and a harsh warning from the PA announcer.

Six minutes into overtime, the comeback was complete.

Johnny Boychuk drives one from the blue line – saved. Brad Marchand collects, finds Bergeron for a shot – saved. Tyler Seguin kicks out the rebound, Bergeron – scores.

Edwards, not long removed from practically pronouncing the season over, declared the Maple Leafs dead: “Patrice Bergeron! With the point of the dagger at their throats, they rip it out of Toronto’s hands and kill the beast! The Boston Bruins have won it after being three down in the third!”

We return to the scene of the crime Thursday. The Garden will be rocking, and the Bruins will need to be at their best to dispatch the unquestionably motivated and talented Toronto Maple Leafs.

It’s only a first-round series, and Bruins fans hope Toronto is simply the initial step in the quest for Boston’s seventh Stanley Cup. Still, it’s a must-watch event. You never know when the B’s might deliver another where-were-you moment.

I hope your neighbors understand.

(Jason Orfao can be reached at jorfao@cmonitor.com or on Twitter