BOSTON — John Tortorella hadn’t even walked out of TD Garden on Saturday night before he was guaranteeing another visit here for his Columbus Blue Jackets.
“Things happen for a reason and I truly believe that,” said Tortorella. “We’ll be back here for Game 7.”
Who could blame him for wanting to see more hockey after one of the most entertaining periods of the entire Stanley Cup Playoffs thus far?
Of course, the Blue Jackets coach was primarily trying to break out the paddles and shock his squad back to life in the wake of a roller-coaster third period where it fought back from a two-goal deficit and still lost, 4-3, to the Boston Bruins.
It’s a tactic he employed without success last spring, when the promise of a seventh game in the first round against Washington went up in smoke with a Game 6 loss on home ice.
Columbus has to beat Boston at Nationwide Arena on Monday night or another season will end in identical fashion.
The first order of business will be putting this devastating loss behind them quickly. Game 5 was there for the taking. A whiff of chaos hung in the air during a third period that started at 1-0 for Boston and saw goals start going in from all over the place. Columbus erased deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 … and still allowed David Pastrnak to break free for the winner with 1:28 to play.
“My heart was beating pretty fast there,” said Bruins defenceman Charlie McAvoy, who came up with a huge shot block on Artemi Panarin in the dying seconds. “My goal in every game is to have as much fun as I can and realize just how blessed and how thankful I am to be in these opportunities, but it’s hard.
“The emotions ran high there at the end. Just really fortunate to get that win there.”
The final period saw 28 total shots on goal and 29 scoring chances, according to naturalstattrick.com.
Brad Marchand was robbed by Sergei Bobrovsky on once chance, but tucked the rebound under the bar to make it 2-0. Then Seth Jones got Columbus on the board with a shot from the corner that glanced off Matt Grzelcyk’s stick and required a five-minute review to prove definitively that it squeezed past Tuukka Rask’s left pad.
Forty-three seconds after the review ended, Pastrnak froze Bobrovsky with a shot to the blocker side and then 51 seconds after that, Ryan Dzingel roofed a puck over Rask when linemate Matt Duchene found him with a high-skill play in traffic.
Then it was Dean Kukan, a Swiss defenceman playing his 53rd NHL game, that tied it 3-3 with the first goal of his career.
Chaos. Rising tension.
“A lot of ups and downs,” said Boston’s Brandon Carlo, whose stock is skyrocketing with this playoff run. “We were serious [on the bench] and obviously the adrenaline was pumping, but we just took a deep breath and moved on.”
He got the puck moving in the right direction on Pastrnak’s winner, nullifying Panarin in the neutral zone. The stretch pass went to Brad Marchand, who found his Czech linemate streaking down the right side.
Pastrnak shot it without breaking stride.
“We had an absolutely massive play,” said McAvoy. “Marchy made a Marchy play, he’s a great player. There’s no easy goal on this guy [Bobrovsky] so Pasta had to have a great finish. That was huge.”
It left the Bruins one win shy of reaching the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2013. They’d own home-ice advantage against Carolina, which is sitting at home and resting while awaiting its opponent.
There hasn’t been much to separate the Bruins and Blue Jackets thus far.
Boston owns a slight edge in shot attempts, scoring chances and expected goals, but it hasn’t been domination from either side. Even in the final 88 seconds on Saturday, Duchene hit a post behind Rask and Cam Atkinson was robbed by the Bruins goaltender.
Then McAvoy extended his right foot to block a Panarin one-timer from the circle.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get a stick there,” he said. “My best chance was to just kind of sell out and hope for the best. Sure enough I was lucky enough to get a foot on it.”
We’re dealing with small margins at this stage of the spring.
That’s why Tortorella’s guarantee didn’t sound outlandish, although it will require his team to hold off the experienced Bruins in Game 6 and not lament the huge opportunity missed during this visit to Boston.
“We will,” said Tortorella. “Because we will.”