August 12, 2011

Original Six: Wildest moments at the Garden

Bruins goalie Tim Thomas drilled Henrik Sedin late in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals. (Getty)

Throughout the Bruins’ Cup-winning campaign in 2010-11, TD Garden played host to a number of unforgettable games that Bruins fans will always cherish. Over the course of 41 regular-season tilts and 13 playoff contests, faithful followers of the Black and Gold witnessed more magical moments than most had seen in their entire lifetimes.

With the high number of jaw-dropping sequences over the past year, boiling this list down was hardly easy.

In the debut of our new monthly feature, here are the top six wildest moments at TD Garden during a season that saw the Bruins bring the Holy Grail of hockey back to Boston for the first time since 1972.

6. Sensational Seguin
Bruins 6, Lightning 5 (May 17, 2011)

Ask anyone to name the defining moment of Tyler Seguin’s rookie season before the conference finals and you’d probably have incited a lot of eyebrow scrunching. Seguin’s 11 goals were a modest output after all the hype surrounding his arrival.

That all changed in the middle frame of Game 2 against the Lightning, a game in which the 19-year-old winger tied an all-time playoff record with four points in a single period. Channeling the likes of Gretzky and Lemieux, Seguin took over the game, breezing by defenders as if he were propelled by a rocket-powered jet pack, deftly stick-handling through the opposition and putting pucks past Dwayne Roloson with Jagr-like ease. Seguin not only carried the Bruins to victory but also displayed the abundance of skill Boston had been waiting so long to finally see.

5. Flattening Sedin
Bruins 8, Canucks 1 (June 6, 2011)

Tim Thomas did everything shy of pulling rabbits out of his mask during the entirety of his magical regular season and superhuman playoff run, but there was no better man-that’s-why-we-love-that-guy moment than the one that came with 13:21 left in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Leading 4-0, Thomas watched as Canucks captain Henrik Sedin gloved the puck down out of mid-air right atop his crease. With what he described as a one-hundredth of a second to react, the Bruins’ fiery netminder essentially gave conventional wisdom the finger — Andrew Ference style — and took a pass on simply trying to make a save. Thomas lunged forward, jolting Sedin with a crushing check that planted him on his rear-end. Officially credited with a hit in the box score, Thomas left the crowd — and Sedin — stunned.

4. Startling start
Bruins 6, Stars 3 (Feb. 3, 2011)

The next time your buddy suggests it’s cool to show up casually late for a hockey game, insisting you guys should grab another “bee-yuh at the baaah,” promptly slap him upside the head and remind him about this wild and wacky affair.

By the time four seconds had ticked off the clock, the Bruins and Stars already had dropped the gloves three times. Steve Ott left Greg Campbell’s face (right) in bloody disarray immediately following the opening faceoff, then Shawn Thornton absolutely pummeled Krys Barch. Just two seconds later, Adam McQuaid gave Brian Sutherby a thorough beat-down. It didn’t take long for a hockey game to break out either. Boston forced the yanking of old friend Andrew Raycroft with two goals in just 1:20 of play in the craziest opening to any game in recent Bruins history.

3. Toe-to-toe with Price
Bruins 8, Canadiens 6 (Feb. 9, 2011)

I’ve made a few bold predictions in my time, but all pale in comparison to the one I threw out there Feb. 9. “You know what I’d love to see?” I said to Darryl Houston-Smith, a colleague and friend in the Garden press box, before the Bruins took on the Habs. “For Tim Thomas to fight Carey Price.”

When a brawl broke out behind Price’s net in the second period (of a game that went on to feature a combined 182 penalty minutes), Darryl and I exchanged glances as Thomas crept out of his crease. When No. 30 bolted down the ice, our eyes opened wider than John Grahame’s five-hole. The anticipation proved to be more riveting than the quick clutch-fest the fight actually was, but hearing the Garden erupt as the two tossed aside their equipment and prepared to go at it was simply electric.

2. Game 7 redemption
Bruins 4, Canadiens 3 (April 27, 2011)

When P.K. Subban tied things up with just 1:57 left in Game 7 (and celebrated by smugly mocking the Garden’s silence before giving them a not-so-courteous chin flick), it was doom and gloom time on Causeway Street.

Trained to expect the worst, every single fan, writer and hot dog vendor in the building didn’t think the B’s were going to lose — they knew they would. This was the hated Habs. This was Game 7. At home. This, my friends, was a recipe for disaster. When Nathan Horton’s bomb from the left point found the back of the net with 5:43 gone in overtime, pushing Boston into the second round and eliminating Montreal, Bruins fans couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Mimicking “David After Dentist,” many of the 17,565 folks on hand must have pondered if this moment was indeed real life. It was.

1. Finals, here we come
Bruins 1, Lightning 0 (May 27, 2011)

There’s no doubt that the Garden got to witness a bevy of special moments throughout the Stanley Cup Finals but, in this scribe’s opinion, the building was never louder than in the final minute of the B’s 1-0 win in Game 7 against the Lightning.

With The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” pumping through the speakers and Tampa’s net empty, the entire crowd was on its feet as the Bruins were less than 50 seconds away from victory. As the clock barreled toward 0:00, the place went beyond deafening when Patrice Bergeron waved back at Zdeno Chara to hang onto the puck.

When Boston cleared the zone and the words “EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS” appeared on the big screen, it was time for the most gratifying of hugs and high-fives as the B’s earned the right to battle for the Stanley Cup for the first time in 21 years.

This article originally appeared in the August 2011 issue of New England Hockey Journal.

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com