A former member of the Kootenay Ice scored a goal of massive importance in his first career NHL playoff game.
Matt Fraser, who played almost five full seasons in Cranbrook with the Ice, scored 1:19 into overtime to give the Boston Bruins a 1-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens to even their Eastern Conference semifinal series on Thursday night.
The 23-year-old jumped into a scramble in front of goalie Carey Price’s net and slid the puck under him into the net.
”It was bouncing around and I was just swatting at it as hard as I could and hoping it would hit something,” said Fraser. ”Price is such a good goalie. He doesn’t give out a lot of rebounds. I might have got lucky there, but the puck wound up in the back of the net.
”It’s something I dreamed about many times on the outdoor rinks growing up. It’s every kid’s dream to score in overtime.”
Johnny Boychuk’s point shot had taken a high hop off the end boards and Price and defenceman Mike Weaver had trouble controlling the bouncing puck.
”It came around on the other side and it bounced over my stick and I lost it,” said Price. ”Somebody yelled ‘over,’ so I looked over my left shoulder. Obviously it wasn’t there. Then they poked it in on the other side.”
The victory knotted the best-of-seven series at 2-2, and the Bruins took back home ice advantage heading into Game 5 on Saturday night in Boston.
The Bruins outshot Montreal 34-33 in an intense, sometimes nervously played game that was less a goaltending duel between Price and Tuukka Rask as a match of determined, defensive teams.
”We knew how tight this series would be,” said Boston coach Claude Julien. ”It doesn’t mean any more than that we’ve tied the series. It’s been tight every game.
”It was important to get back in the series, but I don’t think we’ve played our best hockey. We’ve played hard, but I’ve seen us play better. You hope the win here will help us get better and we’ll go from there.”
Asked about Rask’s play, Julien said: ”He was good. We didn’t give up three breakaways, that helped.”
They gave up a partial breakaway in the second period, but Brian Gionta could only shovel the puck at the net and Rask made the save.
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien called it trench warfare. He found no fault with his side, either, except that they didn’t get a puck past Rask.
”This was a hard-nosed game between two well-prepared teams,” he said. ”We lost a battle in front of the net on the winning goal, but I’m pleased with our team’s effort.
”All the games have been close and it won’t be different next game.”
There were 21 goals scored by both teams in the first three games, there had not been a period without a goal, but there was little room to move in this one.
It marked the first time since 1935 that Boston won a playoff game 1-0 in OT and the first time Boston and Montreal went scoreless in regulation time in the playoffs since 1953, when Elmer Lach got the OT game-winner for the Canadiens.
Boston’s Carl Soderberg had the best chance in the final minute of the first frame after P.K. Subban’s blind back pass was intercepted, but Price looked to get a piece of it as it went off the cross-bar.
Another goal-less period followed as shooters misfired, particularly Max Pacioretty on a setup from Thomas Vanek, and both goalies held their ground. Each team went on the power play once, but even that failed to break the deadlock.
The Canadiens went on the attack in the third, peppering the Boston net and outshooting the Bruins 14-7. But the Bruins got a power play and Reilly Smith hit a goalpost, only to see Brian Gionta stoned by Rask alone in front of the net at the other end a moment later.
Then Fraser ended it in OT.
”Words can’t even describe that feeling,” said Fraser. ”I just watched the replay of it and I don’t even want to begin to try to explain that because it’s something I wish that every kid could feel.”
Fraser skated on Boston’s third line with Soderberg and Loui Eriksson and got 14:44 of ice time and two shots on goal.
Julien liked what he saw.
”It was no doubt a little nerve-wracking for him but to me it didn’t show on the ice,” said Julien. ”He was poised, made some good decisions, he was strong with the puck and in his decision-making.
”We were talking about him and I said he’s been really good for us tonight and there was no doubt he was going to play in overtime.”
Notes: Fraser played in place of Jordan Caron. Matt Bartkowski stepped in on defence for Andrej Meszaros. . . Montreal made no changes. . . Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr attended the game.