On his next shift, Lucic circled with the puck behind the Toronto net and found an open Nathan Horton, who beat goalie James Reimer with a wrist shot from the left face-off circle to make it 4--2 with 10:42 to play. "We all moved up in our seats," Chiarelli says. Marchand could sense a change on the bench too. "Now everyone was talking," he says. "I couldn't hear myself anymore."
The Maple Leafs, making their first playoff appearance since 2004, turned tentative, abandoning their forecheck and meekly dumping pucks out of their defensive zone and into center ice, hoping for time to run out. The Bruins kept pressing, sending Rask to the bench with two minutes left. Lucic forced the puck into the Toronto zone and belted defenseman Carl Gunnarsson into the end boards. Bergeron eventually worked the puck back to Chara, whose shot from the right point was stopped by Reimer. But as the puck lay free, Lucic knocked in the rebound with 1:22 to play.
The Bruins called timeout. After the next face-off, Chara rotated down to the front of the net, an eclipse darkening the view of a frazzled Reimer. When Bergeron unleashed a wrister from the point, three Leafs crossed in front of the shot without blocking it. Reimer never saw the puck. Suddenly the score was 4--4. There were 50.2 seconds left, but Boston had no doubt about how the game would end. "The best part of the season to me was the feeling in the room before overtime," Lucic says. "I've never been in a room like that where there was no doubt, like no doubt at all in our minds. It was just a matter of when. It's the most confident room I've ever been in." Before overtime, Julien said to his team, "There's a hero in this room somewhere. Who's it gonna be?"
The Bruins' answer came 6:05 into OT, when Bergeron rapped home a loose puck for the winner.
It was slow-churn torture for the Maple Leafs. Toronto coach Randy Carlyle described it as, "You feel like you were hit between the eyes with a hammer.... You're hurt. You're stung, all the words that are used to describe living that. It's almost like you go into a state of depression." Kadri confessed to having nightmares for several nights afterward. Said forward James van Riemsdyk, "It's one of those losses that kind of eats away at your soul." Looking for visual proof of life-as-death? Just Google "Maple Leafs fan."
The on-ice jubilation for the Bruins turned into restraint in the dressing room. "We were very humbled by having a second chance," says Chara. "Relieved. Businesslike. Not sure we deserved it."
Don't be fooled by Chara's taste for bone-crushing hits. Boston's captain is a thoughtful guy. What embodies his team? "Group texting," he says, smiling. "We have 20 guys getting the same message." Why does that matter? "Because it's like that on the ice too."
The Bruins need sync to swim. They are especially gifted with neither speed nor individual skill, and their power play was 26th in the league. But they are masters of minutiae. And they are deep, boasting the game's best fourth line (center Gregory Campbell and wings Daniel Paille and Thornton), which has scored five goals, including two game-winners, so far in the playoffs, and its most efficient face-off man. (Bergeron led the NHL during the regular season with a 62.1% success rate.) "The game has changed," says Jagr, who was a rookie in 1990--91. "The difference between the best and worst player isn't so much. The first line can play against the fourth line. This is a modern team, because anyone can score at any time. In my career I've never seen a team like that." In these playoffs Jagr—never known as a two-way player—has become an unlikely poster child for defensive responsibility. The play that produced Bergeron's double-OT goal in the Bruins' 2--1 win over the Penguins in Game 3 on June 5 started when Jagr, who came to Boston in a trade from the Stars on April 2, took Malkin off the puck (with an apparent, and uncalled, hook) and fired a leading pass up the ice to Marchand. "You don't have to look any further than Jags," says Julien. "He's played a certain way his whole career, and now he sees a team that plays a [different] way and he's bought into it."
Team-building exercises aren't necessary for the Bruins, most of whom live downtown, hit the North End together for Italian food and bike to practice. "A lot of guys are invested in the area, which is even more important this year after the marathon," says Thornton. "Those rallying points really help you on the ice, especially the way we play, because you need a guy's back all the time."
Pittsburgh fell victim to Boston's defense-by-committee approach. The Bruins may be the league's most talkative team on the ice, a versatile back-pressuring machine, often switching assignments so they don't chase individual players all over the rink. Their defensemen stay close to Rask and use short bumps up the wall to get the puck past defenders before moving through the center of the ice. They forecheck with a 1-2-2 scheme that relies on the weakside forward to keep the line of resistance from breaking down. Instead of the stretch passes that Chicago uses so effectively to open up the ice, Boston's defensemen will often reset, backing up a stride or two after recovering the puck to allow forwards to circle back and receive short passes in stride. "They're a team that waits for your mistakes," says Crosby. "There are times when they possess the puck. It doesn't mean they're carrying the play. They're just patient. We were trying to get three goals back on one shift. You can't do that against a team that thrives on your mistakes. They make you play in the neutral zone, which is our least favorite place to be."