BOSTON -- Mental toughness has become a trademark virtue for the Boston Bruins.
Trailing the Montreal Canadiens by two goals in the third period of Saturday's Game 2, the Bruins mounted another one of their vintage comebacks and finished with a 5-3 win.
In Game 1, the Bruins erased third-period deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 before eventually losing 4-3 in double overtime. Game 2's comeback win wasn't the first time the Bruins have responded from a two-goal, third-period deficit in the playoffs, following a first-round, 3-2 win in Game 4 against the Detroit Red Wings.
On Saturday, the Bruins weren't hanging their heads on the bench, even with the possibility of going to Montreal down two games to none. To make sure, veteran Shawn Thornton had a message for his teammates after suffering an injury only 22 seconds into the third period.
As he was carried down the tunnel by team trainers, Thornton looked back at the bench and said to his teammates, "One goal at a time."
Thornton later returned midway through the third period, before celebrating the big victory with his teammates.
Earlier in the game, Bruins coach Claude Julien did a good job of firing up his team late in the second period, though he paid the price for his tactics.
Trailing 2-1 late in the second period after the Canadiens scored a go-ahead power-play goal at 18:09, Julien unleashed on the officiating and was given a two-minute bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Montreal scored another power-play goal on Thomas Vanek's second of the game to gain a 3-1 lead at 6:30 of the third period. Boston didn't panic and mounted its comeback.
"We had that tough second period and at the start of the third, they got that other power-play goal, but the way we just battled back through, I felt, a lot of crap that we put up with today, was pretty indicative of what our team's all about," Julien said. "It just shows that if you focus on the things you need to focus on, there's a pretty good team that can accomplish a lot."
Julien said his team has grown over the years, and Saturday was another example of how the players can draw on that experience and maturity. With this core group in Boston, there isn't a situation it hasn't faced in the past -- good or bad.
"We have a group that has been here for a long time," Thornton said. "We've seen a lot of hockey on both sides and the experience helps. There's not a ton of panic when we're in these situations and we've been fortunate enough to pull some comebacks off. Now, you don't want to play with that all the time but I'm very proud of the way the guys stuck with it tonight."
At the start of this series, it was evident goaltending would be a crucial aspect for both teams. In Game 1, the Canadiens' Carey Price was outstanding and finished with 48 saves. He was solid again in the first two periods of Game 2, but the Bruins kept the pressure on and after a few good shots and a couple of bounces, Boston finished with a third-period flurry and scored four goals (including Milan Lucic's late empty-netter).
"It shows our character," said Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, who finished with 25 saves. "I think we make it unnecessarily hard on ourselves sometimes, but it's a great, gutsy win today. I'm really proud of the guys."
The message during the second intermission was clear for the Bruins. They knew there was plenty of time remaining to mount a comeback. With goals from Dougie Hamilton, Patrice Bergeron, Reilly Smith (game winner) and Lucic, Boston completed the comeback in the third period.
"It was pretty obvious from everyone that we needed to all step up," Bergeron said. "It was about everyone, not just one guy. It's not about words, it's more about actions. It was about making sure we were all doing it for the guy next to you and really stepping up."
As important as the comeback was to even the series at one game apiece, the Bruins need a better all-around, 60-minute effort moving forward if they want to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
"We've got the resilience in here and we're a confident group," Bergeron said. "Being down a few goals, we definitely don't want to be in that situation, but when we are we know we can come back in games and when you have that confidence, most often than not you're making the right decisions out there."
The series shifts to Montreal for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Thursday at Bell Centre. The Bruins head north with some momentum and have shown their ability to win in hostile territory in the past. In 2011, the Bruins trailed 2-0 in the first round after losing two on home ice, but Boston won both games in Montreal before eventually winning the series in seven games.
In 2013, the Bruins trailed the Toronto Maple Leafs by three goals in the third period of Game 7, but Boston mounted a historic comeback, scoring three times in less than 10 minutes, including a pair of goals in 31 seconds in the final minute and a half to tie the game, before winning 5-4 in overtime. That victory propelled the Bruins on another run to the Stanley Cup finals, where they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks.
But it's a performance like Saturday's that can give the Bruins the kick in the backside they needed this time.
"We take a lot of pride in what we did today," said Bruins defenseman Torey Krug.