The Boston Bruins entered their first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs as the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, having finished five points better in the regular season. Through four games, everything went as expected: The Bruins had a 3-1 series lead.
Then the Leafs won Game 5. Then they won Game 6. Then, in Game 7 at Boston on May 13, the Leafs jumped out to a 4-1 lead by the 5:29 mark of the third period. It looked as if Toronto would complete the comeback in convincing fashion. Then again, there's a reason the Leafs have been planning their next Stanley Cup parade since last winning in 1967, and the reason is devastating moments like this: The Bruins scored three goals in 10 minutes and 42 seconds during the third period, including twice in 31 seconds with goalie Tuukka Rask pulled, before center Patrice Bergeron won the game at 6:05 of overtime.
As the two teams face each other in the playoffs for the first time since one of Boston sports' greatest miracles -- and one of Toronto sports' greatest meltdowns -- here's how it all played out five years ago, in the words of those who experienced it:
Milan Lucic, former Bruins wing: Pretty crazy series. We dominated them to take a 3-1 lead, and then next thing you know it's Game 7, going into the third period down by a goal. We weren't really in a bad spot, being down by a goal. But then all of a sudden -- bang, bang! -- you're down 4-1 with about 14 minutes left, and you're like, "Oh God, is the season really going to come to an end like this?"
Jack Edwards, play-by-play voice of the Bruins on NESN: Not only were the Bruins toast, but we were deciding what kind of jam to put on that toast. [Analyst Andy Brickley] and I, in that last break before [Nathan] Horton scored to launch that comeback at 4-2, were actually discussing how we were going to do the autopsy during the game. Because it was a three-goal game and we realized that the later it got, the more our audience was going to hemorrhage. So we were going through the triage on how we were going to keep this audience through a tragic ending for a promising season. And then the world turned upside-down, and the South Pole was suddenly at the North Pole.
James Reimer, former Maple Leafs goalie: We didn't think we had it in the bag. Not against that team. Not to say that you give the other team too much respect, but you understand that anything can happen. You knew they weren't going to roll over. They were a good team, you know? We couldn't take anything for granted. We knew going into the third period, the game wasn't over.
Lucic: I just remember sitting on the bench and saying to the guys that if we can get one before the 10-minute mark, make it 4-2, we'll give ourselves a chance to win. Just saying that, and getting guys to believe in it, was big. And fortunately enough, we were able to do that on the Nathan Horton goal [at 9:18 of the third period]. Our mentality and our mindset changed. Then I scored my goal [at 18:38].
Reimer: There was a rebound. And then it was in that gray area: Do you try to pull it in, or do you try to knock it away? My instincts told me to try to knock it past [Lucic] to a safe area, and I ended up knocking it to him, or he beat me to it. I don't remember. I've tried not to think about it for five years.
Lucic: Once I was able to score to make it 4-3, you can see my face and read my lips and see me saying, "One more!" And then once [Patrice Bergeron] scored to make it 4-4, you can see me in the corner, to the left of Reimer -- I had my hands in the air and my head tilted back. I was so tired but so relieved.
Edwards: I don't know how that puck found its way from Bergeron's stick to the back of that goal.
Reimer: [Zdeno] Chara was screening me. I didn't see that goal. I still haven't seen that goal.
Patrice Bergeron, Bruins center: We had a reminder against [the Philadelphia Flyers, who rallied from 3-0 down to beat the Bruins] in 2010 that it's never over. It's always nicer when it's on your side than the opposite. [Our series in] 2013 was a lot more fun than 2010. Sports is crazy like that.
Jake Gardiner, Maple Leafs defenseman: It's just one of those things you never expect. You never expected them to come back in that game. But that's why you play until the end of the game. We played well for most of it. It's just the last 10 minutes weren't so good.
Reimer: In the locker room, we were shocked. Actually, stunned is more like it. We had a 4-1 lead, we had a chance to move onto the next round and whatnot. So we were stunned that it slipped away from us. But we had one or two pretty good scoring chances in the first few minutes of OT. So as crappy as the feeling was, our overtime was pretty decent.
Lucic: Funny story: My dad actually went to bed at 3-1 because he gave up on us. And my younger brother, who was superstitious, didn't wake my dad up until [Bergeron] scored in overtime. My dad didn't believe him. So he made my dad come down and watch the highlights.
Edwards: I remember the feeling that I have after all games -- a period of decompression. But I was so jazzed after that game, there was a physical buzz going through my entire body. I just kept thinking about the words of [Jack] Buck after that Kirk Gibson home run [in the World Series] in 1988: "I don't believe what I just saw!"
Lucic: I was like, "Aw, thank God." There was a sense of relief but also a sense of excitement. I'm sure [Bergeron will] tell you the same thing I've told you: That it's one of those special games you think about a lot.
Bergeron: Honestly, I haven't really thought about it. You guys just reminded me of it. It's great memories, for sure, something you'll never forget. That being said, it's a new challenge, it's a new year. It's been a while. It's two different teams facing each other. Can't put too much emphasis on that.
Morgan Rielly, Maple Leafs defenseman: I feel like I have an out because I didn't play on that team. It actually doesn't hang over the locker room in my opinion. There are so many new faces in here. We talked about it the other day, just a few of us, because it was being talked about in the media. We discussed it for two minutes, and then we never brought it up again. We were like, "That sucked, so let's win this time."
Lucic: It was one of the best games I've ever been a part of. Especially because 5,000 fans had left, so there was only between 10-12,000 fans left in the stands, but they were so loud. We were playing for the ones that stuck around. But this wasn't an F-you to the ones that left or anything. I just remember the next morning how the highlights of the game were everywhere and everyone in the city was talking about it. I think that comeback ultimately drove us into the final.
Tuukka Rask, Bruins goalie: We had a great run after that game, and that win started it. [The Bruins lost in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final to the Chicago Blackhawks.]
Reimer: Any time you fail, you take something out of it. For myself, it was to just keep trusting your game, no matter the score or the time of the game. Don't try to be a hero. Just stick to what you do.