NHL takeaways: Unlikely hero bails out Bruins; Ducks slip past Kings

Bruins forward Matt Fraser celebrates after his game-winning goal in overtime in Game 4 against the Canadiens.

Jean-Yves Ahern/Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Fraser should just retire right now. It’s all downhill from here.

On Wednesday, he was eating lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Providence, wondering what his hockey future held. So he decided to finish it off with some frozen yogurt to feel better.

On Thursday, he was recalled from the AHL to play for the Boston Bruins in Montreal, the capital of hockey.

In his first career playoff game, Fraser knocked a bouncing puck past Montreal goalie Carey Price at 1:19 of overtime to give Boston a 1-0 win and even its Eastern Conference second round series with Montreal at 2-2.

"Words can’t even describe that feeling," Fraser said. "I wish I could remember it; it just happened like a blur. The puck got to the net and it was bobbling in front. I just tried to sniff it out and whack it in."

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Fraser is only the sixth NHL player in the past 75 years to score his first career playoff goal in a 1-0 overtime game. For that, he will live in Boston lore because he kept the Bruins from falling into a dangerous 3-1 series hole.

On the other side of the country, the Anaheim Ducks pulled off their own "Stayin’ Alive" act with a win in Staples Center that may have finally turned this SoCal series into the one everybody envisioned.


Boston 1, Montreal 0 (OT): It’s hard to argue with the tension of a scoreless game that heads to overtime. The two teams combined for 65 shots through regulation, but as is often the case, a crazy bounce of the puck was the fateful event that decided this one in extra time.


Fraser’s first career playoff goal: Is there any other suitable choice? Fraser stood tall during a scramble after the puck bounced off the end boards to the front of the net. Carl Soderberg took the first swipe at it, but Fraser slipped it past Price to set off a wild celebration.


1. G Tuukka Rask, Boston: Rask stopped all 33 Montreal shots for his fifth career playoff shutout.

2. RW Matt Fraser, Boston: Fraser is the first player ever to score OT goals in the AHL and NHL playoffs in the same season.

3. RW Teemu Selanne: We’ll go with the sentimental pick here after Selanne scored a big goal late in the second period off a saucer pass from Nick Bonino to give the Ducks a lead they never gave up heading to the intermission.


Boston 1, Montreal 0 (OT)

Series: Tied, 2-2

Key stat: Thursday’s game marked the 39th time in their storied history that the Bruins and Canadiens went to overtime in a playoff game.

Key player: Rask, Boston. When the Bruins needed clutch, their goalie delivered, big time.

What we learned: This series has all the marks of a classic. Montreal was so close on so many occasions to putting the Bruins in a 3-1 series hole, but Rask was brilliant, stopping Brian Gionta twice — on a shorthanded bid and then a mini-breakaway — while also robbing Rene Bourque and Michael Bournival with pad and glove saves, respectively. It would be tempting to say Boston has regained control of this series heading home for Game 5, but each team has won on the other’s home ice and the Canadiens have already won three times in Boston this season. When dissecting this game, it’s impossible to find significant advantages for either side. The Montreal team many analysts envisioned in the preseason is finally playing up to its potential, giving this series the chance to etch its place among the very best between these Original Six teams.

Next game: Saturday at Boston, 7 p.m.

Anaheim 3, Los Angeles 2

Series: L.A. leads, 2-1.

Key stat: The home team has lost every game in this series.

Key player: LW Matt Beleskey, Anaheim: He didn’t record a point and he left the game early with a lower body injury, but he sent L.A. defenseman Drew Doughty head-over-skates into the bench early in the game, setting the tone for a game Anaheim refused to lose.

What we learned: The Ducks aren’€™t done just yet. Anaheim had a number of deficiencies during the regular season — special teams, possession, its blue line and a penchant for falling behind — that had them looking like an early-round exit, even with a Western Conference-leading 116 points. But the Ducks got past Dallas with superior offense and they found a way to claw back in this series by throwing their weight around against a team used to employing that tactic. The Ducks have been crying for secondary scoring in this series and they got it from Selanne and defenseman Ben Lovejoy. Two concerns remain, however. Goalie Frederik Andersen, a surprise starter (again), left in the third period with a lower body injury and his status for Game 5 is uncertain. And then there’s L.A.’s history of playoff success to contend with. The Kings know full well that momentum and loss of home ice are both at stake in Game 4. L.A. was bound to produce a dud after six straight playoff wins. It’s hard to imagine L.A. having a problem with focus on Saturday.

Next game: Saturday at Los Angeles, 9:30 p.m., EST

Final thought: Two teams will try to stave off elimination on Friday — one literally, one figuratively. The Rangers‘ offensive woes have been well documented at this point and it will take a minor miracle for them to rally from a 3-1 series hole in Pittsburgh. But the Minnesota Wild face a similarly critical game against Chicago. If they lose Game 4, they’ll also be down 3-1 heading back to Chicago. Working in the Wild’s favor? They get back bad boy Matt Cooke from his seven-game suspension for his knee-on-knee hit to Colorado defenseman Tyson Barrie.

Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter