The Boston Bruins came into Game 4 of their first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 2-1 series lead but without any real consistency to their performances. And after conceding first-period goals to Joffrey Lupul and Cody Franson, it could not have been more obvious for the Bruins.
This was not going to be an easy first-round series like they had expected.
The postseason-tested Bruins were only leading 2-1 coming into this game, but it was the simplicity of both wins that had many thinking this was going to be a breeze.
They scored four unanswered goals to win Game 1; they netted five goals in Game 3 despite the Leafs playing a playoff game in Toronto for the first time in nearly 10 years. The Bruins didn't allow a even-strength goal in that game and even netted a short-handed goal as well—seemingly putting the writing on the wall for Toronto, who would definitely be much harder to beat in Game 4.
For despite all their dominance in the series, the Bruins knew that a loss here would level the series back at two games apiece. They should have had a 3-0 series lead given their home-ice advantage, but in reality, they were only one game away from being back on level terms once again.
And then they really would be under pressure to perform.
So to go down two goals—away from home to a noisy Toronto crowd—and then somehow rally back to clinch the game in OT should not be underestimated.
This was a team under a mountain of pressure—despite holding a series lead—and that would only have been compounded when it was down 2-0 early. But somehow, thanks to David Krejci's incredible hat trick, the Bruins survived and will take a potential series-clinching 3-1 lead back to Boston.
Don't play down just how pivotal this win could be in the Bruins' season.
Assuming they win this series (which seems likely given they have two home games remaining plus a trip to Toronto, where they haven't lost this postseason), the Bruins will take on either the Pittsburgh Penguins or the New York Islanders.
I say either, and not just the Penguins, because with defensive issues ripe at the moment, there's no guarantees that the Penguins will triumph.
And even if they do, they'll be under far more pressure than Boston is under—as is what comes with being the No. 1 seed in any given conference.
The No. 8 seed Islanders have scored 14 goals in their last three games against the Penguins, so imagine what a more disciplined Boston team could do.
Especially given the "wonderful" form that Marc-Andre Fleury finds himself in at the moment, reportedly dropped for Game 5 (per ESPN).
If Boston could steal a win on the road early and take home-ice advantage (which it's shown in this series it can definitely do), the Bruins will be very tough to beat.
That might seem like an eternity away from happening, and far too much speculation, but the reality is that the Bruins could very well get that far—a moment that we'll look back on and pin-point just where their run began this postseason.
The answer will be second period, Game 4, Toronto.
After all, we are talking a huge, come-from-behind, overtime win on the road, to Toronto. If that doesn't create some emotion and momentum, then nothing will.
Hit me up on Twitter for more sports goodness: Follow @dantalintyre
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!