The defending Northeast Division champs came into the lockout-shortened season off a disappointing first-round playoff loss to Washington the previous spring. Gone was Tim Thomas, their Stanley Cup and Vezina Trophy-winning goalie of 2010-11. In his place was Tuukka Rask, who faced questions after being in net for Boston's 2010 playoff meltdown vs. Philadelphia after taking a three games to none lead. But the roster remained largely intact and the B's were seen as a very possible Cup contender.
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On Feb. 12, the Bruins lose to the Rangers on home ice, 4-3, in a shootout. The game features a remarkable ending in which Boston rallies from a three-goal deficit, getting a goal from David Krejci with 11:16 to play and then two late tallies after goaltender Tuukka Rask is on the bench: one from Nathan Horton at 18:29 and another from Brad Marchand at 19:17. Gee, that kind of comeback could never happen in a playoff game, huh?
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Boston completes a 14-2-2 run to open the season, one of the best starts in franchise history. Only a pair of losses to the Sabres, one at home and the other on the road, are blemishes on the Bruins' record. They fall behind, 2-0, in the game against Tampa Bay, but goals by Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley plus Brad Marchand's gamer with 2:16 to play in the third period cement the comeback that leaves Boston with the best record in the Eastern Conference for the time being.
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After a trade for Calgary's Jarome Iginla falls through, the Bruins acquire 41-year-old future Hall-of-Famer Jaromir Jagr from Dallas on April 2 in exchange for Lane MacDermid, and two draft choices. Jagr produces nine points in 11 regular-season games for Boston and later adds seven assists in his first 16 playoff games, none bigger than his takeaway from Evgeni Malkin that led to Boston's double-overtime goal in Game 3 against Pittsburgh during the Eastern Conference Finals.
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The Bruins put up six goals for the only time all season, beating Carolina, 6-2, on home ice on April 8. Brad Marchand scores twice to end a five-game personal draught and Dennis Seidenberg adds a career-high three assists. Tuukka Rask stops 40 shots and Boston jumps to a 5-0 lead after the first two periods. The Bruins score more than two goals for just the third time in an 11-game stretch.
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On April 18, two days after the lethal bombings at the Boston Marathon, the Bruins host the Sabres in the city's first sports event since the attack. The crowd drowns out singer Rene Rancourt during the national anthem in a particularly stirring moment. Though the Bruins lose, 3-2, in a shootout, the point they earn gives them a playoff berth. The eventually finish at 28-14-6, one point behind first-place Montreal in the Northeast.
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As the start of the postseason nears, rugged winger Milan Lucic appears to be emerging from a lengthy and mysterious slump. He scores a goal, only his seventh of the year, adds an assist and shows signs of his old fire in a 3-2 overtime loss to Washington. So vital to Boston's Cup run in 2011, Lucic seemed lost for much of the season, enduing a stretch of 27 games during which he scored only twice and was pulled off the power play. He also saw his ice time diminished and was healthy scratch for a game vs. Pittsburgh on April 20. "It's been a frustrating year. You want to be better, you've got to be better, and I've just got to do my best to try to work through this," he told The Boston Globe.
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For the third time in three tries during the regular season, the Bruins fall to the Penguins by a single goal, losing this one on home ice, 3-2, in an afternoon tilt on April 20. It is especially frustrating because Boston outshoots Pittsburgh, 40-24, but just cannot beat the team that seems to be its unyielding nemesis, not to mention the prohibitive Stanley Cup favorite out of the Eastern Conference. Particularly galling: Boston keeps Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin off the scoreboard for the entire game, a rare achievement, but Jussi Jokinen records a goal and two assists for the Pens.
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The Bruins pull off a historic comeback, rallying from three goals down in the final 11:42 to beat the Maple Leafs in Game 7 at TD Garden on May 13. Nathan Horton scores to pull Boston withing two. Then, with Tuukka Rask on the bench, Milan Lucic scores on the doorstep with 1:22 to play and Patrice Bergeron blasts the tying goal from 45 feet out through Zdeno Chara's screen with 51 seconds left. Bergeron completes the comeback at 6:05 of OT, beating stunned goaltender James Reimer.
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The Bruins finish off the Rangers with a 3-1 win in Game 5 to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Rookie defenseman Torey Krug (No. 47), who has all of three regular-season games under is belt, appears in the series only because Boston's defense corps was blitzed with injuries, scores the opening goal of the game, becoming first rookie defenseman in NHL history to score goals in four of his first five games. Krug, a recently-turned 22-year old, achieves the feat in one playoff series.
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Patrice Bergeron converts Brad Marchand's centering pass into a game-winning goal at 15:19 of double overtime to give Boston a 2-1 victory in Game 3 of its Eastern final series against the heavily favored Penguins. The win puts Boston up three games to none and spells the beginning of the end for Pittsburgh. Tuukka Rask makes an astounding 53 saves and Boston forward Gregory Campbell (on the ice) wins courage points for finishing his shift after breaking his leg while blocking a slap shot from Evgeni Malkin.
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Boston completes its improbable sweep of Pittsburgh by holding off the Penguins, 1-0, in Game 4. Unheralded defenseman Adam McQuaid scores the game's only goal at 5:01 of the third period, taking a terrific pass from Brad Marchand and blasting a shot over Tomas Vokoun's right shoulder. Goaltender Tuukka Rask continues his superb performance, making 26 saves and keeping Penguin superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin off the scoreboard for a fourth straight game. Boston never trails in any game of the series.
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The first team to emerge from the so-called Tournament of Champions (the previous four Stanley Cup-winners were in the conference finals), the Bruins took aim at winning the seventh Stanley Cup in franchise history.
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