Bruins stretched to their limit

MONTREAL -- The Boston Bruins were prepared for their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Montreal Canadiens to go the distance.

And there, indeed, will be a Game 7 on Wednesday night in Boston.

The Canadiens staved off elimination and defeated the Bruins 2-1 on Tuesday night at Bell Centre to knot the series 3-3. This is familiar territory for Boston, but the Bruins are 1-6 in their past seven potential closeout games, dating back to their quarterfinal series against the Buffalo Sabres last season. In fact, Game 7s haven't been kind to the Bruins of late as their past three seasons have ended with Game 7 losses.

The last time the Bruins won a Game 7 is April 29, 1994, when they defeated the Canadiens 5-3 in Boston.

Sure, this is a completely different team and a completely different situation, and the Bruins' mindset heading into Wednesday's game is simple.

"Win," goalie Tim Thomas said. "Go home and win."

There's no time to reflect on Game 6 for either team because of the quick turnaround for Game 7. Bruins coach Claude Julien said he's not concerned about the back-to-back games.

"Whether the game is tomorrow or two days after, it makes no difference to us or even to them. It's going to be a good game, as were the first six games of this series," Julien said.

No doubt Game 6 was strange all around. The Bruins were victims of bad breaks and questionable calls as the Canadiens netted a pair of five-on-three goals. The Bruins were happy with the way they played five-on-five, though those opportunities seemed few and far between. They'll need to take the positives and build on them for Game 7.

"Like every game this series, it will be a hard-fought battle," Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said.

Bruins veteran and future Hall of Famer Mark Recchi decided to return to the NHL for a 23rd season because he believes this team has what it takes to win the Stanley Cup. When asked about the team's inability to close out the series Tuesday night, Recchi was already thinking about Game 7.

"Just focus on getting ready," Recchi said. "You've got to relax and get ready to play a one-game series now. We worked all year to get home ice and we're going home. We'll get a lot of rest tonight and focus on what we have to do. We'll make little adjustments, but for the most part we'll save our energy and get ready."

Exactly 23 years ago, the Bruins finally broke through against Montreal, beating the Canadiens in the conference semifinals after losing 18 consecutive playoff series to the Habs. The Bruins went on to defeat the Devils in the conference finals before losing to the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup finals.

Since 1988, the Bruins are 6-4 against the Canadiens in playoff series. Many current Bruins have been through Game 7 situations in the past, and they understand what's at stake.

"You obviously have to put everything on the line and make sure you're ready," Patrice Bergeron said. "Everything comes down to one game. You've got to enjoy it, but you have to make sure you bring the emotion and make sure you're ready for that."

The Canadiens hold a 5-2 advantage in Game 7s against the Bruins, but since 1991 the teams are split at 2-2.

During the first round of the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Habs eliminated the Bruins in Game 7 at Montreal.

After sweeping the Habs in the quarterfinals during the 2009 playoffs, Boston trailed the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 in the semifinals but came back to force a Game 7 on home ice. But the Bruins lost that game 3-2 when Thomas allowed a tough goal in overtime.

Then there was last season's historic collapse. After the Bruins defeated the Sabres in the quarterfinals, they had a 3-0 series lead on the Philadelphia Flyers. Boston lost the next four games, including Game 7 at home to end its season.

Wednesday's game has added importance for coach Claude Julien. The Bruins have yet to advance past the second round during his four-year tenure, and a first-round loss this season could put his job in jeopardy.

"It's been a pretty good series. I think anybody who has watched it has seen a pretty good series," Julien said. "But again, it's going to be up to us [Wednesday] to come out with a real good effort and stay away from the trouble we got into tonight and then stay confident."

The Canadiens received solid goaltending from Carey Price in Game 6, and he beat the Bruins and Thomas 5-0 in the first-round Game 7 three years ago.

This time, however, the game is in Boston.

"We play well in Boston. It's going to be an excellent Game 7," said Price, who was clearly exhausted. "I've played a Game 7 against Timmy before, and I'm sure it's going to be a great game."

Thomas, who was also spent after Game 6, said he would be ready.

"It's win or you're done," he said.

The Bruins quickly got out of town following Tuesday's loss, but the Canadiens weren't doing any celebrating either. Montreal hasn't accomplished anything.

"We've got to get out of here and get to work tomorrow," Montreal's Hal Gill said. "We don't have much time to celebrate. It's not baseball. You want champagne? Do you need a drink or something? You have goggles on?"

Given the Bruins' playoff letdowns in recent seasons, this is a must-win series for Boston. A loss could mean significant changes from the front office on down, and would be deflating for a fan base that has been waiting since 1972 for a Stanley Cup. The significance of Wednesday's game was not lost on the players.

"It's a big one," Recchi said. "We've been in this before and we've got to stay focused, stay relaxed and go from there. We're not going to focus on what happened. It's over. We can't dwell on it and we have to worry about [Wednesday]. We have to embrace what's coming up."

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.