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SportsCentre Year In Review: An epic collapse

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Ken Rodney, TSN.ca
12/15/2013 12:06:10 PM
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Leading up to SportsCentre's Year In Review on Christmas Eve, TSN and TSN.ca look back at each of the Top 10 stories of 2013.

Today, we look back at one of the biggest comebacks - or collapses - in National Hockey League history: Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs.

When Nazem Kadri scored at the 5:29 mark of the third period to increase the Toronto Maple Leafs' Game 7 lead over the Boston Bruins to 4-1, it sent a city and long-suffering fan base into rapture.

The area outside of the Air Canada Centre - dubbed Maple Leafs Square - was packed with fans that were celebrating not only participating in their first playoff series in nine years, but possibly the first step towards breaking a Stanley Cup drought that has plagued them since 1967.

And there was a lot of reason for celebration. After trailing in the series 3-1, the Leafs fought back against elimination to capture a pair of 2-1 victories to force the deciding Game 7.

Head coach Randy Carlyle, who took over from the fired Ron Wilson late in the previous season, was responsible for turning the team around and propelling them into their first playoff series since 2004.

After many close (and not-so-close) misses, the team was finally able to hold things together - albeit in a lockout shortened season - to finish the job and qualify for the postseason. While most pre-season predictions had the Leafs once again on the outside looking in, solid campaigns from players like Phil Kessel, Kadri, James van Riemsdyk and James Reimer helped the team to overcome those odds.

Unfortunately for Leafs Nation, the highly-improbable happened with 11 minutes left in regulation and one foot firmly planted in the second round.

With dejected Boston fans slowly filing out of TD Garden, Bruins forward Nathan Horton cut the lead to two at the 9:18 mark of the third.

Then came Milan Lucic's goal to pull them within one.

And with with less than two minutes left and goaltender Tuukka Rask on the bench for an extra attacker, Patrice Bergeron tied it up to send the game to an unlikely extra frame.

Shocked yet? The best (or worst, if you're a Leaf fan) was yet to come.

In overtime, the suddenly struggling Maple Leafs found themselves pinned in their own end when Bergeron intercepted a clearing attempt and fired the puck past a sprawling Reimer to complete the comeback and send TD Garden into a wild celebration. The Bruins became the first team in NHL history to win a Game 7 after trailing by three goals in the third period. And it came at the expense of a Leafs team that - just a half-hour earlier - was already printing up tickets for Round 2.

It was a year of progress for a Maple Leafs franchise that had been mired in the non-playoff wilderness for almost a decade. But on this night, all those fans outside the Air Canada Centre (not to mention watching at home) were left with was the image of Reimer lying face down in the crease with the puck just out of his reach.

Patrice Bergeron Zdeno Chara (Photo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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