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Top Shelf: Fraser grabs spotlight for Bruins
By Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Prior to Thursday evening, Matt Fraser was best known to hockey fans as a minor part of the blockbuster trade that sent Tyler Seguin from Boston to Dallas.
Less than a year after that deal, however, Fraser played the role of unlikely playoff hero for the Bruins.
With his team already down 2-1 to Montreal in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Fraser, an undrafted 23-year-old forward, somehow managed to grab the spotlight in a series that certainly wasn't lacking for star power.
Fraser, playing in his first NHL playoff game, scored the only goal of Thursday's Game 4 when he swept a backhand past Montreal goaltender Carey Price just 1:19 into overtime.
It wasn't a pretty goal but Fraser's celebration certainly was a thing of beauty. He leapt high into the air before skating into a throng of his teammates. While the Canadiens left the ice with their heads down, Boston celebrated a huge victory which evened the second-round series at 2-2 before heading back to Beantown for a pivotal Game 5 battle on Saturday.
Some people can play it cool and act like they've been there before, but Fraser didn't seem interested in toning it down. Why would he? Only one day prior he was still a member of Boston's AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins, and couldn't have imagined the role he'd play in Game 4 and this series overall.
Although he was officially recalled from Providence on Thursday, Fraser received the call about the promotion on Wednesday while finishing lunch. Moments after delivering the win for the Bruins, Pierre McGuire of NBCSports interviewed Fraser and asked him when he learned he'd be playing in Game 4.
"Just yesterday. I had just finished eating lunch, and I didn't really tell anyone, but I had some frozen yogurt, so I've been working that off today," Frazer said.
Fraser's 14 minutes, 44 seconds of ice time on Thursday was probably more than enough to shed off those "Froyo" calories, but it's the last few seconds that will live on in Bruins lore.
Fraser scored on a scramble for the puck to the right of Price. Johnny Boychuk let fly with a big shot that Price made the save on but the puck bounced behind the net before rolling to the front, where Carl Soderberg got a weak backhand off that Price also stopped. However, Price briefly lost sight of the puck and when Habs defenseman Mike Weaver couldn't clear it, Fraser was there for a backhand of his own that went in to end the game.
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. He is the second this postseason, as Minnesota's Mikael Granlund lifted his team to a 1-0 OT victory over Colorado in the opening round.
Fraser, who scored an OT winner for Providence in this season's Calder Cup playoffs, also became the first player in history to score overtime playoff goals in the AHL and NHL during the same season.
"As you can tell in my voice, it's pretty exciting," Fraser said. "You know, I hardly slept today, and I'm sure I'll hardly sleep tonight."
Fraser was signed by Dallas as an undrafted free agent in November of 2010 and stayed with the Stars organization until Boston acquired him in the surprising trade that shipped Seguin out of town. Besides Seguin, current Bruins forward Loui Eriksson was easily the biggest name involved in the deal, but with his OT heroics on Thursday, Fraser finally put himself on the map.
His superstar teammates were obviously thrilled for Fraser and were impressed he made such a big impact after being thrust into the middle of what has been a hotly contested series.
"It's pretty impressive that for a guy that hasn't spent that much time with us, filling the role on the spot, and I thought that he did really well tonight," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
Even grizzled veteran Jarome Iginla said it was unlike anything he's seen in close to two decades as an NHLer.
"I never have (seen that) and that's pretty cool," Iginla said. "It's a pretty neat story. Those are what you dream of when you're a little kid getting, called up, and the OT goal -- and not just the OT goal, but the one goal in the whole game."
"We're happy he scored," added Iginla. "It's a pretty cool story and he played a great game.
While Fraser's timely goal was a glorious moment for Boston, it was another frustrating one for Montreal. The underdog Canadiens, who have had difficulty closing games out in this series against the defending East champs, could have conceivably won this matchup in a sweep if not for the Bruins' penchant for comebacks.
The Habs were up 2-0 in Game 1 but blew that lead before winning in double overtime and then they squandered a 3-1 edge late in a 5-3 defeat in Game 2. Montreal held its lead in Tuesday's 4-2 win, but the Game 4 loss has the clubs back on equal footing with the series headed back to Boston.
Fraser's marquee moment was another tough pill to swallow for the Canadiens. Instead of going ahead 3-1, the series is all square with Boston slated to host Games 5 and, if necessary, Game 7.
It's likely Fraser will never experience another thrill ride like the one he's enjoyed over the last few days. Judging by his reaction, Fraser may know that better than anybody else.
05/09 13:28:48 ET
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