MONTREAL -- For Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien, the playoffs are about "players stepping up," and sometimes it's the most unexpected players that deliver in the clutch.
That's exactly what happened for the Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night when winger Michael Ryder -- who came into Game 4 with only one goal in his past 20 games -- found his scoring touch again with two goals, the second at 1:59 into overtime to give the Bruins a 5-4 win at the Bell Centre and tie up the series, 2-2.
Ryder has experienced his fair share of criticism this season with extended stretches of no goals, and many even questioned if the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent would remain on the Bruins' roster come playoff time, suggesting Ryder be dealt away or waived and demoted to the AHL. But the Bruins -- and specifically Julien, who has coached Ryder twice in the NHL, once in the AHL and once in juniors -- stuck with Ryder and it paid off at the most crucial of times for a Bruins team that would've headed back to Boston down 3-1 in this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series if it didn't pull off the comeback win Thursday night.
"I think what he did for us tonight is what we wanted him to do, and what we expect him to do, at times, for us," Julien said of Ryder, who now has 11 goals and 21 points in 28 playoff games with the Bruins. "He's a guy who's got a great shot and needs to use it, but tonight he also competed really hard and was in the right areas and obviously gave us that big win."
Julien has had to use some tough love with Ryder, as well, scratching him twice down the stretch run of the regular season. But the coach never doubted him.
"You need your players to step up at this time of year," Julien said. "And every night, a lot of times there's a different guy stepping up, and tonight it was Michael. Hopefully that's good for his confidence. He was a healthy scratch near the end of the year, and hopefully he can build on this and get some confidence and keep being the player he was tonight."
Teammate Shawn Thornton was also happy to see Ryder prove the naysayers wrong and had a hunch that Ryder, a former Canadien, would come up big in the rink he used to call home.
"I'm happy for Rydes [Ryder], and a couple guys talked about it before, he usually plays pretty well in this building," Thornton said. He then stared at a Boston reporter and added, "I'm happy his hard work paid off and maybe some people in Boston will lay off him now. He's a good guy!"
Ryder made a point of thanking Julien after the game, saying the confidence his longtime coach expressed has helped him through the tough times.
"I've been with him for a while and just him to give me the ice time and give me the confidence, for me it just gives me that extra boost sometimes to try and show people that I can still play and still got it," Ryder said of Julien's faith in him through the years, especially this season.
Ryder was proud of his teammates for not quitting on the series and bringing it back to Boston tied at two.
"We knew that when we got down 3-1, we still had a chance, we just had to get back to what gave us success all season," Ryder said of Thursday's game. "We called that timeout and I think we regrouped and got our bearings back. We did the things that we needed to do. We were getting outshot badly and I think we ended up coming back and evening the shots, and that was huge for us to come back like that. It just shows that in playoff time, you can never quit, and it was a big character win for our team."
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.