Next goal wins.

They might be the three greatest words in sports.  Also, the most terrifying. We were reminded of that in the wee hours Sunday when Matt Duchene scored in the second overtime to even the second-round series between the Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets at one win apiece.

Game 2 will be Tuesday night in Columbus, providing the teams an extra day’s rest after playing nearly 30 minutes of additional hockey Saturday night/Sunday morning. It was the first time since April 11 that the Bruins got an extra day between games. They needed it.

If you took Columbus lightly coming into this series, you’re not taking them lightly now. Coach John Tortorella’s team plays a heavy game and is far more physical than the high-flying Toronto Maple Leafs. That’s how the Jackets eliminated the Tampa Bay Lightning, which won 62 games and the league’s Presidents’ Trophy before being swept by the Jackets.

Bruins fans thought the Lightning collapse, along with series losses by Western Conference leader Calgary and defending champion Washington, would pave the way for an easy trip through the playoffs and back onto the duck boats. That’s clearly not the case. The Blue Jackets are built for playoff success and can frustrate skilled players.

If you want to be successful against Columbus you better be deep. You need a group that will forecheck relentlessly. Coach Bruce Cassidy needs line after line to go out and attack, keeping the puck deep in the offensive zone.

That’s why it was no surprise that the hero of Game 1 wasn’t Patrice Bergeron or Brad Marchand or Zdeno Chara. It was third-line center Charlie Coyle. The kid from Weymouth, Massachusetts and Boston University forced overtime with his goal with 4:35 remaining in regulation, then claimed victory with another strike 5:15 into extra time.

And it’s why General Manager Don Sweeney made the move for Coyle before the NHL trade deadline, acquiring him from Minnesota in February. Sweeney had to give up a lot, moving on from the high-scoring potential of Ryan Donato for the immediate contributions of Coyle. We may look back at this deal in a few years and wonder if Sweeney gave away too much. After all, Donato had four goals and 12 assists in 22 games for the Wild after the trade.

But Sweeney didn’t make this trade for the future. He made it for this month. He sensed that the Bruins had a chance to make a very deep run in the playoffs and knew his team needed a third-line center now.

The results weren’t immediate. Coyle scored just two goals in 21 games with the Bruins after the trade but has cranked it up in the playoffs. He scored three times in the seven-game win against the Leafs before adding two goals in Game 1 of the second round.

For Coyle, it was the continuation of a dream come true. He played at Weymouth High, Thayer Academy, and the South Shore Kings before moving on to BU. A first-round draft pick, he’s made hockey his career, but the fact it’s his business doesn’t mean he’s lost the joy of playing.

“That’s why you play these games,” Coyle said after the Bruins eliminated Toronto about 15 miles from where he grew up. “When you’re playing in the driveway and you’re playing street hockey you say it’s Game 7. You want to play in that. So to be doing the real thing is a lot of fun. That’s why we play the game.”

The real thing is also a lot more physically demanding. Coyle and the Bruins get back at it Tuesday night in Columbus. There will be no extra rest from here. The next time anyone gets consecutive days off will be after this series. That team won’t be living a dream. It will be living the nightmare of watching the rest of the playoffs on TV.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.


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