Matt Fraser was eating a burrito in Providence, Rhode Island, when he got the word that he was being promoted from the minor leagues to join the Boston Bruins for their playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens.
Less than 48 hours later, in his first career NHL playoff game, he scored in overtime to give the Bruins a 1-0 victory and tie the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals at two games apiece.
“It is pretty special for him,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after practice Friday. “First playoff game, score a goal like that — and a big one, to say the least.”
A 23-year-old forward from Red Deer, Alberta, Fraser played 13 regular-season games in two seasons with the Dallas Stars before coming to Boston in the Tyler Seguin trade. Fraser played 14 games for the Bruins this season, scoring twice, but he was averaging a point per game for the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League and preparing for their next series when he got the call to get to Montreal.
“What I was told is that he has been playing well in the playoffs for Providence and this was an opportunity for him to come in and help us out,” Julien said. “And that’s what he did.”
Fraser’s sudden promotion and success has made him an instant legend in Boston, especially after describing after the game what he was eating — a double-chicken burrito with guacamole and no cheese — when he got the call-up. He had just enough time for a frozen yogurt before heading to Montreal.
The Boston Herald ran a headline, “New kid’s on the guac.”
Although he said he wasn’t superstitious, he joked on Friday that he might “wander over to Pinkberry” before Game 5.
“He has come in here and, for a guy who maybe said he was nervous for the game, he certainly didn’t look like it,” Julien said. “He seemed poised out there and I said he made some good strong plays throughout the whole game.”
Fraser played 21 shifts totaling 14:44, and he was in the right place in overtime when a loose puck skittered around in the crease next to Canadiens goalie Carey Price. Fraser got his stick on it and swept it into the net just before a defenseman could clear it away.
“It’s something I dreamed about many times on the outdoor rinks growing up,” Fraser said. “It’s every kid’s dream to score in overtime. … Words can’t even describe that feeling.”
The victory helped Boston avoid a 3-1 hole in the series and restored the home-ice advantage the Bruins gave up with their Game 1 loss.
Montreal coach Michel Therrien said Friday that his top talent hasn’t been doing enough so far this series. Although he did not mention names, first-line forwards Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais have only one assist each in the first four games and just three points apiece in the playoffs so far.
“I want our best players to be able to perform and to contribute to the success of the team offensively,” Therrien said. “Certain players that are having some trouble contributing offensively. … These types of players need to adjust to the intensity of the playoffs.”