Bruins’ comeback goes to top of Strader’s list

Like most hockey fans who were watching Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup Eastern Conference quarterfina

Like most hockey fans who were watching Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup Eastern Conference quarterfinals game between Toronto and Boston on Monday night, NBC Sports Network play-by-play announcer and Glens Falls native Dave Strader thought the game was over when the Maple Leafs took a 4-1 lead on Nazem Kadri’s goal with 14:31 left in the third period.

Silence engulfed the Bruins’ fans in the TD Garden. Some even started to head home, thinking the Bruins’ season was over.

“I just didn’t think Boston had anything left in the tank,” Strader said. “You just looked at their faces, and looked at their body language and looked at their effort, there was [some] try in what they were doing, but it just didn’t look like a Boston team that had a lot left.”

But a miracle happened. The Bruins scored three times, including two 31 seconds apart, to tie the score, 4-4, late, and then won it, 5-4, in overtime on Patrice Bergeron’s second goal of the game.

“I’ve covered the NHL for 27, 28 years, and I’ve seen some remarkable comebacks,” Strader said. “But I’ve never seen anything like that, and especially on that kind of a stage.”

Nathan Horton started the improbable comeback when he scored at 9:18. Still, the Bruins were down two. With time winding down, the Bruins pulled goalie Tuukka Rask for an extra attacker.

Milan Lucic got the first one with 1:22 left. Then, Bergeron scored with 51 seconds left to tie it. Strader sounded surprised, yet excited, on his call.

“It’s too bad that Jack Buck used the line, ‘I can’t believe what I just saw,’ because that’s what I wanted to say,” Strader said. “It was such a great call that he made when Kirk Gibson hit that home run in the [1988] World Series that it’s kind of taken that away from a lot of us with those kind of moments, but that’s what came to my mind. I couldn’t believe what I had seen.”

As the teams came out for overtime, Strader knew it was only a matter of time before the Bruins won it. Bergeron completed the comeback, scoring just over six minutes into overtime to send the Bruins to the Eastern Conference semifinals and a matchup with the New York Rangers.

“I went from looking at the Bruins’ body language to seeing a Toronto team coming out like, ‘Uh-oh, is this really happening?’” Strader said. “The script was there to be written with not only [the Leafs] winning in Boston, but [ex-Bruin Phil] Kessel playing such a huge part of the 4-1 lead with a goal and an assist in the third period. It was all adding up to be a story written one way, and then it turns completely around.

“That’s why I said at the end that it’s really too bad when you looked at this series, if you had told the Leafs you were going to seven games and an overtime in Boston, you would have thought, ‘Wow!’ A lot of people thought that wasn’t going to happen. But if it had just been a more conventional back-and-forth game that somebody gets the game-winner in overtime than the way it happened, even for a team that was an underdog like Toronto, that’s got to be one of the most difficult losses to swallow, regardless of what the circumstances were going into it.”

Pepper returns

Saratoga Springs native Dottie Pepper is heading back to television.

Pepper signed with ESPN on Wednesday, and she will make her debut at next month’s U.S. Open. She will serve multiple roles on ESPN’s multiplatform golf coverage, including analyst, on-course reporter and anchor during live play. She also will be an analyst on “SportsCenter,” and will write for

Pepper was a 17-time winner on the LPGA Tour. She retired in 2004. Pepper was a commen­tator for NBC Sports and The Golf Channel, and also was a contributing columnist for Sports Illustrated. She announced at the end of last season that she would leave NBC/The Golf Channel to join the PGA of America Board of Directors to work on developing junior golf in the United States.

“ESPN’s golf schedule is perfect for me,” Pepper said in statement. “I love working in television, and this schedule allows me to do that, but also gives me time to continue my work with the PGA of America and junior golf. It’s an ideal sit­uation.”

ESPN gets U.S. Open

ESPN and the United States Tennis Association have agreed to an 11-year deal that will give ESPN exclusive broadcast rights to the U.S. Open, it was announced Thursday. The deal starts in 2015.

This means that CBS Sports, which has broadcasted the event since 1968, will be done after the 2014 U.S. Open.

ESPN, which has close to 100 hours of live U.S. Open matches since 2009, will now air over 130 hours, with the addition of day-long coverage of the “middle weekend” — Saturday, Sunday and Labor Day Monday — plus both the men’s and women’s semifinals and finals. The new U.S. Open schedule — prev­iously announced to start in 2015 — places the women’s final on Saturday and the men’s on Sunday. This creates new prime-time tel­ecasts of the women’s semifinals on the second Thursday and the men’s semifinals the following day, giving a day of rest to the two players before each final. The U.S. Open had been the only major not to have an off day between the semifinals and finals.

In addition to ESPN and ESPN2, all telecasts will be available on WatchESPN. In an expansion of offerings, ESPN will make every match on all 17 tournament courts available on ESPN3. Presently, six of the 17 courts have coverage. Also, ESPN3 will begin each day’s coverage the first Monday–Friday morning, with two hours at 11 a.m. while “SportsCenter” on ESPN will have the right to do live cut-ins.

ESPN will now have exclusive rights to three of the four majors in tennis: U.S. Open, Wimbledon and the Australian Open. ESPN shares French Open coverage with NBC Sports.

ESPN has shared U.S. Open coverage with CBS Sports since 2009.

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