BOSTON -- Dennis Wideman has turned the boos in Boston into cheers.
Wideman, a Bruins' defenseman, played a pivotal role in Boston's Game 3 win Monday against the Buffalo Sabres, first scoring the game-tying goal and then assisting on Patrice Bergeron's game-winner late in the third period.
Game 4 is Wednesday night (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC).
Wideman has enjoyed a solid series thus far and has 7 points in his last eight games dating back to the regular season. Still, the good times have been few and far between this season and hearing cheers at TD Garden is quite the turnaround for a player who only a month ago was the ire of fans.
"Obviously at the start of the year and most of the year, things didn't go as well as I would like or as it has in the past. I just have to prove to them that I can still play and I still want to win."
-- Dennis WidemanAfter a break-out 2008-09 season with 50 points and a plus-32, Wideman struggled through a frustrating 2009-10 season at minus-14 and only 30 points. But he ended the season strong with a five-game point streak, but by then he had earned the enmity of the fans and was a scapegoat for almost anything that went wrong for the Bruins.
Well, not everything. On Sunday night, Wideman watched, as many fans did, in awe and sympathy as San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle make an errant clear into his own net to lose a 1-0 overtime heartbreaker to Colorado in Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.
"That's probably about the only thing that didn't happen this season", Wideman said. "Still could, I guess. But that's just so hard and you've got to feel for the guy."
There was a turning point of sorts with the fans in the last game of the regular season, ironically against the Sabres. After making a poor pass that led to a first period Buffalo goal, the fans were merciless on Wideman.
"Obviously it's not easy [for me]," Wideman said at the time. "It's a little harder when you're trying to make a play or trying to be patient with the puck when that is going on, but that is part of the game.
"They can do whatever they want. They pay to come to the game. Obviously at the start of the year and most of the year, things didn't go as well as I would like or as it has in the past. I just have to prove to them that I can still play and I still want to win."
Wideman did prove himself, scoring the winning goal in that game and then playing a strong defensive game when the depleted Bruins' defense needed him most. It snowballed from there. Now, Wideman is logging more minutes, but not because of injuries, but because of his play.
"When he decides to put his mind to it, and is determined, that's what you get out of him," coach Claude Julien said.
The Bruins are seeing a much more confident Wideman, who seems to have blossomed under the adversity of this past season.
"Obviously it feels good to play well," he said after Game 3. "Some of it was a little harsh at time, but you don't have that if you're playing your best. And I went through a tough start of the year. But you've just got to put that behind you. It's playoffs. We've got to win now. I think it affects my game because I play a game that I need to play confidence, I need to hold onto the puck and I need to make plays.
"It feels really good to turn things around," Wideman said. "I knew it was going to happen, I just didn't know when. I was working at it, working at it and then finally things started to come more natural and things started to go better for me. And the team's been playing better, the team's making it easier. The crowd's been great. It's great to have them cheering again."