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The year in Boston sports: Most memorable games of 2011

12.29.11 at 10:03 am ET
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Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals ended with Tim Thomas and the Bruins celebrating a championship. (AP)

Even though 2011 wasn’t the most successful year for all of Boston’s teams, it certainly was a memorable one. Playoff rivalries were renewed for the Celtics, Bruins and Patriots, while the Red Sox added another chapter to their legacy of heartbreak.

Picking out the 10 most memorable games of the year was not an easy task. The Bruins easily could have dominated this list, with all of their dramatic playoff victories en route to winning the Stanley Cup. But we’ve attempted to include fair representation from all four of Boston’s major pro sports squads, featuring games that were memorable for the local teams’ success or failure.

10. April 8: Red Sox 9, Yankees 6

The Red Sox’ season started much the way it ended, with a sense of impending doom around the corner. After the Sox started the season 0-6, swept by both Cleveland and Texas, the offense finally clicked when the Yankees paid a visit to Fenway for the home opener. Dustin Pedroia hit his first home run of the season and the Red Sox erupted for 12 hits, giving them — and John Lackey – their first win of the season.

9. April 17, Eastern Conference quarterfinals, Game 1: Celtics 87, Knicks 85

Ray Allen’s 3-pointer with 12 seconds left in the game made sure the Knicks’ return to the playoffs (their first appearance in seven years) was a painful one. The Knicks led for almost the entire game, but the Celtics came up big down the stretch (and yes, a questionable call went their way). “Down the stretch we found a way to win,” Paul Pierce said. “And that was because of our experience.” The Celtics went on to win the series in four straight.

8. July 17: Red Sox 1, Rays 0 (16 innings)

In the middle of July, no one would have predicted a Red Sox collapse with the way they were playing. And this game seemed to cement that the Sox would fight until the end of any game, at least for the time being. On a day — two days, actually — when it seemed no one would score a run, Pedroia’s single to right field in the top of the 16th inning scored Josh Reddick. Josh Beckett went eight innings, giving up only one hit and no walks, and the Sox bullpen took it from there, allowing only two more hits in the next eight innings, with Jonathan Papelbon closing out the five-hour, 44-minute affair.

7. May 7, Eastern Conference semifinals, Game 3: Celtics 97, Heat 81

Down 2-0 in the series to Miami, Boston was in a must-win situation when LeBron James and the Heat came to town for Game 3. And for one night, the Celtics were able to slow down the Heat’s offense and Kevin Garnett was able to push around Chris Bosh, ending the game with 28 points and 18 rebounds. It wasn’t just Garnett who had his way, Paul Pierce scored 27 points and Rajon Rondo played 35 minutes despite dislocating his elbow to help inspire the Celtics, who wouldn’t win another game in the series.

6. June 1, Stanley Cup finals, Game 1: Canucks 1, Bruins 0

After 59 minutes and 40 seconds of scoreless play, Raffi Torres redirected a pass from Jannik Hansen for the latest game-winner in Stanley Cup history. Adding insult to injury, the Bruins were steamed by the bite Alex Burrows put on Patrice Bergeron‘s hand. The game further highlighted Boston’s power-play problems, with the Bruins going 0-for-6 on the man advantage, including a 5-on-3.

5. April 27, Eastern Conference quarterfinals, Game 7: Bruins 4, Canadiens 3 (OT)

In the Bruins’ three playoff series that went seven games, none was closer or more emotional than the first, when the Bruins rallied against their arch rivals after losing the first two games at home. Three of the games went to overtime, including Game 7. When Patrice Bergeron was penalized for high sticking and P.K. Subban tied the game with under two minutes to play in regulation, it brought back a host of bad memories for Bruins fans. But 5:43 into overtime, Nathan Horton’s big slap shot was too much for Canadians goaltender Carey Price and the Bruins moved on.

4. May 27, Eastern Conference finals, Game 7: Bruins 1, Lightning 0

After six games in which the teams combined to average almost seven goals, Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals was ruled by the goalies. In the first 1-0 Game 7 in Bruins history, Tim Thomas proved just slightly better than Dwayne Roloson. The Bruins appeared to be the better team, but Roloson seemed to steal Thomas’s mojo for most of the game, making unbelievable stop after stop, finishing the game with 37 saves. In the end, though, it was Horton again who scored the game-winner, this time beating Roloson to a David Krejci rebound on the far post.

3. Jan. 16, AFC divisional playoffs: Jets 28, Patriots 21

In one of the most anticipated playoff games in team history — and one that was preceded by trash talk from New York and creative rebuttals from New England — it was the Jets defense that came up big. While Tom Brady led the Patriots on a late run, it  proved to be too little, too late as Braylon Edwards and LaDainian Tomlinson turned in inspiring performances reminiscent of past glory and forced Wes Welker to eat his words.

2. Sept. 28: Orioles 4, Red Sox 3

On one of the most incredible nights in baseball history, the Red Sox, who were arguably the best team in baseball for half the season, blew a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth when Chris Davis and Nolan Reimold hit back-to-back doubles off Papelbon, and Robert Andino’s bloop single fell just underneath the glove of a not very outstretched Carl Crawford, allowing the winning run to score. The Red Sox’ improbable loss, combined with the Rays’ seven-run comeback for an 8-7 victory over the Yankees in 12 innings that gave Tampa Bay the wild card by a game, goes down as perhaps the worst choke in Sox history.

1. June 15, Stanley Cup finals, Game 7: Bruins 4, Canucks 0

While the final score was not close, this game brought the only significant piece of hardware that any Boston team won in 2011. Bergeron and Brad Marchand each scored twice, and an all-around performance by the Bruins, including Thomas’ second shutout of the series, brought home Lord Stanley and set the streets of Vancouver on fire. While not the most exciting game of the Bruins’ historic playoff campaign, it certainly meant the most.

Read More: Boston Celtics, kevin garnett, LeBron James, New England Patriots