When the Bruins began their first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens, they knew their best player -- captain Joe Thornton -- was less than 100 percent because of an upper-body injury, and they looked for others to take over.
Last night, for the second straight game, the heroes were the second line of Sergei Samsonov, Michael Nylander, and 18-year-old Patrice Bergeron.
Bergeron scored with 1:26 gone in overtime to lift the Bruins to a 2-1 victory over the Habs at the FleetCenter, giving Boston a two-games-to-none lead as the venue shifts to the Bell Centre for Games 3 and 4.
"They've created a lot of chances," said coach Mike Sullivan, of the line that produced both Boston goals. "We obviously had an inclination when we put them together that they had the makings of being a dynamic line. They're three pretty talented hockey players. They all see the ice so well. They're elusive and they're tough to defend against. When they play behind Joe's line, Joe's line commands so much attention and sometimes that [second] line has an opportunity because of that."
On the winning goal, Samsonov got the puck to Nylander, who sent a touch pass to Bergeron, who had defenseman Francis Bouillon to beat. Bergeron instead fired from the right circle -- the only shot of the OT -- and it eluded goalie Jose Theodore.
"Michael gave me the puck at the blue line and it was one-on-one against Bouillon," said Bergeron. "I knew I couldn't get through and I didn't have that much speed, so I just tried to put it at the net. We'll take it right now. It's crazy. I was just happy."
Goalie Andrew Raycroft earned his second career playoff victory in as many games and has given up just one goal in 121 minutes 26 seconds in the series.
The Bruins knew the Canadiens were going to come out much stronger than they had in Game 1, and they certainly did, but it was an odd game in many ways. Each team committed six penalties, but only the Canadiens were able to convert.
The Bruins jumped in front at 15:22 of the first on a goal by Nylander. Jiri Slegr started the play when he dished the puck to Samsonov in neutral ice. Samsonov relayed a pass to Bergeron, who was on the right side of the Montreal blue line, and Boston had a 2-on-1. Bergeron skated the puck into the right circle and with Nylander charging the left side, he found his linemate with a perfect pass and Nylander lifted a shot into the net for his second of the playoffs.
Montreal's goal came during a 5-on-3 at 15:54 of the second. With four seconds remaining on the two-man advantage, Habs captain Saku Koivu -- near the right post -- sent the puck out to defenseman Patrice Brisebois in the left circle. With Richard Zednik screening Raycroft, Brisebois snapped a high shot into the net and it was all even.
In no small part because of the penalties, the Bruins were limited to just two shots in the second period to 12 for the Canadiens.
The clubs each had nine shots on net in the scoreless third. Two of the Canadiens' bids -- both by Jan Bulis -- were dangerous. With about five minutes remaining in regulation, Bulis had a backhanded chance in front and then followed it up seconds later with a forehanded shot that Raycroft stopped, setting the stage for overtime and Bergeron's winner.
"He's done nothing but impress us all year long with his steady improvement and play," said Sullivan of Bergeron. "From Day One of training camp, he was a guy who just raised eyebrows. He has a certain maturity level about him. What amazes me the most is his understanding of the game. He sees plays develop out there before they happen. For most of us, it takes a couple of hundred games in the league to start to figure that out. He seems to have figured that out already."
Nick Boynton said it was tough to articulate the difference between being up, 2-0, and being tied at one game apiece.
"It's huge," he said. "Montreal is a tough place to play. It's going to be a battle, so it was a really big game for us. It was really nice to get it done early like that."