MONTREAL - A three-goal Montreal explosion in a little more than three minutes. A Boston rally capped by a bad-bounce dump-in. A shootout. Another Montreal victory.
The madness continues.
"It's always a wild one when we play them," said Milan Lucic, who continued his pleasantries with nemesis Mike Komisarek. "It's unfortunate we came out on the losing end again. But it feels like we never left. It feels like the series is still going."
The Bruins and Canadiens, who slugged each other for seven playoff games last season before Montreal came out on top, kept on swinging last night - literally. Early on, Shawn Thornton threw down with heavyweight Georges Laraque. In the second period, Lucic and Komisarek traded blows, a few face washes, and matching roughing and 10-minute misconduct penalties. Both offenses threw heavy shots on Tim Thomas and Carey Price.
Amid the rubble, the Canadiens emerged with a 4-3 shootout victory before 21,273 at the Bell Centre, courtesy of Alex Tanguay's laser of a wrister over the glove of Thomas.
But after a wretched first-period stretch that led to three Montreal scores, the Bruins were somewhat buoyed by taking 1 point out of the decision.
"It's early in the season, but we can't keep talking about the same thing," said Marc Savard (two goals). "We have one bad period and end up losing the hockey game. Everybody battles right to the end. We've got that type of team. We got a point, so we're happy but not satisfied. There's work to be done. We know that. You almost feel like it's a must-win coming up on Saturday. We've got to be ready."
The Bruins cracked the door open a tad in the first period, but the Canadiens booted it down and drop-kicked their opponents in the teeth, putting three pucks behind Thomas as quickly as the fans could chant, "Go, Habs, Go." An ill-advised Dennis Wideman cross-check to the back of winger Andrei Kostitsyn led to Montreal's first power play. Sixteen seconds into the man-advantage, sniper Alex Kovalev tucked home a pass from linemate Tomas Plekanec at 15:06.
At 16:38, after Thomas left the rebound from a Guillaume Latendresse shot dribbling in the crease, captain Saku Koivu batted the puck in to give his club a 2-0 advantage. Forward Sergei Kostitsyn went to the box to serve a slashing penalty at 17:24, but a little more than a minute later, after Zdeno Chara left his net-front position to defend penalty killer Mathieu Dandenault, Maxim Lapierre put a close-range shot behind Thomas, capping a three-goal flurry in 3:19.
Undisciplined play. Shoddy goaltending. Poor defensive-zone play. Weak engagement in puck battles. All ingredients that, against a quick-strike team such as Montreal, can lead to a three-goal deficit.
"You can't make mistakes like we made in the first period and expect to win hockey games," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "We had to get better. From goaltender out. We needed big saves. We needed smarter plays. We needed everything."
As rotten as that first-period span was for the Bruins, they didn't quit against a club that could have blown their doors off for the remaining 40 minutes. David Krejci started the comeback in the second period, finding a rebound in the slot and canning a screamer over Price, off the crossbar, and into the net at 7:15.
In the third period, with Andrei Kostitsyn (hooking) and Komisarek (holding) in the box, the Bruins had a 44-second five-on-three power play. They converted during the two-man advantage as Savard banged in the rebound of a Chara slapper at 7:12.
The Canadiens were on their heels for most of the third period (Boston held an 11-5 shot advantage in the final 20 minutes), but it looked as if they could ride out the Bruins' rally. However, a last-minute Michael Ryder dump-in took a bad bounce off the end boards.
Price, who had left his crease to play a puck that he believed would rim around the wall, tried to scramble back to his net. But Savard, who was following the play, found the loose puck and tapped it into an empty net at 19:12 for the tying score.
"I was going in because I saw Michael rimming it," said Savard. "It took that hop. It was tough because I had to wait for it to come down. Batted it in right when it was lying on the ice. So, it was a good break."
In the shootout, after he turned aside one Boston attempt in overtime, Price stared down the Bruins' shooters. Phil Kessel shot wide. Price stuffed Patrice Bergeron's five-hole bid. Then Price went head to head with Ryder, his ex-teammate whom he had stopped five times during regulation. Ryder tried to muscle off a wrister, but Price kept the winger's bid from going in. At the conclusion of the shootout, Price gave a fist pump while Thomas, beaten by Tanguay, skated off the ice.
"Coming down from 3-0, getting a point, and putting ourselves in position to get that second point, it shows composure and it's a good sign," said Thomas (25 saves). "We stayed with it, kept our composure, and it ended up paying off slowly. It took us a long time to battle back into it."
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.