Chara's late PPG gives Bruins early jump on Canadiens
The good start, the two-goal lead, the momentum of the TD Banknorth Garden home crowd - all gone in the second period when the Bruins got off their game.
"We did stop," said Aaron Ward. "That's what got us in trouble in the second period. We stopped playing our system with the effort and level of intensity. We sat and watched them play a perimeter game, run us around, and when a team does that in the playoffs, it's hard to push back."
With the score tied, 2-2, in the third period, the Bruins got the break they needed when defenseman Josh Gorges was nailed for cross-checking. On the power play, Zdeno Chara brought the hammer down on one of his trademark one-time point sizzlers to beat goalie Carey Price for the winning goal. Phil Kessel added an empty-net goal with 13.4 seconds remaining to give the Bruins a 4-2 win before 17,565 and a 1-0 lead in the first-round series.
"We came out, played well, and got the momentum back on our side," said coach Claude Julien. "It's always important in a 2-2 game to play to win. This is what it's all about. You can't play on your heels. I thought our energy level had dropped a little bit in the second period, and that hurt us. But I liked the way we responded in the third."
There were some fireworks in the closing seconds. After Kessel tucked home his empty-netter, agitator Maxim Lapierre got in the winger's face and delivered a few shots. Milan Lucic, who set up Kessel's goal by picking off a pass at center ice, responded and was called for 12 penalty minutes (roughing, 10-minute misconduct). Then after the final buzzer, Steve Montador tangled with winger Guillaume Latendresse (both were tagged with roughing and 10-minute misconduct penalties), while 6-foot-5-inch, 243-pound defenseman Mike Komisarek tangled with 5-11, 190-pound Matt Hunwick, appearing to draw blood on his smaller foe.
"I'm not going to stand here and whine about that stuff," said Julien. "That's what playoff hockey is all about. You stand tall for your team and you stand up for each other. That's what they did. They were trying to send a message, even in the last 15 seconds. The stuff that happened there, if there's something that needs to be addressed, it's up to the league to do it. But as far as I'm concerned, that's just playoff hockey."
The Bruins grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first period. Kessel found his own rebound - Chuck Kobasew and David Krejci jostled his initial shot loose from Price's grasp - and poked one home at 13:11. Less than two minutes later, Lucic got a step on Gorges, chased down a dump-in, and swept a pass to Michael Ryder. Ryder beat defenseman Mathieu Dandenault to the puck and slipped a pass into the slot for Krejci, who roofed a backhander home.
"That's part of my game that I need to be good at," Lucic said of being aggressive on the forecheck. "I kind of fanned on the puck when I gave it to Rydes. I think Rydes fanned on it, too. But we were just working hard, winning the puck races, and we were able to drive the net and get a goal."
The Canadiens would wipe out that lead. Fourth-liner Christopher Higgins collected the rebound of linemate Alex Tanguay's shot and beat Tim Thomas (26 saves) at 16:19 of the first. Then at 17:37 of the second, seven ticks after killing off a Stephane Yelle goaltender interference call, the Bruins saw sniper Alex Kovalev rip a top-shelf one-timer over Thomas's shoulder.
When the Bruins went on their third-period power play, Julien sent out a unit he had mixed up earlier. Hunwick usually mans the point alongside Dennis Wideman on the No. 1 unit, while Ryder serves as the left-side shooter. But Julien recognized Hunwick's jitters (it was the rookie's first playoff appearance) and Kessel's big-game presence. So with Chara on the point instead of Hunwick and Kessel taking Ryder's spot, the Bruins went to work.
First, Mark Recchi set up in front and placed his stick in the shooting lane just as a Wideman blast arrived. Recchi's redirection slammed off the crossbar, thudded off Price's back, and dribbled toward the goal line. But Price dived and snapped his glove over the puck at 10:56, keeping the score 2-2.
After the following faceoff, the Bruins crashed the net, forcing the Montreal penalty killers to collapse in the slot. That left Chara free at the point, where Marc Savard fed him a feathery pass.
Chara's stick swung down. The puck jumped off the blade. It slammed into the back of the net. A helpless Price (35 saves) threw up his hands, knowing he had no shot to stop what was surely a triple-digit cannon.
"He's got a bomb," said Ward. "It took him until the third period to let it go. But he's an intimidating guy with that shot. He's our leader. If there's any question in years past - people were critical of him being captain, and I have no idea why - he's proven himself to be worthy of it. He's got the attention and the respect of every guy in this locker room."
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.