Bruins deal Canadiens another blow
MONTREAL - If you're the leaking-oil Canadiens, the scariest thing about the Bruins isn't that they slammed the door shut in last night's third period to claim a 4-2 win.
It's not that they did so without Milan Lucic, banished for Game 3 of this playoff series because of his high hit on center Maxim Lapierre. It's not that they took the best of what the thump-first Canadiens dished out in the first period and went into the dressing room tied at 1-1.
It's that last night already has been wiped from Boston's collective memories.
"This game? Already put aside," said coach Claude Julien. "Our guys are into the next game already, because that's the way we've been all year."
Come tomorrow's Game 4 at the Bell Centre, this confident but grounded group of Bruins will be focused on the job at hand: to punt the Canadiens out of 2008-09 and end an ugly cen tennial year with a finish that could portend sea change for Les Glorieux.
General manager/coach Bob Gainey, having pulled his most desperate string by firing good friend Guy Carbonneau and taking over bench duties, might be on the hot seat himself. Carey Price, once considered the next coming of Ken Dryden, is looking ordinary between the pipes. The core of the team (Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay, Mike Komisarek) is headed for unrestricted free agency.
The Bruins are just one win away not only from advancing in the Stanley Cup playoffs but perhaps triggering the dismantling of their most hated rival.
Last night, a desperate Montreal club gave the Bruins everything they could handle in the first period.
"They came out the way we knew they would," Julien said. "You've got to give them credit.
"What I liked was that we weathered the storm. We didn't really panic and eventually got better as the game went on."
Christopher Higgins gave the Canadiens their first lead of the series when he slipped a shot past Tim Thomas at 11:52. But the Bruins answered when Dennis Wideman shot a floater out front that a passing-through Phil Kessel tipped past Price at 18:35.
"When Phil scored to tie it up, 1-1, it turned us around mentally," said Thomas. "Going into the second, we were like, 'Hey, let's take the lead instead of fighting back from being down.' "
In the second period, after Shawn Thornton gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead at 3:36, the Canadiens came right back. On an offensive-zone draw, ex-Bruin Glen Metropolit beat Marc Savard cleanly, pulling the puck back to Yannick Weber at the point. The defenseman waited for traffic to drift in front of Thomas, then whipped a point shot that eluded the goalie at 5:16 for the equalizer.
But for the second straight period, the Bruins struck late to deflate the 21,273 fans.
The play started when Mark Stuart winged a slap shot from the left point that Price (26 saves) turned aside. But Price booted the rebound out to Wideman at the other point, and never settled his feet in the crease.
At first, Wideman thought about dumping the puck deep into the corner to restart the cycle. But just before Wideman released the puck, he saw a shooting lane appear. At the same time, Michael Ryder, on the left side of the ice, read that Wideman was winding up for a shot and positioned himself for a possible rebound.
The rebound arrived.
"Just worked out that it came off the end of his pad and right out to Rydes," said Wideman.
Ryder scooped it up and slammed it home at 17:21 for the winning strike.
"He's played a big role for us this year," Julien said. "He scored the goals we expected him to score, although he had a slower start.
"I thought, tonight, besides his goal, he was solid. He played a really good game for us. Good for him to come in here and showcase what he can do."
After that? Not much for the Canadiens, who managed to put only five third-period shots on Thomas (23 saves). When the Bruins were in their own zone, they didn't rim pucks out wildly and give them back to the Canadiens. They broke out cleanly and dumped pucks deep, forcing the Canadiens to turn around and go the length of the ice to attack.
The Bruins finished with a ruthless efficiency to their game, capping it with a Chuck Kobasew empty-net goal at 19:23. Nobody in the Boston dressing room was foolish enough to utter the S-word. But with the way the Bruins are rolling and the manner in which the Canadiens are going out with a whimper, a sweep would shock nobody.