BOSTON — The Canadiens are seeing a disturbing trend in the way the last two games of this postseason have transpired.
Twice, they have had leads of two goals or more. Twice, they have seen those leads completely disappear.
As goaltender Carey Price said, it’s not time to hit the panic button — the series, after all, is tied 1-1 heading back to Montreal — but it is something to be aware of.
“They poured it on at the end of the game,” Price said. “They got pretty lucky, I thought. They were playing desperate at the end of the game, and they found a way to put it in the net. We’ve just got to regroup, realize the situation were in — we’re in a good spot — and move forward.
In Game 1 of this Eastern Conference Semifinals series, the Canadiens were able to steal a win in overtime. In Game 2, they weren’t so fortunate, as they allowed Boston to forge a furious four-goal comeback in the third period to even the series with a 5-3 victory. It marked Montreal’s first loss of the 2014 postseason.
The Canadiens have been able to get out to good starts. Now, it’s just about sustaining that pressure for a full 60 minutes.
“The one thing we have got to make sure — when the pressure is on, we still have to be aggressive,” said Canadiens Head Coach Michel Therrien. “This is what our mindset was when we started the third period. We didn’t get enough chances before they scored their goal. I thought we were playing well. This is the first time we were losing the lead when we were up in the third period; usually we are pretty good at it. We just have to refocus and make sure that we are solid now.”
For Montreal, there were positives to take away from Saturday’s matinee at TD Garden. For one, they forged a comeback of their own in the first period, after Boston got on the board with about seven minutes remaining in the frame. Then, the Canadiens regrouped during the first intermission, and just over a minute into the second, defenseman Mike Weaver struck from the top of the right circle with net-front traffic screening Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask.
Another positive: the reemergence of Thomas Vanek. The top-line winger was silent during the first game of the series, prompting a demotion to the fourth line. Before Game 1, he said he recognized he -- and his entire line -- needed to be better. Therrien echoed those sentiments.
On Saturday, he was better, striking for Montreal’s second goal, which came on the power play with under two minutes remaining in the second period. Six and a half minutes into the third, he scored again on the man advantage to give the Habs a 3-1 lead.
“It feels good to contribute, obviously,” Vanek said. “I though especially at that time of the game, with the penalties they were taking, I thought it was good to get the lead. And then obviously, after we made it 3-1, I thought we played well after that.”
A third positive: obviously, the power play was effective once again for the Canadiens. Game 2 was far scrappier than Game 1, and the Bruins took a whopping nine penalties, several of which were borne out of frustration toward the end of the second period. The Canadiens went 2-for-6 on the man advantage on Saturday, while Boston was unable to convert on three opportunities of their own.
But the third-period collapse in which the Canadiens allowed four unanswered Boston goals in the final 10 minutes of play negated many of those positives.
With 9:04 left in the game, Dougie Hamilton’s laser from the high slot found the back of the net. Just over three minutes later, Patrice Bergeron netted a bad-angle shot from the right circle. Reilly Smith struck with the game-winner just over two minutes later, after Torey Krug found him with a nifty cross-crease pass that just eluded a reaching Brendan Gallagher. Milan Lucic capped off the scoring with an empty-netter.
“It’s just a couple breakdowns,” said forward Brian Gionta. “On their second goal there, it’s just over-backcheck, they find the late guy. The other one’s just a scramble where their D are moving down low, and found a guy cross-seam, he got his stick on it. Unfortunate bounces, but we’ve got to continue to play.
“We’ve got to find ways, when we have the lead, to finish it off. Come playoff time, that’s a huge key to wins. We’ve got to continue to play and find ways to play 60 minutes.”
Price, who finished the day with 30 stops on 34 shots, said he didn’t come to Boston expecting to sweep the first two games. But the Habs were so, so close to doing just that before Boston showed its resilience for the second straight game and finally got a win to show for it.
“We had a two-goal lead,” said defenseman P.K. Subban. “We have to manage the puck better and do smarter things out there, making sure we are being smart with the puck and putting ourselves in a good position. Nine minutes left to go in the game, we have to shut it down.
“Good teams know how to shut things down when the have the lead. We are a good team — we have done it before — but at the same token, we came here wanting to get one win. Obviously, we would have liked to have two, but we got one. We have home-ice advantage.
We’re going back to Montreal, and we’ll be ready to play.”
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