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GAME: Boston Bruins at Montreal Canadiens.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference quarterfinal; Bruins lead 2-1.
TIME: Tuesday, 7 p.m. EDT.
A return home and a return to form by their best players was just what the Montreal Canadiens needed.
Buoyed by the performance of their new top line, the Canadiens will try to even their quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins when the longtime rivals meet in Game 4.
Facing the prospect of an all-but insurmountable 3-0 series deficit, the Canadiens returned home for Game 3 on Sunday and responded with a 3-2 victory.
Alex Kovalev scored two first-period goals, both assisted by goalie Jose Theodore, and defenseman Andrei Markov also scored for Montreal.
"It was a must win for us," Canadiens captain Saku Koivu said. "The first game at home and being down 2-0, obviously there's a chance of being too emotional and getting away from the game plan. But I thought we controlled our emotions pretty well and we were able to get the first goal, and that kind of helped us at the beginning."
The two-goal performance was particularly satisfying for Kovalev, who has been a disappointment with the Canadiens since he was acquired from the New York Rangers on March 2. Kovalev had one goal and two assists in his first 13 games with Montreal, but has two goals and an assist in his last two contests.
"There was frustration at the end of the season because I hadn't scored many goals, but the fans stayed behind me," Kovalev said. "I wanted to show them the player I am and to come up big. I knew that if I kept working on my game that eventually it would turn around. I knew I was getting close. I was getting more comfortable."
The line of Kovalev, Koivu and Richard Zednik combined for two goals and three assists in Game 3 after the trio was held to two assists in the two games at Boston.
Though Theodore denied the Bruins the tying goal Sunday, he knows still hasn't played his best in this series.
"For sure, two bad goals tonight," Theodore said. "You're lucky to get away with a win."
Boston's Andrew Raycroft allowed three goals on 32 shots in his first career postseason road game.
"I thought Razor was terrific," Bruins coach Mike Sullivan said of his rookie goalie. "He made some timely saves for us in the first two periods that kept the game close and gave us a chance to win."
Brian Rolston and Andy Hilbert scored for Boston, which played without center Michael Nylander, scratched with what was described as symptoms stemming from the flu.
Nylander's absence was magnified because Bruins captain Joe Thornton is clearly not 100 percent from the "upper body injury" that kept him out of the final two regular season games. In the first three games of this series, Thornton has no points and four shots on goal.
With Thornton struggling to find his game, linemate Glen Murray has yet to register a point in this series. With two assists Sunday, Theodore has one more point than Boston's top line in the first three games.
"We have to elevate our game more," Murray said. "Obviously, Nylander's line has been carrying us and I think we have to step it up. We can't worry if Joe's not 100 percent. Mike (Knuble) and myself, we have to do more to help him out for what he can't do."
The Bruins hope to have Nylander back for Game 4. He is tied for the team playoff scoring lead with four points.
"He skated Saturday. He felt all right," Sullivan said. "It just came on, so I'm sure it will be a day-to-day thing."
While getting Kovalev back on track provided the Canadiens with a huge lift, an ineffective power play remains a concern. Montreal went scoreless in four chances with the man advantage Sunday and is 2-for-40 in the last 11 games.
Canadiens forward Steve Begin isn't likely to play Tuesday. He was carried from the ice late in Game 3 after injuring his knee and left the arena on crutches.
The series moves back to Boston for Game 5 on Thursday.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Bruins - 104 points; 2nd seed. Canadiens - 93 points; 7th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Bruins - Nylander, 2 goals; Sergei Samsonov, 4 assists; Nylander and Samsonov, 4 points; Thornton, 6 PIM. Canadiens - Kovalev, 2 goals; Koivu, 3 assists, Kovalev and Koivu, 3 points; Koivu and Mike Ribeiro, 6 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Bruins - Power play: 14.3 percent (2 for 14). Penalty killing: 93.3 percent (14 for 15). Canadiens - Power play: 6.7 percent (1 for 15). Penalty killing: 85.7 percent (12 for 14).
GOALTENDERS: Bruins - Raycroft (2-1, 1 SO, 1.33 GAA); Felix Potvin (no appearances). Canadiens - Theodore (1-2, 2.31); Mathieu Garon (no appearances).