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GAME: Montreal Canadiens at Boston Bruins.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference quarterfinals; Bruins lead 3-1.
TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EDT.
Having a short memory is now the key for the Montreal Canadiens.
One loss away from having their season ended, the Canadiens look to rebound from a devastating defeat and prolong their quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins when the teams meet in Game 5.
Needing a win to even this series, the Canadiens appeared on the verge of doing so when Mike Ribeiro's second goal of the game in the second period gave Montreal a 3-1 lead Tuesday. Boston, however, drew within one on Jiri Slegr's goal midway through the second period.
Montreal needed only to close out the final minute to send the series back to Boston even, but Mike Knuble forced overtime when instant replay showed his deflection barely crossed the goal line with 31 seconds left in regulation.
After each goalie made several outstanding saves during a scoreless first extra period, Montreal's Alex Kovalev committed a huge mistake in the second overtime that led to Glen Murray's winning goal at 9:27.
After being slashed by Travis Green, Kovalev was shaking his hand in an attempt to draw a penalty and lost sight of the puck. Canadiens defenseman Sheldon Souray tried to grab the loose puck, but collided with Kovalev. Murray swooped in and beat Jose Theodore with a wrist shot for a 4-3 victory that put the Bruins one win away from eliminating their longtime rivals.
"There's nothing you can say about that," said Kovalev, whose right hand was wrapped in a bag of ice. "We ended up in the middle of the ice and Sheldon ended up losing the puck."
Souray tried to explain what happened.
"I saw he got slashed," Souray said. "Maybe it should be a penalty, but do you stop playing? In double overtime? I was just caught by surprise that he left the puck there and there was nobody behind him. So obviously you want to go back and get the puck."
Now the Canadiens have to regroup and find a way to get the series back home for Game 6.
"You know, it's a loss, but you need four games to win the series," Ribeiro said. "We can't change what happened, we can change what's coming up."
History is not on Montreal's side.
The Bruins are 14-0 when leading a playoff series 3-1, while the Canadiens are 0-12 when trailing a series by the same margin.
Another concern for Montreal is that Boston's top line of Murray, Knuble and Joe Thornton seems to be getting stronger as the series goes on. That trio registered 17 shots on goal Tuesday after having totaled 15 in the first three games.
Knuble scored his second goal of the playoffs in Game 4 and Murray had a goal and an assist for his first points of the postseason. Though Thornton is still without a point, the Bruins captain played by far his most effective game of the series with five shots on goal.
Thornton was hampered by an "upper body injury" early in the series.
"It was awesome," Green said. "It was evident from the first shift. You can see Joe is coming around and feeling better. It was obvious. The whole bench, right from the get-go, I heard guys saying and I said it, `Joe's on tonight, so let's jump on.' "
While Boston's top line has struggled most of this series, the second unit of Michael Nylander, Sergei Samsonov and Patrice Bergeron has been the team's best.
After missing Game 3 with the flu, Nylander returned Tuesday and scored his team-leading third goal of the series. Samsonov set up Nylander's goal for his fifth assist of the postseason, and Bergeron has contributed a goal and two assists.
Before committing his huge gaffe, Kovalev had been one of Montreal's best players in the series. He scored his third goal of the playoffs Tuesday after scoring once in 13 regular-season games with Montreal.
The Canadiens could be without defenseman Stephane Quintal for Game 5. Quintal had to be helped off the ice with an apparent hip injury in the second period after he was upended by Boston's Hal Gill.
A win Thursday would put the Bruins in the conference semifinals for the first time 1999, when they lost to Buffalo.
Should the Canadiens avoid elimination, Game 6 would be Saturday in Montreal.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Canadiens - 93 points; 7th seed. Bruins - 104 points; 2nd seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Kovalev, 3 goals and 4 points; Saku Koivu, 3 assists and 8 PIM. Bruins - Nylander, 3 goals; Samsonov, 5 assists, Nylander and Samsonov, 5 points; Martin Lapointe and Thornton, 8 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Canadiens - Power play: 5.3 percent (1 for 19). Penalty killing: 88.9 percent (16 for 18). Bruins - Power play: 11.1 percent (2 for 18). Penalty killing: 94.7 percent (18 for 19).
GOALTENDERS: Canadiens - Theodore (1-3, 2.44 GAA); Mathieu Garon (no appearances). Bruins - Andrew Raycroft (3-1, 1 SO, 1.56); Felix Potvin (no appearances).