Boston, MA -- Montreal's Cristobal Huet made 23 saves and Canadiens centerman Tomas Plekanec had a goal and an assist to lead the Habs to a 5-2 season series clinching win over the Boston Bruins. Veteran Boston defenseman Aaron Ward and rookie forward Milan Lucic scored their third and fourth goals respectively in the Bruins loss.
"Our number one key for tonight's game was to stay out of the penalty box, keep our emotions in check and play hard," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien following the game. "And we got ourselves in trouble in the first period by taking some bad penalties."
The B's welcomed the Canadiens to the Garden Thursday night and played the fifth of eight games between the two teams this season. The Canadiens won the first four games of 2007-08 and Boston has lost their last seven straight games to the Habs with their last win over Montreal coming in a 3-1 victory in Boston on Mar. 3, 2007.
"They are a highly skilled hockey club," said Julien. "When they get a chance to showcase their skill -- they do."
The hockey clubs left their locker rooms to the roar of 17,565 people and a thunderous ovation for the best rivalry in the "Original Six," but two early calls against the Bruins kept Boston from maximizing on their early intensity.
The second Canadiens power play made B's fans wonder if a couple of Forum Ghosts snuck in with the big crowd, as Montreal's Plekanec pinballed a puck off a Bruins defender and by Boston's goalie Tim Thomas at 10:36.
Just under a minute later, the Canadiens Maxime Lapierre fought through the Boston defense and put a puck through the leg pads of Thomas at 11:30.
By the time the third Bruins penalty had been called, the game was quickly becoming the Plekanec show. Having already drawn the first two infractions and scored a goal, Plekanec drew a third frustrating penalty when he looked to be impeded by the stick of Marco Sturm at 14:12.
But that penalty was negated by the Habs Guillaume Latendresse's hooking penalty at 15:17.
In any case, the Bruins went to the break in a familiar position -- down to the Habs, 2-0.
After a very sleepy first ten minutes of the second period, tempers began to flare. Unfortunately, that meant it was time for another Montreal power play and Alex Kovalev made it 3-0 (with the secondary assist going to Plekanec) on the ensuing man-advantage when he beat Thomas over the glove hand at 13:18.
"We tried to get back to our Bruins hockey," said the Bruins Marc Savard. "(But) obviously we let their power play on the ice too many times and when that happens they are going to score."
Boston celebrates Ward's goal. Photo by Steve Babineau
Boston finally caught a break when Ward, back in the lineup after eight games out with a broken foot, shot very high and wide right. A funny bounce knuckled off the end glass and put the puck into the feet of Montreal's Huet. I then bounced off his skate and into the net to make the score, 3-1, at 14:41 of the second.
"Ugly, but effective," was Ward's comment on the goal.
Fortunately for the Bruins, Ward's goal broke a run of 115:41 in which Boston had failed to score and in an attempt to add to the flukey goal, the B's continued to test Huet until the second period ended with Montreal still leading by two goals.
To say the third period had the feel of "do or die" was to understate the situation for Boston. Just one period away from dropping their fifth of the season to their hated rivals (and losing their eighth meeting in a row), they also knew that if the scoreboard did not tilt in their direction, the playoff standings would reflect the setback and drop them six points behind Montreal.
As such, Lucic seized the opportunity to be a hero when he took a pass from fellow rookie David Krejci and calmly put the puck squarely on goal -- and through the pads of Huet at 2:01.
"We had a young guy, Lucic, who scores a goal to get us back in the game," said Coach Julien of his first-year forward's outstanding effort on the night. "I thought that was a big goal for us. It just gave us some momentum and I thought we just kept going at (them) from that point on."
Indeed, Boston continued to challenge the Habs defenders and their hard work was rewarded with a power play at 9:15. But the Bruins failed to capitalize on the chance and Montreal literally pounced on their next opportunity. The Habs took advantage of Boston's failure to clear their zone when Mathieu Dandenault found an opening in Thomas' Black & Gold padding.
Dandenault's goal, at 11:56, made the score, 4-2, Montreal with the clock winding down and sent the Bruins into desperation/scramble mode.
"They are a pretty patient team," said Ward. "When they get their opportunities they are potent -- they are right there to put the pucks in the net at the right time.
"They capitalize on every available chance."
Montreal Canadiens goalie Cristobal Huet
(AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
Later in the third, Boston mounted several unsuccessful attempts to bring the game back within one goal, but at 18:49 Dandenault found another opening and cemented the contest at 5-2.
"(Montreal) was deserving tonight…but we have to be better," said Julien before adding, "We still have some players that have to be better.
"That's the reality of things.
"Sometimes you rely on players to give you a little more, especially when you need it, and somehow we need to find that," he said.
The Bruins will look to rebound against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday in Pennsylvania.
· Boston’s SHAWN THORNTON PLAYED HIS 100TH nhl GAME TONIGHT.
· Montreal’s MICHAEL RYDER recorded his 100th assist as a CANADIEN tonight.
1 - 0 MTL
2 - 0 MTL
3 - 0 MTL
3 - 1 MTL
3 - 2 MTL
4 - 2 MTL
5 - 2 MTL