Boston, MA – The Boston Bruins fell to the Montreal Canadiens, 4-2, Thursday night at the TD Banknorth Garden in the first game of a home-and-home series that concludes Saturday night in Montreal.
Alex Kovalev scored two goals to pace the Habs, while Mark Stuart and Dennis Wideman scored for Boston.
The game was the second-to-last time of the season, and the last time for the year in the Garden, that the Bruins would face their ancient archrivals. And even before the players hit the ice for pre-game warm-ups, warring chants of “Go Habs Go” and “Let’s Go Bruins” filled the arena.
The Bruins came out ready to go.
“In the first half, we were good enough that we could have taken the lead,” said head coach Claude Julien. “We were playing our game, doing well. We minimized their shots, we had some great opportunities.”
Jeremy Reich nearly had the first goal of the game about six minutes in, as he took advantage of a fumble by Carey Price, who lost control of the puck after a shot by Aaron Ward. Reich’s shot, however, went a little too high and over the net.
Boston's Tim Thomas made a key save on a shot by Tim Kostopoulos at 6:20 to keep the Canadiens scoreless.
The B’s power play had plenty of chances that forced Price to stay on guard, including making a stop by lying across the crease.
The Canadiens got their chance with the man advantage at 13:13 when Glen Murray was put in the box for slashing.
The B's penalty kill went to work in front of the net, and combined with an absolutely stellar glove save by Thomas at 14:13 (and some bad luck for Montreal on a just-barely-missed shot by Christopher Higgins at 14:22), the B’s kept the Habs at bay.
After 20 minutes, the Black & Gold dominated in shots, and had taken 15 shots to le Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge’s six, but the game remained tied, 0-0.
A choppy faceoff to start the second period caused Koivu to shove Metropolit after the puck drop. Then, about 30 seconds in, Latendresse fell to the ice and stayed there for a few seconds after being hit by Andrew Ference.
Price made another save after save to keep the Bruins off the scoreboard.
“It would have been a different game if we had scored on those chances, but we didn’t,” said Zdeno Chara, who played his first game back after suffering an “upper torso injury.”
Reich slammed Andrei Kostitsyn into the boards at 6:40, causing Kostopoulos to come to his teammate’s defense and fight the Bruin. After some punches were thrown by both, Reich put the Canadien on the ground first, prompting referees to intervene.
Some smooth moves by Alex Kovalev on a semi-breakaway shot put Montreal in the lead after the puck got through the Bruins goalie at 8:20.
“I just thought it was a regular save,” said Thomas. “I thought it was squeezed against my body. I was just as surprised as everyone when the crowd started cheering.”
Sergei Kostitsyn earned two minutes in the box for hooking with 9:51 remaining, sending the Bruins on the power play once again.
Price batted a shot by Marco Sturm out of the air at 10:31 to keep the B’s scoreless.
Thomas made a couple diving saves around the eight-minute-remaining mark to keep Montreal from scoring once more, but Kovalev netted his second goal of the game at 13:21 to put the Habs in the lead, 2-0.
“I was trying to be patient, and I thought he was losing the puck,” explained Thomas. “That’s when I went and pokechecked him, that’s when he beat me to the pokecheck.”
However, the Bruins responded, and not even 30 seconds later, at 13:48, Mark Stuart got a slapshot past Price to score the team’s first goal, aided by a screen from Sturm.
The Black & Gold had a chance to tie the game around the two-and-a-half minute mark, but Price worked through the scrum of players approaching his net and stopped the play.
When Boston was called for too many men on the ice at 17:41, the Habs earned a power play for all but the last 20 seconds of the period, but a strong penalty kill sent the teams off the ice with the score still 2-1.
“When you’re trailing a team like that...it’s not easy,” said Coach Julien. “We had the opportunity to come into the third and try and get that next one, but they scored a couple and that was the end of the story.”
The third period started slowly, but a save by Thomas with about 16 and a half minutes remaining got the crowd cheering.
But a shot from Michael Ryder, off a cross-goal pass from Koivu, did make it past the Bruins goalie and sent the Habs up 3-1 with 13:13 remaining in the game.
That was just a really good pass,” said Dennis Wideman. “As soon as he went over the other half and [Thomas] looks the other way, and I was there, he made that over the back of the net, over my foot, and right on that guy’s stick.”
With about 12 minutes remaining, a shot by Kovalev made it through Thomas’s pads and lay dangerously close to the goal line, until Wideman dove across the goal and stopped play.
But a puck shoved into Thomas’s net by Andrei Kostitsyn at 11:13 put Montreal in the lead by three.
A tripping penalty at 12:18 to Stuart put the B’s down a player for a third time, but the Habs failed to take advantage of the extra man.
Thomas was shoved around a bit by Kostitsyn around the 14-minute mark, but when some teammates stepped in to defend their netminder, the referees quickly stepped in.
Wideman scored late to make the score 4-2, but it was all but over, as Montreal successfully stifled the B's final attacks.
“Tonight, the positive is that we...didn’t play run and gun hockey with them because we can’t play that way,” said Shawn Thornton. “I thought we stuck to a system and guys gave an effort.”
But the desperation of the B's situation still remained omnipresent for Coach Julien, who saw a team that simply needs to score.
“Somewhere in that dressing room, there’s somebody who’s got some goals in them,” he said, “and it’s time we step out and start scoring some goals if we want to win some hockey games."
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