Success can be a fine line to tread in the NHL. Despite losing the first two games of their series against Montreal, the Boston Bruins now lead for the first time – and head back to Quebec looking to wrap up the series.
Nathan Horton’s strike on the rebound nine minutes into the second overtime period sent the Boston crowd into raptures as the Bruins took the series by the scruff of the neck.
Both goaltenders were again in fantastic form and were both only beaten once in regulation. However, Carey Price failed to hang onto a shot by Andrew Ference and Horton was on hand to score the most important goal of his career so far.
No Bruins team has ever won a playoff series after dropping the first two games, but this performance will give the Bruins confidence they can advance to the Eastern Conference semi-finals in Montreal on Tuesday night.
Neither Carey Price nor Tim Thomas deserved to lose as both made stellar stops to prevent guilt edge chances at both ends of the ice.
Both teams were shut out for two periods but it wasn’t through lack of trying. However, Patrice Bergeron’s pass across the crease was out of Price’s reach and Brad Marchand scored his first career playoff goal to open the scoring.
Marchand was looking deadly as were his teammates, but Price had other ideas. Montreal seemed to be heading for a regulation defeat, but their youngsters once again stepped up to force overtime.
Some good gritty work by the boards and some good fore-checking by Mathieu Darche and Lars Eller set up Jeff Halpern for his first ever playoff goal to tie the game.
Defensive errors began to creep into the game, but not from the two guys between the pipes. Price made 32 saves in regulation, while Thomas turned aside the puck on 30 occasions.
The first overtime period started nervously as both teams were afraid of making mistakes. Brian Gionta and David Desharnais showed a greedy amount of commitment and determination, but couldn’t find a way past a vintage display from Thomas. Similarly, Milan Lucic and David Krejci were frustrated once again by Price.
Fatigue set in as both teams made several errors. Brent Sopel, who had made a goal-saving diving play in regulation was caught on the puck by Bergeron and was forced to take a tripping penalty. However, Montreal’s power play killers held their own and Boston produced little to worry Price.
Price created his own nervous moment as he fanned on the puck at his crease. Marchand crunched the Habs goaltender as both players hit the ice with Price’s helmet rolling off, but with the puck safely under his body.
The game came down to secondary opportunities. Mike Cammalleri fortunately received the puck in the slot on the rebound and his shot deflected off Bergeron and Boston captain Zdeno Chara before rolling away to safety with Thomas nowhere to be seen.
The second overtime period felt like four-on-four hockey as gaps appeared all over the ice. A quick Bruins break allowed Ference to hit a shot towards Price who could only parry it into the path of Horton who scored with ease to send the despondent Canadiens back to Montreal with a lot of thinking to do.
To lose three games in a row against your biggest rival is a huge psychological blow for the Habs. How Jacques Martin’s side respond to the utter disappointment of losing in overtime for the second straight game will define their season.
If Desharnais, Gionta and Halpern keep up their intensity and Cammalleri and Kostitsyn can rediscover their scoring touch, Boston are in for a tough time at the Bell Centre.
However, if the Bruins can get all four lines working well they will feel confident of completing one of their most impressive comebacks – and start on a clean slate in round two.
Thomas and Price have defined all five games in the series. So far, Thomas’ experience in overtime has allowed his team to take the series away from Montreal and it is up to his teammates to show how much they want a place in the conference semi-finals.