For the 34th time in NHL history, the Boston Bruins hosted the Montreal Canadiens for the start of a playoff series. Back in 2011 it was Nathan Horton who scored the game-winning goal in double overtime, sending the Bruins to the second round and sparking their Stanley Cup run. On Thursday, the result was entirely different.
With pre-series chatter mostly surrounding the hatred between the two teams, their rivalry, one of the only true remaining rivalries in all of sports, the game looked more like the typical playoff affair. Two teams focusing on that all-important Game one victory, the well-documented shenanigans went out the window.
In the battle of speed versus strength (although the Bruins too have speed which they’ve made quite clear), there was no victor. The Bruins tried about everything you’d expect in attempt to slow down the Habs. Whether it was a strong forecheck, closing gaps or the push to control the neutral zone, the Bruins game plan was imminent- and it worked. It was their own mistakes that killed them, not Montreal’s speed. In fact, it seemed Boston’s speed gave them even more fits.
After a stellar start for Boston momentum swung just midway through the first period. Matt Bartkowski was whistled for tripping 10:05 in, and P.K. Subban ripped a wrister past Tuukka Rask from the point on the power play to give Montreal a 1-0 lead. Once tying Game seven with just minutes to go back in 2011, Subban continued his villainous work, this time netting the first goal of the series and sinking the energy in the Garden.
The Bruins responded with an offensive push, but Carey Price was spectacular in net from start to finish. While the home team continually broke out well, rushed through the neutral zone and created a number of scoring chances, Price always answered. If it keeps going at this rate though, the Bruins will certainly net a number of goals in this series.
“I thought we did a great job of not getting frustrated and finding a way to kind of get that first one, get that second one,” Jarome Iginla said postgame. “And even when we needed that late one, Johnny’s [Boychuk] goal. So I thought we got some, you know, after the first we got better net front presence, we had some good zone-time, we were skating well. It was a game that we’d love to have but now we get ready, and we get back at it and we want to do some of the same things.”
3:38 into a middle frame another costly Bruins error came back to bite them. Johnny Boychuk fed an inaccurate pass to Torey Krug, who had it bounce off his skate and right to the stick of Rene Bourque. Bourque skated in on a two-on-one and beat Rask five-hole with a wrister. It was a savable puck, but defensive turnovers often end up in the back of your net, especially come playoff time. When Krug isn’t controlling the puck he doesn’t offer much to the Bruins back end, and he had a difficult time doing just that on Thursday.
“I was a little bit too far ahead of Johnny [Boychuk], just a tough pass. I don’t know. I’ve got to handle that,” Krug said. “Got to make a better play on that, and it’s just tough and when those things are ending up in the back of your net it’s not a good sign, so just got to make sure you’re better on the puck, and I’ll be better next time.
Down 2-0 after two periods of play, the home team finally broke through. First it was Reilly Smith, who roofed a wrist shot from the half wall with Patrice Bergeron screening Price. Then, on their next shot, after failing to record a single one on a power play opportunity, Krug blasted a slap shot past Price, momentarily redeeming his previous errors. Smith made another great play on the game-tying goal, breaking up the Montreal rush and leading Lucic (who eventually found Krug) into the offensive zone.
In typical Boston-Montreal fashion, the tie was short lived. The Bruins top line, which looked completely different from one shift to the next, was hemmed in their own zone by the Habs third line before finally surrendering the third Montreal goal of the game. David Krejci gave away the puck behind Rask’s net, and Brian Gionta fed Francis Bouillon who roofed a snap shot past Rask.
As they’ve done all season though, further proving their ability to play in any type of hockey game, the Bruins responded in a big way. With just 1:58 remaining the game, Johnny Boychuk blasted home a rocket from the point, knotting the game at three and sending the Garden into a raucous frenzy.
Just like Game seven back in 2011, this one was headed to overtime- check that, double overtime. But the result, entirely different yet all too familiar to Bruins fans on Friday night, with Subban starting the scoring and then ending the game with a power play bomb from the point.
The drama was exactly that of 2011, but more painful than joyful for the Bruins and there fans. If you’re panicking already though, you’re foolish.
“This is just game number one. You don’t get frustrated after one game,” Bruins coach Claude Julien reiterated postgame. “I didn’t mind the way our team played tonight. We had lots of chances. Sure, we fell behind 2-0, but we showed some resiliency and came back and I thought we carried play for the most part, and obviously in that first OT period. Probably the only thing is, we got to find a way to bury those great opportunities that we had. That’s probably where there’s some regrets there, and burying those chances.”