Tim Thomas held on to give the Boston Bruins a vital win in Game Three of their series against the Montreal Canadiens. Rich Peverley took advantage of a mistake from Carey Price to put the Bruins up by three, and Montreal ran out of time and energy to force overtime in a crunching and energetic game.
Boston started confidently and charged to a comfortable three-goal lead, taking advantage of some defensive mistakes from the Canadiens. However, the Habs stormed back with two goals Thomas should have denied. A sublime move and backhander by Andrei Kostitsyn beat the Bruins goalie at the five-hole and early in the third period a hopeful shot by Tomas Plekanec again beat Thomas between his legs.
However, the veteran stopper kept his focus and made some impressive late saves from every corner of the Habs roster to prevent Montreal completing a comeback, which would have all but eliminated Boston from the playoffs.
The Bruins rejoiced at the return of Chara, although the Slovakian was unable to stamp his authority on the physical game.
Speaking of Chara, Thomas said: “ In the last game we wanted to step up for him but we were unable to get it done. I was happy to get the win, the team needed it, I needed it so it all worked out good.”
The visitors to the Bell Centre got off to the perfect start as a bad giveaway from Roman Hamrlik allowed Patrice Bergeron to find David Krejci who gave his side their first lead of the series with little over two minutes on the clock.
The Bruins showed a lot more commitment and passion despite the deafening reception at the Bell Centre. Montreal were feeling the pressure and Boston doubled their lead late in the period as Nathan Horton banked the puck off Carey Price and found the net.
Montreal were flat and seemingly had no plan for getting back into the game. It got worse for the home side early in the second period as a bad pass from Price gave former Canadien Mark Recchi the puck and he fed Peverley for an easy goal to give the Bruins some breathing space.
The Canadiens took a lot of heart from Kostitsyn’s goal and started the third period with the passion the fans would have expected from the start. Montreal used their speed with quick bursts of exciting hockey, putting the Bruins defense under immense pressure.
Plekanec’s fortunate goal was the least Montreal deserved fro their effort, but Thomas should have done better with the weak shot from the Czech center from a tight angle.
Thomas made up for his errors with some stunning saves as Montreal threw everything his way to try and force overtime. Brian Gionta had a quiet 40 minutes but came to life in a final period dominated by Montreal.
Carey Price eventually left his crease for a sixth skater, however, Chris Kelly scored an empty netter with PK Subban sliding into the net with the puck as the Bruins gave a gigantic sigh of relief to seal the desperate win.
Had the Canadiens played with the purpose they showed in the third period for sixty minutes, the result could have been much different. Boston are due credit for the way they took their chances, and Thomas’ 34 saves were vital in preventing a comeback for the Habs.
Game four on Thursday night will make or break the series for both sides. Tuukka Rask may feel he deserves a chance between the pipes for Boston but despite two costly mistakes, Thomas will go into game four with his head held high.