The Montreal Canadiens appeared poised to take a two game series lead over the Boston Bruins, but ultimately allowed four unanswered goals in the final ten minutes of game two, and would lose 5-3.
It was a dramatic comeback by the Bruins, and left Habs fans feeling that the team blew a huge opportunity to take a stranglehold on the series heading back to the Bell Centre for game three.
However, the fact of the matter is the Canadiens were greatly outplayed in game one and were the second best team again in game two. They managed to come out of one of the hardest buildings to win a hockey game with a split of the opening two games.
The Bruins were 31-7-3 at home this season, the best home record of any team in the NHL. The Habs should feel fortunate not be down a pair of games at this point in the series.
In the opening game of the series, the Canadiens were outshot 51-33, and according to extraskater.com, the Bruins fired 98 shot attempts toward the Habs net, while the Habs responded with 58 towards Tuukka Rask.
Clearly the Canadiens were dominated throughout the game, and Carey Price made the difference, stopping 48 shots, including 14 in the first overtime period, before P.K. Subban scored to give the Habs a victory they really did not deserve.
Price was even better in game two, stopping countless excellent scoring opportunities by the Bruins to keep the Canadiens alive in game two. Boston came out flying in the opening period, and were leading 13-6 in shots on goal after 20 minutes. It was only because of several acrobatic saves by Price that the score was only 1-0 for the Bruins.
The Habs had a great start to the second period, and tied the game on a Mike Weaver shot from the point, but it was not long before the ice tilted towards Price’s net once again. The Bruins failed to capitalize in the middle frame, but they forced Price to make several fantastic saves as the Canadiens defenders failed to cover countless Bruins players in the Habs zone.
Price robbed Loui Eriksson who was given about three quarters of the Habs zone to skate around in before he fired a wrister that Price knocked out of play with his blocker. He then made a pair of great saves on Patrice Bergeron and Torey Krug as the Bruins owned the puck deep in Hab territory.
The Habs were fortunate to still be in the hunt as the second period neared completion, but they took advantage of an undisciplined Andrej Meszaros penalty and Thomas Vanek tipped in a Subban point shot to give the Canadiens a lead heading into the final 20 minutes.
Then in the third period, Vanek once again made the Bruins pay for a penalty, tipping in another Subban blast to make it 3-1. The Habs were happy to sit back for the remainder of the game, a strategy that actually worked quite well for the first half of the period, but the Bruins finally struck.
Boston had only one shot on goal in the first ten minutes of the third period, but would make four of their next eight count.
First, Dougie Hamilton was given all kinds of room just inside the Habs blue line as the Canadiens sat back and collapsed in front of Price. When super-pest Brad Marchand slid a pass back to the young blueliner, Hamilton’s seeing eye shot found its way through the crowd and behind a screened Price. The quiet TD Garden erupted, and the Bruins had life once again.
Less than four minutes later and with the Habs third defense pairing out against the Bergeron line, the Bruins stormed the Habs zone. Bergeron found a loose puck after a battle along the boards at the hash marks to the left of Price, and snapped a low hard shot towards the goal.
At first glance it appeared to fool Price, upon further inspection it looked to have bounced off of Bouillon’s stick, but after cringing and watching several replays, the puck clearly just takes an incredibly fortunate bounce for the Bruins off the ice and into the top corner of the net. No matter how it got there, Boston had tied the game at three apiece.
Lots of people pointed their finger at Bouillon for the game’s tying goal, but he did exactly what a goaltender would ask on a bad angle shot – get out of the way. Bouillon stepped aside so Price would have a good look at the shot, and would easily make the save. However, the puck had different plans as it skipped off the ice and directly into the top corner of the Habs goal.
Just over two minutes later came the goal where several Canadiens earned some blame. The Bruins were once again moving the puck around in the Habs zone Harlem Gobetrotters style, when Reilly Smith got the puck in the slot and scored the game winning goal.
As the Bruins moved the puck, Torey Krug snuck down low and received a pass from Zdeno Chara. Two Habs forwards, Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher remained high in the zone, leaving a 4 on 3 for the Bruins below the top of the circles.
Subban took out Marchand in front of the net, but the pass came across to Smith, as he beat Gallagher to the slot. Price slid across the crease, but for perhaps the first time in the series he did not get into position very quickly.
Krug’s pass was nearly intercepted by Gallagher who was half a step late and could not reach it, then the Smith shot was nearly blocked by Subban who was still covering a sprawled out Marchand. An outstretched Price just missed catching the puck before it ultimately found its way into the back of the net.
Lucic added an empty netter with just over one minute to play and the epic comeback was complete.
A 3-1 Habs lead with 9:05 to play quickly became a 5-3 loss, and a near 2-0 series lead crumbled away and became a 1-1 deadlock.
It is extremely difficult not to focus on the negatives after a loss like that, but the Habs have been a resilient team all year. On March 15th, the Habs were trailing the Ottawa Senators 4-1 with 3:22 to play, and scored three goals, including the tying goal with less than one second remaining, before wining the game 5-4 in overtime.
On January 25th, the Canadiens lost to the Washington Capitals 5-0 in a game where they had only three shots on goal halfway through the second period on home ice. It was the Habs fourth straight loss and they had allowed 19 goals in the four games. Most of the city of Montreal was calling for the coach to be fired, and ready to write off the season as a disaster.
The Canadiens responded by going 7-1-2 in their next ten games, and shooting back up the standings into comfortable playoff positioning. So don’t could this team out just yet because of a tough loss.
The truth is, based on what happened in the first two games, the series should be tied at 1, and it is. The odd thing is the Bruins should have won game one, and the Habs should have been able to hang on to game two, although they were outplayed once again.
If you focus on the ifs, and buts of game two, you have to also admit the Habs were lucky to have a 1-0 series lead to begin with.
The Canadiens also have an extra day off to get over the tough third period, and focus on the positives. They head home for game three with home ice advantage in a tied series. The Habs won both games at home in the opening round series and Price was great at the Bell Centre all season. The top line played much better in game two and Vanek found the back of the net twice.
The Habs did not give away the series in the final ten minutes of game two, they gave away a two goal lead, something that has happened 18 times already in this year’s postseason.
Playoff series between the Habs and Bruins always have plenty of ups, downs, twists and turns and there are plenty of those yet to come in this series.