Shawn P. Roarke | NHL.com Managing Editor BOSTON -- Two games into the Stanley Cup Playoffs and it seems nothing can rattle the top-seeded Boston Bruins in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Montreal Canadiens.
The Bruins had every reason to be distracted or put off their game Saturday night after defenseman Matt Hunwick was rushed to the hospital with a ruptured spleen in the morning. Instead, the Bruins put together their most complete playoff game in recent memory, taking a surprisingly easy 5-1 decision in Game 2 at the TD Banknorth Garden.
"We're confident playing any type of game and tonight was an example of that," center Marc Savard said after a two-goal, two-assist night. Savard is the first Bruin to get four points in a playoff game since Adam Oates' four-point night against Florida in 1996.
Shane Hnidy, inserted in the lineup to replace Hunwick, former Canadien Michael Ryder and Chuck Kobasew also scored for Boston. Goalie Tim Thomas made 30 saves.
Savard admitted that Hunwick's absence did weigh on the team in the run-up to the game. Hunwick was injured in the second period of Game 1, but finished the game. The rupture was discovered Saturday morning after a meeting at the team's practice rink in Wilmington, Mass., and he was operated on in the afternoon. The team says Hunwick is resting comfortably at Mass General Hospital, but he will likely not return to action this postseason.
"We all knew that he had a tough day and if he was watching, that was for him," Savard said of Saturday's victory. "We wanted to end his day on a nice note. Hopefully, he's sitting up watching it, and we can't wait to have him back."
Hunwick's injury is just the latest distraction for the Bruins in this series. Before the first puck was dropped, Boston had to answer countless questions about its playoff futility against the Canadiens, including last season's seven-game loss in the first round -- the 24th series loss in 31 meetings between the teams.
Montreal tough guy Georges Laraque ratcheted up the tension with some inflammatory remarks before Game 1. And in both games, the Canadiens have tried to sucker Boston into taking retaliatory penalties in an attempt to tilt the ice in Montreal's favor.
But through it all, Boston has remained disciplined, using its depth to wear down the Canadiens in each of these first two games.
"We did a good job with our discipline," Boston coach Claude Julien said.
It's the second-straight outing in which the Bruins have been the more disciplined club. In Thursday's 4-2 victory in Game 1, Boston scored the game-winning goal on the power play. On Saturday, Boston scored three goals on five attempts and is now 4-for-9 in the series. Montreal has only had three power-play opportunities in the entire series and hasn’t scored on any of them.
"We were disciplined tonight," Savard said. "We worked hard between the whistles, and it paid off for us. Obviously, you take the first five minutes and Timmy (Thomas) weathered the storm a little bit. We let them waste their energy there early, and then we took the play to them a bit."
After nine minutes on Saturday, Montreal held an 8-2 advantage in shots and was dominating play. Then Sergei Kostitsyn, inserted into the lineup in place of Tomas Plekanec for Game 2, took a sloppy neutral-zone penalty and Savard opened the scoring on the ensuing power play.
For Montreal coach/GM Bob Gainey, it was a prime example of the lack of discipline his team has shown in these two losses. Montreal took three offensive-zone penalties -- something that should never happen -- and Boston scored on two of those three power plays.
"We're going to have to play better and part of that is we are going to have to play smarter and part of that will be resisting those hooks and slashes," Gainey said. "We have enough of a problem handling our opponent. We can't injure ourselves by taking penalties or straying away from the plan that we have in place."
It has been Boston's methodical play, however, that has forced Montreal to stray from its plan. The Canadiens don't have the depth or the firepower to handle the Bruins for long periods of 5-on-5 play. They are even less equipped when they keep giving Boston's potent power play the opportunity to strafe goalie Carey Price, who was pulled after stopping 21 of 26 shots in two periods before Jaroslav Halak finished up.
Despite Boston's 2-0 stranglehold on the series, the Bruins are maintaining the single-minded focus that has gotten them to this point. There was little celebration in the winning dressing room -- instead, the talk was more about mustering the resolve to finish a job that is only half-done.
Game 3 is Monday night at what should be a raucous Bell Centre.
"I think we might even have to play harder," Ryder said. "It's always tough to play in that building and we know it is not going to be easy. We just have to make sure we do the same things we did tonight and maybe do them a little bit better."
It may not have been noticed by many with all the offensive fireworks going on, but Chuck Kobasew's shift in the first period to set up Boston's game-opening goal was noticed by his teammates. Kobasew was carrying the puck along the half wall as he cruised into the Montreal zone, only to be met by a punishing hit from Mike Komisarek. Still, Kobasew had the presence of mind to shovel the puck into the center of the ice where Marc Savard eventually corralled it and fired home a wrister from the high slot. Boston never looked back.
Shane Hnidy entered the game under trying circumstances as an injury replacement for Matt Hunwick. Yet, he seemed unfazed by the assignment, playing his usual solid, stay-at-home game. Plus, he also scored Boston's third goal with a laser beam from just inside the blue line as he followed the play on a P.J. Axelsson rush.
Montreal played most of the game short a man. Defenseman Francis Bouillon suffered an injury in the first period and did not play for the final 40 minutes. Fortunately for the Canadiens, Yannick Weber had been inserted into the lineup as a forward, but he was able to return to his natural defense position for the final two periods.
While everyone was focusing on Savard's four-point uprising, it was his work in the faceoff circle that was truly exemplary. Savard won 13 of 16 draws in the first two periods and finished the game with 16 wins in 21 attempts.
Tim Thomas may have had an uneventful night stopping Montreal shots, but that doesn't mean he wasn't in the thick of things. Thomas drew the secondary assist on Michael Ryder's power-play goal with 2.3 seconds remaining in the second period. Plus, he played an entertaining role as bouncer in the first when he kept cutting off an enraged Tom Kostopoulos as he tried to get at Boston's Phil Kessel after a goal-mouth scrum.
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