BOSTON -- It took the Boston Bruins a few minutes to adapt to the surprising absence of captain and No. 1 defenseman Zdeno Chara Saturday night at TD Garden. By the time they did, it was too late.
Chara was unable to go in Game 2 of the Bruins' Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series – he took part in the pregame warmups but was a last-minute scratch after spending Friday night in the hospital being treated for dehydration.
Without their captain, the unsettled Bruins allowed two goals to Montreal in the opening 2:20 of the game, and the Canadiens went on to a 3-1 victory and a two-game lead in the best-of-seven series.
"You always miss a guy like Zdeno, but having said that, the plan was to have everyone step up their game, make up for that by committee," Boston goalie Tim Thomas said. "It didn't work out that way."
It certainly didn't – and Montreal now has a stranglehold on this series, which heads to Montreal for Game 3 on Monday night.
History is certainly not in Boston's favor: The Bruins are 0-for-26 in best-of-seven series when they have fallen behind 0-2. Boston has lost 24 of 32 playoff series to Montreal and lost all three regular-season games at the Bell Centre this season. In addition, Montreal goalie Carey Price has been nothing short of brilliant in this series, stopping 65 of Boston's 66 shots.
Montreal's defense helped out by blocking 27 shots Saturday night, giving them 46 in the first two games of the series. As a result, Boston, which had the third-most goals in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, has just 1 goal in 120 minutes through two games.
"We are just keeping our game really simple and we are just getting pucks to the net on Timmy (Thomas) and we are getting guys there, and we have been getting the bounces so far this series and we are getting lucky," said Price, who made 34 saves in Game 2. "We are playing really well defensively and we just have to keep doing what we are doing."
Not that Montreal is in the mood to celebrate its dominance quite yet.
"We've only won two games, so I don't know if we have had success yet," said Montreal forward Michael Cammalleri, who had a goal and an assist in the early outburst. "Actually, I know we haven't. We're paying attention to detail and doing things as a group.
"If we're sitting here happy about (being up 2-0) and celebrating, then we are making a crucial mistake. You can be happy and the fans can be happy and our parents and family can be happy and good for them. But we have no time to be happy right now."
The higher-seeded Bruins certainly are not happy, having been put into a corner by the opportunistic and disciplined Canadiens.
Quick goals by Cammalleri and Mathieu Darche put Boston in a demoralizing early hole and accentuated just how much the team missed the steadying influence of Chara.
"We wanted to come out obviously a little different," defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "Avoid a couple early goals like we did. But at the end, we couldn't overcome them. So we just have to do it different, keep working hard and hopefully get a better ending at the end."
Yannick Weber scored Montreal's third goal – aided by another coverage miscue by the Bruins and another long rebound by Thomas – to derail any momentum Boston had garnered from a Patrice Bergeron goal that cut the deficit to 2-1 at 7:38 of the second period.
To a man, the Bruins expected Chara to play Saturday night and appeared to be rattled when he could not answer the bell.
Shane Hnidy was Chara's replacement, but he did not play much. Coach Claude Julien went with a five-man rotation, spotting Hnidy on an irregular basis. Hnidy had just three shifts in the first period and finished the game with just seven shifts. He did, however, fight Montreal's James Wisniewski in the second period -- a battle he said was part retribution for Wisniewski charge of Rich Peverley and part an attempt to fire up his team, which trailed 2-1 at the time.
Hnidy, 35, was signed as a free agent in February. He trained with the team for close to a month – to get into game shape – before seeing three games of action in the season's final two weeks.
Yet, despite the paucity of game action and the last-minute notification, Hnidy says he was ready for Saturday's challenge.
"That's my job right now," Hnidy said. "Depth is key in playoffs and you never know when it's going to happen so you have to be prepared."
Boston was not prepared to start the game and Montreal took advantage in stunning fashion.
Cammalleri, the scoring hero of last year's run to the Eastern Conference Finals, opened the scoring 43 seconds into the game by firing home a long rebound of a shot from the opposite point by Wisniewski. Afterward, Cammalleri said it was a pass-by-rebound from Wisniewski, who made eye contact with the onrushing forward just before the shot.
Darche slammed home a pass from Cammalleri at 2:20, just six seconds into a penalty to Seidenberg, to make it 2-0. The goal was Darche's first in 13 career playoff games.
The Bruins finally solved Price when Bergeron scored on an easy redirection of a perfect Brad Marchand pass. The goal ended Price's dominance of Boston at 51 saves and 87 minutes and 38 seconds.
The one-goal deficit did not last long, however. Montreal's Lars Eller took a long-range shot on a 2-on-1 that somehow handcuffed Thomas and rocketed back into the slot. Weber, who replaced the injured Andrei Kostitsyn, won the race to the loose puck and beat Thomas to make it 3-1.
Kostitsyn was a game-time decision after injuring his foot by blocking a Chara slapper on his first shift of Game 1. He returned late in Game 1, but did not take part in Saturday's morning skate. He did take part in the pregame warmups before being declared a no-go.
1 - 0 MTL
2 - 0 MTL
2 - 1 MTL
3 - 1 MTL