Shawn P. Roarke | NHL.com Managing Editor
MONTREAL -- For the Boston Bruins, there was no better way for Montreal's Centennial Season to end than by forcing the Canadiens to watch them leave the Bell Centre ice after sweeping the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the two Original Six rivals.
That's exactly what happened Wednesday night, when the Bruins took Montreal's best shot early in the game and then rattled off four unanswered goals for a series-clinching 4-1 victory that left the home team grasping for answers after being demolished.
Boston outscored Montreal 17-6 in the series and held the potent Canadiens attack without a power-play goal, on just eight tries while sweeping Montreal in a best-of-7 series for just the second time in franchise history
Michael Ryder, a Canadien last season before signing with the Bruins as a free agent, had two goals and an assist. Phil Kessel and David Krejci also scored for the Bruins.
Andrei Kostitsyn scored Montreal's only goal, after just 39 seconds. But Montreal faded badly after late first-period goals by Ryder and David Krejci and managed just 11 shots in the final 40 minutes.
"It's tough to look forward," said Montreal defenseman Mike Komisarek, who was tossed in the third period after a frustration-fueled attack on Boston forward Milan Lucic. "I think right now, we’re all overcome with disappointment -- just feeling empty after setting out all summer and all season battling. Coming (up) short is definitely disheartening."
If you don't think that the Bruins savored the boos and whistles raining down on the Canadiens from the sellout crowd during the latter part of the third period, or that Montreal goalie Carey Price was so frustrated by the abuse directed his way that he reacted angrily to the crowd during the game, you don't understand the magnitude of this rivalry -- one Montreal has historically dominated.
The teams have met 31 times in the Stanley Cup Playoffs before the start of this series and Montreal had skated away victorious 24 times, including their four previous meetings. But this time, Montreal wasn't even really close to winning a game as top-seeded Boston moves on easily to the second round.
"They've been a rival for 100 years," Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward said simply when asked how it felt to beat the Canadiens, a team that had changed very little from the one that bounced Boston from the playoffs in the first round last year.
How, then, did fortunes change so dramatically in one calendar year?
Basically, the Bruins used a deadly combination of depth and discipline -- especially after Montreal tried throughout this series to make this an emotional affair, hoping to throw Boston off its game and into penalty trouble.
"The biggest worry going into the series was when you mix emotion into a series, you never know what direction it is going to go in," Ward said. "There is a possibility of going off in tangents all over the place."
Instead of going off on tangents, the Bruins stayed single-minded in their focus, allowing just eight power plays in the four games.
"We've done a good job the whole series being disciplined," said Lucic, Boston's bruising forward. "The most power plays I think we gave up in a game was three, so we did a pretty good job in that area."
Boston coach Claude Julien pointed to the example set by captain Zdeno Chara throughout the series. Montreal targeted the 6-foot-9 defenseman in all four games, often matching tough guy Georges Laraque against him in an attempt to get him into the penalty box.
But Chara, who had 95 penalty minutes in the regular season, did not take a penalty in this series -- one reason he was able to play more than 25 minutes a game.
"When your leader leads like that, the other players have no choice but to follow," Julien said.
The captain, however, said the series sweep was as much about depth as it was discipline.
Boston rolled four lines and each responded. While the duo of Krejci and Ryder, who combined for six goals and 12 points, was dominant, each of the other three lines contributed a goal.
By contrast, the injury-decimated Canadiens received goals from just two lines in the four-game series and relied heavily on the top defensive pairing of Komisarek and Roman Hamrlik.
"I know the depth of this team," Chara said. "We have so much depth on D and especially up front. We realize that any given night anybody can step up and really contribute to our success. You need that in going far."
"I think right now, we’re all overcome with disappointment -- just feeling empty after setting out all summer and all season battling. Coming (up) short is definitely disheartening." -- Montreal defenseman Mike KomisarekGoing far -- all the way to the Stanley Cup Final -- is the Bruins' ultimate goal; especially now that the dreaded Canadiens have been summarily dismissed.
"We want to enjoy it, but at same time we know ultimate goal is ahead of us," Chara said. "We want to move forward, and we know this is not the end of the season. We want to for the ultimate prize, and we have to approach it that way."
With Georges Laraque and Milan Lucic in the penalty box serving matching roughing minors, the teams played 4-on-4 hockey that was up-and-down the ice and produced four legitimate scoring chances in 66 seconds. Stephane Yelle opened with a wrister that ticked of Carey Price's glove and went high. Mike Komisarek countered at the other end with a great chance on a pinch, followed 11 seconds later when Josh Gorges sent a wrist shot that squeezed between Tim Thomas' body and arm only to go just wide. Phil Kessel ended the madness with a partial breakaway that was denied by Price's glove.
Boston defenseman Mark Stuart is never flashy, but he gets the job done in so many ways. In the first period, he had a nice open-ice hit on Alex Kovalev, sending the message that Boston would not be intimidated by Montreal's helter-skelter start. In the second period, he blocked a point-blank chance on a Montreal power play when the game was still 2-1. Boston scored a few seconds after the blocked shot. For the game, Stuart played more than 15 minutes and was plus-2.
Boston scored seven of its 17 goals in this series in the final three minutes of a period, clearly using its depth to wear down the Canadiens -- especially Montreal's decimated defense corps.
After his three-point explosion Thursday night, Ryder now has seven points in four games and is tied for the Stanley Cup Playoff scoring lead with Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin. Last season, Ryder had no points in the playoffs and was scratched in eight of Montreal's 12-game run in the postseason.
For the second-straight game, Montreal hit the wall after a maximum effort first 20 minutes. In Wednesday night's game, Montreal had 16 shots and 12 hits in the first period; in the second period, the Canadiens managed just four shots and one hit, while allowing the period's only two goals.