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by Staff
Boston leads 4-1 after second
04.22.2009  8:41 p.m. ET

Montreal's Centennial Season may just have 20 minutes remaining as the club is in desperate straights after two periods, trailing 4-1.

Phil Kessel scored just seven seconds after he was released from the penalty box, slipping behind the Montreal defense, collecting a chip pass from Zdeno Chara and beating Carey Price 5-hole.

Forty-five seconds later, the dynamic duo of David Krejci and Michael Ryder struck again. And, again, it was the former Canadien, Ryder, delivering the telling blow, slamming home a cross slot pass from Krejci.

Ryder's line, which also features Milan Lucic, has six goals in the series -- four by Ryder -- and has accumulated 16 points in the first 11 period of this series.

Montreal has managed just three shots in the second period.

Also, in the last minute, Mike Komisarek finally had enough of Milan Lucic, dropping the gloves to fight. Lucic got in the only two punches before the fight was broken up and both players were assessed fighting majors.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Boston leads 2-1 after first
04.22.2009  7:53 p.m. ET

This is like déjà vu all over again -- only worse.

Two nights ago in Game 3, Montreal took an early 1-0 lead and was flying all over the ice, hitting anything that moved. Only Boston got a lucky bounce late and tied the game going into intermission.

Montreal followed the same game plan in Game 4, getting the first goal, from its first line, on the game's second shift. That gave Montreal the momentum to dominate the first 12 minutes. At that point, they held a 14-4 advantage in shots.

But, again, Montreal could not deliver the kill shot. And, this time, Boston scored two late goals to take a 2-1 lead at the break.

Michael Ryder, who scored the winner in Game 3, continues to torment his former team as he scored the tying goal in Game 4, claiming a loose puck between the circles and ripping a laser beam into the far corner, a shot that had no chance to be stopped.

On his next shift, he set up David Krejci for the go-ahead goal as they played give and go in the Montreal zone, outworking Montreal forward Chris Higgins and defenseman Ryan O'Byrne to send Boston to the room with a 2-1 lead.

--Shawn P. Roarke

What a start!
04.22.2009  7:31 p.m. ET

Well, Montreal got the start it wanted, scoring just 39 seconds into the game.

The top line, taking the game's second shift, provided the offense. Alex Kovalev started the rush through the neutral zone before passing to Saku Koivu, who drove across the blue line before leaving a drop pass for Andrei Kostitsyn. Koivu continued on to the net, taking defenseman Aaron Ward with him as Kostitsyn fited off a wrister that beat Tim Thomas to the far side.

Montreal has carried the play for the first half of the period, playing the same game they played in the first period of Game 3. Each team has thrown some monstrous hits in the game's first eight minutes, highlighted by Guillaume Latendresse's smack down of Milan Lucic for Montreal and Mark Stewart's open-ice crusher on Alex Kovalev as he crossed the attacking blue line.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Tanguay out
04.22.2009  7:15 p.m. ET

Alex Tanguay did not make it into the lineup for Game 4. The team just announced its lineup and Tanguay is one of five healthy scratches, joining Andrei Markov, Mathieu Schneider. Francis Bouillon, Patrice Brisebois and Robert Lang, all of whom were ruled out in the morning.

For Boston, Byron Bitz is the healthy scratch, replaced by Milan Lucic, who is returning from a one-game suspension.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Elimination Day
04.22.2009  6:19 p.m. ET

As promised, I am back at the Bell Centre for all the news before, during and after the first elimination game of this best-of-7 series, Game 4 here tonight.

There is always something different about elimination games and that is the case again here in Montreal. Everything has felt different all day, from the morning skate until now.

It probably doesn't help that I am sitting above a still-darkened Bell Centre ice surface with an expanse of empty stands before me and the drone of the Zamboni flooding a new sheet of ice the only sound. But, there is no denying that everything is muted a bit when one team faces elimination in a series.

Believe it or not, it is a trying time for both teams.

Of course, Montreal faces the end of its season and that is a thought that is almost impossible to bear for the team and its proud fans. But, the finality of this game, if they lose, has been with them since they lost Game 3 here Monday night. They have to fight that sense of doom and call on reserves mental reserves that can only be tapped in survival situations.

But, the Bruins are muted, as well. They know that a win tonight ends the series, but they can not let that fact enter their thought process. A let down -- which would be natural after three dominating wins against the same opponent -- would be deadly now.

They need to put Montreal down right now -- especially with a two-day layoff before Saturday's Game 6. Montreal is missing some key players through injury, but Alex Tanguay is a game-time decision tonight, meaning he is close to a return and Mathieu Schneider, who played in the first two games of this series before going out of the lineup in Game 3, Andrei Markov and Robert Lang are all on their skates, meaning two days may just be the window needed to get them back in the fray.

It is in Boston's best interest not to give the Canadiens hope. There are too many ghosts in play in this series to give Boston's major nemesis even a breath of life and coach Claude Julien has stressed that repeatedly.

It'll be interesting to see if the message has gotten through.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Good day
04.22.2009  1:19 p.m. ET

Both teams have finished with their morning preparations for Wednesday night's Game 4 and the contrast was quite stunning.

After only skating seven players at Wednesday's optional skate at the team's practice rink, Montreal fielded 22 players for Thursday's morning skate. Plus, the skate was perhaps the most physically intense and loudest of the four Montreal has conducted in this series.

Assistant coach Kirk Muller's voice was raised several times as he urged the team through drills. Players shouted encouragement and banged sticks in appreciation when a teammate excelled at a given drill.

Defenseman Josh Gorges says Wednesday's emotion was not just for show.

"I wouldn't say it is loose, we're excited about the opportunity," he said. "There's obviously some nerves. It's do-or-die for us the rest of the way in the series. Our backs are up against the wall and I remember a coach saying that once you are backed up against a wall, there's only one way to go and that's to come out fighting. We have no other choice, no other option. We got to be ready to go tonight and it's not going to be easy, but we have to make sure we give everything we've got.  

Montreal coach Bob Gainey is not happy to see his team in such a bad way, but he is trying to take the positives out of the situation. He knows his team is decimated by injuries to key players and is icing a younger and more inexperienced roster as a result, but he sees these games as a learning experience.

"We started the series as the underdog, because that is the spot we earned," he said. "The Bruins have played well; they have given us very few freebies. For the young guys that in (our lineup), this is great experience for them. We're seeing great competition at the best time of the year."
That thought process is not just putting a positive spin on a clearly negative situation either.

Boston used last season's first round loss to these same Canadiens to lay the foundation for this year's run to the top of the eastern Conference and a 3-0 lead heading into tonight's Game 4. Young Bruins like Phil Kessel, Dennis Wideman and Milan Lucic were all blooded during a series that saw Boston rally from 0-3 down to force a deciding Game 7.

"It's about where it was -- Boston and here," Julien said when asked about the maturation of his young core during last year's postseason. "What better place to play on the road than Montreal? Talk about having to learn and learn quick.

"The fact was that we had to rely heavily on those young players because of our number of injuries and etcetera, so those young guys played a lot bigger role than young guys would ever be able to play. All those kind of things helped our guys grow and mature and be better players and obviously it has helped us a lot to handle what is going on right now."

And, what is going on right now is Boston is a team that understands the situation it is in, the opportunity it has Thursday night.

The Bruins didn't skate in the morning, the first time they have stayed off the ice since the series began, but the players insist they are ready for Thursday night's game. They know that the faster they put down the Canadiens, the better it will be and they are embracing that opportunity in Game 4.

It should be an interesting battle of will tonight, for sure.

I'll be back around 5 p.m. with all the pre-game news, as well as updates throughout the game.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Off-day musings
04.21.2009   4:39 p.m. ET

Tuesday is cold and damp here in Montreal, a perfect backdrop for the gloom that has settled over this city after the Canadiens lost last night's Game 3 to fall into a treacherous 0-3 hole in this series against their hated rival from Boston.

The Canadiens are still putting on a brave face, however, insisting they can fight their way back into the series.

During Tuesday's optional skate at Montreal's stunning practice facility in Brossard, Que., the message was positive.

"We're down 3-0, but it's far from over," said Maxim Lapierre a Montreal forward. "We have a really big tomorrow and we know we can come back and there is no better time than during a big rivalry between Boston and Montreal to show that we can come back."

Coach Bob Gainey said his team needed to look at the next shift, the next battle, and not get caught up in the daunting overall picture that sits before them.

"We're going to have to prove we can stay alive by winning a game," he said. "If we win a game, then we play a game on Saturday, where we can look to Tuesday. It's by small increments. Without the first one, it's hard to move to the second one or third one, which has been the case since the beginning of the series. We need to win a game to get into it, whether it's the first, second, third, or fourth. Right now we're sitting at the fourth, still waiting to get out of the gate as far as putting a win on our side. I think if we do that, our players will gain a little bit. There's always optimism. There's always some hope. Until that's gone, that's what you play with."

Only seven players -- Carey Price, Jaroslav Halak, Mike Komisarek, Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn, Gregory Stewart, Yannick Weber, Matt D'Agostini, and Sergei Kostitsyn -- took the option to skate Tuesday. Injured players Andrei Markov and Robert Lang skated before the start of the optional, but neither looked close to ready for a return. Gainey confirmed as much later when he said both were out.

Gainey also said he has not decided on his goalie for Game 4. Price has given up 11 goals in eight periods of play in this series.

The other topic of conversation Tuesday at Montreal's practice was the booing of the American national anthem by Bell Centre fans before Game 3. Most Canadiens were disappointed about that behavior.

"I feel like there's a confusion there with the fans," Gainey said Tuesday. "They feel like booing the anthem is supporting our team in that the anthem represents the Boston team. If they can separate those two things and respect the anthem of the United States of America, they can still participate loudly and in whatever they want to disrupt the Bruins."

Boston's skate, at the Bell Centre, was a far different affair. According to reports, it was a full practice with everyone but the injured Andrew Ference taking part.

The only real news coming out of Boston camp was coach Cluade Julien admitting he has a tough decision about which forward comes out of the lineup when Milan Lucic returns Wednesday night from his one-game suspension for striking Maxim Lapierre in the head with his stick.

The assumption was that it would be Byron Bitz, who replaced Lucic in the lineup, but played on the fourth line with Stephane Yelle and Shawn Thornton. Lucic plays on a scoring line with David Krejci and Michael Ryder. Lucic's spot on that line was filled Monday by Blake Wheeler.

That's all for today. I'm going to try to get a little rest and then it's off to dinner with a few mates. I'll be back at you from the morning skates Wednesday. See you then!

-- Shawn Roarke

Bruins take stranglehold on series
04.21.2009  12:16 a.m. ET

While Montreal is putting on a brave face after Monday's loss in game 3, it's hard to imagine them gaining anything more than a cosmetic victory in this series.

Boston took the Canadiens' best punch in a rollicking first period that saw Montreal lay everything on the line. The Canadiens knew they couldn't play the whole game at that pace, but they believed if they could use the intensity to get up by a couple of goals, they could ride that advantage -- and the ensuing momentum -- to victory.

But, when Phil Kessel scored a pinball-type goal with 95 seconds left in the first, it totally took the wind out of Montreal's sails.

By the third period, Boston was protecting a slim 3-2 lead, but was in total command. Montreal managed just five shots in that final frame.

"I think the third was our best period," said Michael Ryder, who had the game-winning goal. "We did everything right. We had our third-man high, we had a good forecheck, we were using our speed and rolling all four lines."

In other words, the formula they have used to dominate the whole series.

Boston has not decided if they will practice Tuesday, that decision will be made in the morning. Montreal's players will report to their suburban practice rink at noon Tuesday and I'll be on hand to get the latest -- especially injury-related news involving Mathieu Schneider and Alex Tanguay, who were both late scratches in Game 3.

Plus, coach Bob Gainey hinted in his post-game press conference Monday night that there is a chance that top defensive Andrei Markov and offensively gifted forward Robert Lang could be possibilities for Wednesday's do-or-die game. Both have missed the entire series with long-term injuries, but have started skating again recently.

For now, I'm going to try to find some late dinner and then hit the sack. I'll talk to you all  soon.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Bruins lead after two
04.20.2009  8:52 p.m. ET

The Bruins have weather the storm and now they head into the final 20 minutes nursing a 3-2 lead in Game 3 here at the Bell Centre.

The second period was certainly a wild affair, featuring three goals.

Shawn Thornton was an unlikely candidate to open the scoring, but that is exactly what he did when he took a sharp pass from Byron Bitz -- in his first playoff game -- and ripped a one-timer past Carey Price for a 2-1 lead.

Instead of folding, however, Montreal took just 80 seconds to answer as Yannick Weber threaded a point shot through traffic, as well as through the 5-hole left by Tim Thomas.

But, slowly Boston took control of the period. Montreal only had three more shots after Weber's goal at 5:16, while Boston had more than 10 in the second half of the frame alone, including one that produced the go-ahead goal by Michael Ryder at the 17:21 mark. Ryder put home the rebound of a Dennis Wideman point shot.

Boston is now out-shooting the Canadiens, 23-20, after two periods. The Bruins had just six shots in the first period.

--Shawn P. Roarke

All tied after first period
04.20.2009  7:59 p.m. ET

With an amped-up crowd providing an extra boost of adrenaline, Montreal took its first lead of the series when Chris Higgins scored at the 11:52 mark of the first period, beating Tim Thomas to the far side with a wrister from the faceoff circle on a line rush.

But, Montreal couldn't escape to the dressing room with the lead as Dennis Wideman intercepted a clearing pass from Mike Komisarek and banked his slapper off Blake Wheeler and past a surprised Carey Price.

It was a cruel fate for the Canadiens who dominated play for long periods in the first. The Bruins got their first three shots on the period's only power play and then went almost seven minutes before adding another shot.

The revamped Canadiens, who underwent wholesale changes in their lines, played an effective north-south game, banging bodies with glee as they racked up 21 hits in the period to set the tone of the game from the opening faceoff. 

The new line of Tomas Plekanec, Matt D'Agostini and Greg Stewart was very effective and almost had a goal 30-some seconds after Higgins scored. Plekanec and D'Agostini were both healthy scratches in Game 2 and Stewart is making his debut in this series.

It'll be interesting to see if Montreal can keep up this intensity after the 17-minute break.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Big changes for Montreal
04.20.2009  7:19 p.m. ET

Wow, the Montreal Canadiens will look much different for Game 3, arguably the biggest game of their 100th anniversary season.

First, the most important question has been answered. Coach Bob Gainey has decided to go back to Carey Price, who was pulled after allowing five goals in two periods of Game 2. He has allowed eight goals in five periods this postseason.

But, Gainey has made several alterations to his roster for tonight's Game 3.

Amazingly, Alex Tanguay is out. Tanguay has been one of the team's best players for the past month, but he will not play tonight. Defenseman Mathieu Schneider is also out. Schneider, who runs Montreal's power play, has been hampered by a sore shoulder throughout the series.

Sergei Kostitsyn, who made his debut in Game 2, but did not have much of an impact, was also scratched.
Tomas Plekanec and Matt D'Agostini, both scratched in Game 2, are back in the lineup. Yannick Weber, who started the game as a forward in Game 2 before moving to his natural position on the blue line when Francis Bouillon was hurt in the first period, is back in as a defenseman for Game 3.

Defenseman Ryan O'Byrne and forward Greg Stewart are making their debuts.

For Boston, Byron Bitz is the only change, playing in place of the suspended Milan Lucic.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Playoff fever grips Montreal
04.20.2009  5:54 p.m. ET

The weather may not be very Spring-like in Montreal -- it had dropped into the 40s and the wind was picking up -- as I made my way to the Bell Centre this afternoon. But, it's Spring in Montreal because Stanley Cup Playoff hockey arrives at the Bell Centre in about 90 minutes.

For Canadiens fans, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are as scared a spring tradition as Patriots' Day in Boston or the cherry tree blossoms in Washington, D.C. And, there was no mistaking that this wonderful city is alive with anticipation, even with the local boys stuck in a 0-2 hole.

It's a mile from my hotel on Rue Sherbrooke to the Bell Centre and, along the way, I must have encountered a minimum of 200 people wearing some form of Canadiens garb. At least half the cars zooming by on St. Catherine had a Canadien flag flying from the roof. The bars on Peel St. -- the Peel Pub and hangout McLean's -- were already filling with fans having their pre-game meal and a libation or two.

As I got closer to the arena, chants of "Ole, Ole, Ole" could be heard from the block party in front of the rink. A poor teenager with the audacity to wear a Bruins' jersey with Marc Savard's name and No. 91 on it was being mocked incessantly as he crossed the street.

Amazingly, the fans remain upbeat, despite the fact that the team has a goaltending crisis, has been highly undisciplined in the first two games and has yet to lead in this series. They believe all is right with the world now that the Canadiens are back home.

Tonight, the boys will find a way to win, they say. Then it will be a series again with the Habs having a chance to even the series in Wednesday's Game 4.

And, why shouldn't Montreal fans be optimistic? The local team has performed many a Spring miracle in the past en route to their record 24 Stanley Cup titles. And, many of those glories have come at the expense of the Boston Bruins, a bitter Original Six rival.

Will the Canadiens reward the optimism of their fans? We'll all find out, starting in about an hour.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Ference skating
04.20.2009  1:47 p.m. ET

Boston defenseman Andrew Ference returned to the ice Monday morning for the first time since suffering an undisclosed injury on April 4. He took a few vigorous laps around the Bell Centre ice after the rest of the Bruins finished with their morning skate.

"Just shaking off some of the cement," Ference said afterward.

"It's definitely nice to get on the ice. Each day you take steps, as far as the on-ice stuff goes."

But, while he was happy to be back on skates, he wasn't getting too far ahead of himself. He knows he is still several days away from being ready for a return to game action.

"This is the first day back on the ice; we're not taking it to a limit where we set ourselves back," Ference continued.

So, is a return to action during the current series realistic?

"It just depends on how the series goes," Ference added.

With Matt Hunwick suffering a ruptured spleen in Game 1, Boston is down to just six healthy defensemen, so Ference would be a welcomed addition if he can make it back.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Playing it close to the vest
04.20.2009  11:33 a.m. ET

Bob Gainey had very little to say this morning about his plans for tonight's Game 3 at the Bell Centre.

He refused to divulge his starting goaltender for the game, saying it will be a game-time decision. Carey Price started the first two games, but was pulled after two periods in Game 2, allowing five goals on 26 shots. Jaroslav Halak stopped all five shots he faced in the third period of that 5-1 loss.

Gainey also refused to discuss other potential lineup changes when pressed about the topic.

Finally, he had no comment on the League's suspension of Boston forward Milan Lucic for one game.

His main message was that his team can be better in all the little things -- decisions with the puck, positioning and discipline -- and that will lead to a much brighter overall picture for his team.

The message appears to have through, judging by the players comments after the morning skate.

"We want to impose our system right away," said Maxim Lapierre. "They are going to have to follow us around tonight; we're not the ones that are going to play follow the leader.

Lapierre also refused to discuss the Lucic suspension. Lapierre was the player that Lucic hit with his stick late in the third period that led to the match penalty that brought about the suspension.

"I have no more comment about that," Lapierre said. "We need to win a game tonight and that is all that matters.

Both Andrei Markov and Robert Lang skated before the team took the ice, but it seems unlikely that either will play in tonight's Game 3.

--Shawn P. Roarke

04.20.2009  10:21 a.m. ET

Happy Patriots' Day!

I'm here at the Bell Centre for the morning skates in preparation for tonight's Game 3. The Canadiens are almost ready to take the ice and we should start to get some clues about what Bob Gainey plans to do with his roster for Game 3. Changes are to be expected.

Boston will follow and we should get some reaction from the team to Milan Lucic's one-game suspension imposed by the League after he received a match penalty in the waning minutes of Game 2.

I'll be checking in after each skate.

Speaking of Patriots' Day, I caught a few minutes of the Boston Marathon on the TV in my room. It looked like a brisk, but beautiful day, just as it is here. It's about 50 degrees here and sunny.

Hopefully, I'll be out of here to catch a little of the Red Sox morning game today, which is another Patriots' Day tradition. Baseball in the morning is almost as good as hockey in the morning. 

--Shawn P. Roarke

We're here!
04.19.2009  7:06 p.m. ET

It took almost six hours, but we've made it to Montreal. correspondent James Murphy and I left Boston at about 11 a.m. and arrived in Montreal right around 5 p.m.

What a beautiful day for a drive, 50 degrees and sunny. Much different than the hard rain that met me upon leaving the Garden at 1:30 Sunday morning. And the trip through the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont and the farm country of Quebec Province is always a treat.

We got stuck in a little traffic jam at the border crossing and also stopped for lunch at a secret sandwich spot nearby that Murphy raves about. Let's put it this way, it was worth wandering off the highway for sure.

We still arrived in time to get the news that the League has suspended Boston forward Milan Lucic for one game for the match penalty he incurred for cross-checking Montreal's Maxim Lapierre in the head late in Boston's 5-2 win Tuesday night.

Lucic will miss Game 3, meaning that rugged rookie Byron Bitz will be in the lineup for his first playoff game. Bitz will probably join the fourth line with Shawn Thornton and Stephane Yelle while Blake Wheeler will move up from the fourth line to the second line, joining David Krejci and Michael Ryder.

We'll get all the details Monday morning when the Bruins take the ice for the morning skate at the Bell Centre.

There was also news coming out of the Montreal camp Sunday.

Injured Canadiens Andrei Markov and Robert Lang both skated during Sunday's practice. Markov, the team's top-scoring defenseman in the regular season, has missed the past six games after suffering an undisclosed injury in the regular-season's final week. Lang was the team's leading scorer in early February when he was lost to a severed Achilles tendon.

However, Gainey was not optimistic that either player would be in the lineup Monday night.

Francis Bouillon, who made an unexpected return from a groin injury in Game 2, re-injured his groin in the first period and is highly questionable for Game 3. He took just four shifts, totaling 1:46.

There was also some speculation that Tomas Plekanec, a healthy scratch in Game 2, could be re-inserted into the lineup.  

Gainey has also not decided yet whether he will go back with goalie Carey Price, who was pulled after allowing five goals in two periods in Game 2. Jaroslav Halak stopped all five shots he faced in the third period.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Bergeron drops gloves; Bruins win
04.18.2009  9:49 p.m. ET

The highlight of an anti-climatic third period in Boston's 5-1 triumph in Saturday night's Game 2 happened at the midway point of the frame when Boston center Patrice Bergeron dropped the gloves to duke it out with Canadiens defenseman Josh Georges.

The two middleweights exchanged a fusillade of punches at center ice before Bergeron caught Gorges with a knee-buckling left hand that dropped him to the ice and effectively ended the tussle.

It was the first fighting major in Bergeron's NHL career and it brought a delirious Garden crowd to its feet. In fact, the Bruin faithful celebrated throughout the game's final 20 minutes, openly mocking the visiting fans and deriding the Canadiens at every turn.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Rout is on, B's lead 5-1 after two
04.18.2009  9:49 p.m. ET

Boston put a dagger in the hearts of Montreal with just 2.3 seconds left in the second period as Michael Ryder scored a power-play goal to make the game 5-1. Boston has three power-play goals in the game so far.

With Alex Kovalev in the box for an offensive-zone hook, Montreal thought it had escaped unscathed when they cleared their defensive zone with eight seconds left, but Boston goalie Tim Thomas sensed that Montreal had given up on the play and fired a long outlet pass to Mark Recchi, who passed the puck onto Marc Savard. The Boston playmaker, put a cross-ice pass right on the stick of Ryder, who wristed a shot past Price's waving glove hand. Savard has four points on the night.

Twenty minutes remain in the contest, but Boston looks like it will head to Montreal on Sunday with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Bouillon out; B's lead 4-1.
04.18.2009  8:54 p.m. ET

Montreal just announced that Francis Bouillon will not return to the game.

Bouillon was playing for the first time since mid-February. He barely played Saturday night, however, appearing in four shifts for 1:46 of ice time. Bouillon likely re-injured himself on his third shift of the game. He tried to go 10 minutes later, but only played for 28 seconds.

Montreal is down to five defensemen, although Yannick Weber is a natural defenseman being deployed as a forward.

For Montreal, the news isn't much better on the scoreboard, either.

Shane Hnidy, in for the injured Matt Hunwick, just scored a beautiful goal off a P.J. Axelsson drop pass to make it 3-1at the 5:45 mark of the second period.

Alex Kovalev had given Montreal some hope by scoring on the first shift of the second period, sending a shot past Tim Thomas on the short side.

Marc Savard added a power-play goal at 8:14 to make it 4-1.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Bruins lead 2-0 after first
04.18.2009  8:54 p.m. ET

Chuck Kobasew picked up a rebound goal at the 15:12 mark to give Boston a 2-0 lead. It is the second time in as many games that the Bruins have capitalized on the rebound-control issues plaguing Montreal goalie Carey Price.

The Canadiens were dominating the first period until getting in penalty trouble. With nine minutes gone, Montreal held an 8-2 advantage in shots. By the end of the first period, Boston was out-shooting the visitors 15-11.

The physical play has not tapered off at all, either. There was a huge scrum in fron of Tim Thomas at the 18:34 mark, highlighted by Phil Kessel dropping Tom Kostopoulos with one gloved punch to the chin and goalie Tim Thomas then trying to run interference as Kostopoulos tried to get back at Kessel.

At the first-period buzzer, the usually placid Saku Koivu got into a cross-checking exchange with David Krejci.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Bouillon makes the cut
04.18.2009  8:34 p.m. ET

Francis Bouillon passed whatever test he had to in order to prove that his groin was healthy and he was capable of handling game action.

Bouillon is in the lineup fore Saturday's game 2, taking the place of Patrice Brisebois. Bouillon, who hasn't played in two months, was paired with Mathieu Schneider early in the game.

Yannick Weber, normally a defenseman, was on a line with the Kostitsyn brothers -- Andre and Sergei, who was a healthy scratch in Game 1. Sergei Kostitsyn took a neutral-zone hooking penalty to set up Boston's first goal, a power-play tally by Marc Savard at 9:59 of the first.

Montreal was dominating play before Kostitsyn's penalty, holding an 8-2 advantage in shots at the time of the infraction.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Hunwick has ruptured spleen
04.18.2009  6:45 p.m. ET

Matt Hunwick suffered a ruptured spleen from a second-period check delivered in Game 1 Thursday night, the team announced Saturday night.

He was being closely monitored by the team and when he reported an increase in pain level Saturday morning at the team's practice facility in Wilmington, Mass., Hunwick was taken to the hospital and underwent surgery to remove his spleen Saturday afternoon.

"The spleen was removed at 1 p.m. today," said Dr. Peter Asnis, the team's physician. "The procedure went uneventfully and Matt is recuperating at Mass General (Hospital)."

Boston GM Peter Chiarelli has not yet spoken to Hunwick, but reports from others assure him that Hunwick's spirits are high and he plans to watch Saturday night's Game 2 from his hospital room.

According to Asnis, the typical recovery period for a person suffering a ruptured spleen is close to two months, which means Hunwick, a high-scoring rookie defensemen, is likely out for the remainder of the playoffs. But, Asnis did leave the window open slightly to the possibility that Hunwick could return earlier.

Chiarelli said his team is mulling several options to replace Hunwick on the roster, but won't execute any of them immediately. Most likely, the club will call up a defenseman from Providence of the AHL at some point.

Hunwick has been watched closely since reporting the injury Thursday night and was even taken to the hospital Friday for a CT scan and blood work. At that time, the rupture did not show up and Hunwick was sent home with orders to report any increases in pain. When he reported such an increase Saturday afternoon, he was re-examined and the rupture showed up on the second CT scan.

"He was never in imminent danger," Asnis said.

After suffering the injury, Hunwick was already ruled out for Game 2 and would not have appeared even if he never reported an increase in pain. He would have been closely monitored for several days before he would have been allowed to play again, according to Asnis.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Big changes for Montreal
04.18.2009  6:45 p.m. ET

Here's some late-breaking news. Montreal coach Bob Gainey has changed his lineiup dramatically for Saturday night's Game 2. Throughout his coaching career, Gainey has always been a big proponent of shaking things up after a loss.

Well, he has certainly done that now. Struggling forward Tomas Plekanac is out, as is rookie forward Matt D'Agostini.

Sergei Kostitsyn is in, most likely playing center on a line that features his brother Andrei. Yannick Weber is also in.

In another shocking move, the injured Francis Bouillon was summoned from Montreal, where he was rehabbing on his own. He will take part in the pre-game skate and if he passes that test, he could be inserted into the lineup in place of Patrice Brisebois.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Conversion almost complete
04.18.2009  6:15 p.m. ET

I just wandered out to the rink after arriving here at TD Banknorth garden about 20 minutes ago.

The change from the hardwood configuration for Saturday afternoon's Celtics game is almost complete. As I made the corner to check on the progress, the last of the protective covering squares were being towed off the ice.

I'm no ice expert, but the surface looked pretty good. It will be cut and flooded now. While I'm not an ice expert, Dan Craig is and he is on hand to make sure everything goes smoothly. He didn't look nervous, so that is a good sign.

The Bruins pre-game soccer circle is in full swing just outside the press room here. The hooting and hollering from the space near the Zamboni entrance is a soundtrack for my typing.

There has been no update yet on the condition of Matt Hunwick, who was rushed to an undisclosed hospital this morning with a spleen injury. The team should announce something soon. In fact, the club just announced that GM Peter Chiarelli will have a 7 p.m. presser to discuss Hunwick.

Here's an interesting stat about Hunwick and what he means to the Bruins: The team was 38-8-7 when Hunwick was in the lineup. It went just 13-10-3 when he was not dressed.

With Andrew Ference already out with an undisclosed injury, Boston is now down to six healthy defensemen. Because of that, there is a good chance that the Bruins will call up a defenseman from Providence in the next 24 hours. Johnny Boychuk is the most likely candidate. He has one point in two playoff games for the P-Bruins.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Hunwick out, Hnidy in
04.18.2009  1:31 p.m. ET

With the spleen injury to Matt Hunwick, the Bruins will have to shake up its defensive rotation for Saturday night's Game 2

That means Shane Hnidy will take rookie Hunwick's place. Andrew Ference is still sidelined and is unable to play.

Hnidy, a veteran, appeared in 65 games this season, scoring 12 points, a plus-6 rating and 45 penalty minutes. He does not bring the offense that the smooth-skating Hunwick provided (27 points in 53 games) during his rookie campaign, but he is solid, stay-at-home type that won't make many mistakes in his own end.

Hnidy also has 30 games of Stanley Cup Playoff games to his credit, including all seven games of last season's first round series against Montreal.

It'll be interesting to see how coach Claude Julien will pair up his defensemen for Saturday night's game.

It's hard to imagine the Bruins' breaking up their top pairing of Aaron Ward and Zdeno Chara, which is often deployed against Montreal's first line. Hunwick was playing in the second pair with Wideman, while Mark Stuart and Steve Montador formed the third pairing.

The two most likely options are that Hnidy will just step into Hunwick's spot and leave all the offense to come from Wideman, who had 50 regular-season points, or that Hnidy will play in the third pairing with Stuart and Montador, who had 21 regular-season points, will be moved up into the second pair.

No matter what happens, Julien believes his team will be ready for the game tonight, even with the concern for Hunwick hanging over the team.

"We're a close-knit team," said Julien. "Everybody feels for each other. When something like that happens, there's no doubt that our players certainly feel for him. We'll definitely worry like everybody else until we get some results. It's part of life. I know he's in good hands. Hopefully we'll get good news tonight."

"It's our job to make sure our team's focused," Julien said. "It's the responsibility of players. We're going to be OK. We're certainly not going to use that as an excuse. Hopefully before the game starts, everything will be under control and it will be us moving on, knowing that Matty is going to be fine and back with us as soon as he can."

The team plans to update Hunwick's status before tonight's game. We'll have the news as soon as it is released.

--Shawn P. Roarke

No ice worries
04.18.2009  1:25 p.m. ET

The Boston Celtics are playing at TD Banknorth Garden right now in their first playoff game off the 2009 postseason. The game against the Bulls started at 12:30 p.m. and should finish, barring overtime, by 3 p.m. That means that the bull gang at the Garden will have just four hours to transition from hardwood to ice.

Obviously, that is a recipe that could lead to bad ice. Fortunately, it is not too warm here in Boston today, so heat will not further compromise the garden ice.

Yet, Boston coach Claude Julien said Saturday morning he is not worried about poor quality ice.

"I think the crew at the Garden (has) done a good job making sure the ice is ready as can be, as good as can be and I'm confident that will happen again tonight," Julien said.

And, if the ice is not perfect, you won't see Julien crying about it.

"I always say it is the same for both teams," Julien said. "We are used to playing on good ice and so is Montreal, so if it is a little bit of an issue, both teams have to deal with it."

Montreal had no comments about the ice becasue they did not have availability Saturday morning. They were supposed to have a morning skate at Boston University's Walter Brown Arena, but cancelled it at the last minute.

--Shawn P. Roarke

What a day!
04.18.2009  10:19 a.m. ET

Saturday is a sport's fans paradise here in Boston and the TD Banknorth Garden is the focal point.

The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens play there in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Saturday night, but first the Boston Celtics will kick off their NBA championship defense against the Chicago Bulls in a game that starts in less than three hours.

At 7 p.m., the local baseball team, the Red Sox will attempt to continue their mini hot streak against Baltimore, less than 24 hours removed from the dramatic comeback from a seven-run deficit Friday night to secure a wild 10-8 victory.

And, it should be mentioned that getting to any of these events Saturday will be a little more difficult because the city's roads are being made over for Monday's Boston Marathon.

Yet, even with all these sporting options on the plate, the Bruins are the main story -- and it has been a long time since that has happened in this sports-mad city.

That phenomenon speaks to the optimism that the local fan base -- which has become used to titles from its sports teams -- has about the Bruins' chances to go deep in this year's tournament, a positive vibe that has been dormant for much of the past decade. Because, remember, this is a franchise that has only won one playoff series in the past 15 years.

The feeling here, though, is that the Bruins represent the best chance for the city's next championship.

Sure, hope springs eternal for the Red Sox, but the baseball season is less than a month old and October seems like a lifetime from now. In packed Fenway on Friday night, much of the chatter from the fans between pitches and between innings was about Saturday night's Bruins game and the fact that Boston may final get the best of those hated Montreal Canadiens.

Optimism is not quite as high for the Celtics, who took a 1-2 punch to the gut on Thursday. First, GM Danny Ainge, one of the golden boys of basketball's most-famous franchises, suffered a mild heart attack and was hospitalized. The 50-year-old, however, is doing better and could be discharged Sunday. The same afternoon, Boston coach Doc Rivers went on the radio and dropped a bomb on the team's supporters by announcing that linchpin Kevin Garnett won't be able to play in the playoffs because of injury.

Still, Saturday's playoff opener should be a rocking affair at the Garden, a suitable appetizer for the night's main course of Bruins vs. Canadiens, a table that will be set by the bull gang at the Garden that will have less than six hours to switch the building from hardwood to ice.

It should be an unforgettable day, and I am ready to start kick off by heading over to the Canadiens' morning skate, which has been displaced to Walter Brown Arena on the campus of Boston University, which, by the way, was crowned national champion in Division 1 ice hockey just a few days ago. The Bruins, meanwhile, will be taking the ice in just a few minutes at their practice rink in Wilmington.

I'll have the news from both skates as it develops and then will be at the Garden before 6 p.m. to set the stage for Game 2. See you then.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Status quo rules the day
04.17.2009  4:24 p.m. ET
There weren't many changes coming out of either camp during Friday's practices.

The Bruins stuck with their lines that won Game 1 during Friday's practice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, while Montreal also stood pat during their 45-minute afternoon workout at TD Banknorth Center.

That means that Georges Laraque remained on the first line with Saku Koivu and Alexei Kovalev and Alex Tanguay was wearing the same burgundy practice sweater as Game 1 linemates, Glen Metropolit and Chris Higgins.

Both Laraque and Tanguay fit in well with their new linemates, by all accounts.

At the end of practice, Koivu took several minutes to chat with Laraque, pointing to different areas on the ice and discussing how he and Kovalev like to set up.

"I thought he did a great job," said Kovalev, who scored the tying goal in Thursday's game. "Most of the night, he helped us create some (scoring chances."

Higgins also gave high marks to Tanguay.

"I like playing with Alex," he said. "I played with him a couple of times during the regular season, but we were both injured, which limited our time together.

"He's a playmaker. His head is always up and he's looking to find the linemates he is playing with."

In other news, Gainey said he would go back to Carey Price in Game 2. Price made 35 saves in Game 1, but Boston's first goal came off a puck that Price should have controlled.

Also, Gainey said that Andrei Markov skated on his own back in Montreal, but he would not be ready for Game 2.

That's all from here today. I'm off to check out the Red Sox at Fenway tonight. They are playing the Orioles at 7 p.m. But, fear not, I will be at Montreal's morning skate Saturday.

Because of an afternoon Celtics game her at TD Banknorth Center, both teams had to find alternate ice for the morning sessions. Boston is practicing at Ristuccia Arena and the Canadiens will be at Boston University.

--Shawn P. Roarke

My bad
04.17.2009  4:12 p.m. ET
Nobody felt worse than Josh Gorges after Thursday night's game. The Montreal defenseman took an ill-advised, retaliatory penalty against P.J. Axelsson behind the play at the 10:12 mark of the second period. Sixty-three seconds later, Zdeno Chara sent one of his patented laser beams past Carey Price for the game-winning goal on the power play.

"It's not a good feeling," Gorges said after Friday's practice. "You never want to put your team in a position like that and obviously it (stinks) to be the guy that takes a penalty that ends up costing a game.

"Like I said, I have to be smarter. I'm not a guy that takes a lot of penalties and that was a dumb, dumb play. It's frustrating, but there is nothing I can do about it now. We have to move on and get better and I have to move past it. I can't dwell on what happened. I have to move past it and make sure it doesn't happen again."

Gorges, who played more than 20 minutes and had an assist non Kovalev's game-tying goal, took just 37 minutes in penalties during 81 regular-season appearances.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Right back at it
04.17.2009  1:44 p.m. ET

Hmmm, it seems like I just left here. Almost exactly 12 hours after I left the TD Banknorth garden after chronicling Game 1, I am back here in the press room getting ready for Montreal's 2 p.m. practice.

Before coming here to do some blogging and catch up on some e-mails before practice, I stopped at Halftime Pizza on Causeway Street for a slice for lunch. The pizza is always good and it brings back memories of going there when I first started covering the NHL back in 1993. I found the place during the Devils -Bruins series in 1994 and have been going back ever since.

With lunch out of the way, it is time to get to the business at hand. Montreal will begin its attempts to regroup with Friday's practice, which starts in 30 minutes here at the Garden.

There's lots of good stuff Montreal can take out of Game 1, especially the way they dominated play in the second period, but the harsh reality is they still lost and face an uphill battle to get back in the series.

Two things the team iks going to have to do in Game 2 is find some secondary scoring and get better goaltending from Carey Price, who made 35 saves but also gave up a bad game-opening goal to Phil Kessel when he couldn't control his rebounds.

Here was Montreal coach Bob Gainey's take on Price's play in Game 1:

"Well, there was one that squeaked away from him early in the game, and I’m sure he wished he’d been a little more vigilant with that one," the coach said. "He was solid. I thought both goalies didn’t give anything away later in the game, and the winning goal was a solid goal by the Bruins. He provided us with really good play in that position."

As for the scoring, Montreal saw some good play out of its reconfigured first and fourth lines, but little else up front. The first line of Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu and Georges Laraque had five shots. On the fourth line, Alex Tanguay joined Chris Higgins and Glen Metropolit and that unit managed 7 shots and the team's first goal. The other six forwards managed just six shots combined; only one more than defenseman Roman Hamrlik managed on his own.

Well, I'm heading out to the rink and will be back with all the news when practice is finished.'s James Murphy went to Boston practice out at Ristuccia this morning and will alert me to any news coming out of their camp.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Calmer heads prevail
04.17.2009  1:23 p.m. ET

With the emotion that has surrounded this series since the matchup was determined Sunday night, much has been made of how physical this series could get.

Thursday night, in Game 1, there were a lot of good, clean hits thrown throughout the game -- 31 for Montreal and 23 for Boston -- but precious little of the after-the-whistle scrums that defined the final regular-season game eight days ago between these rivals.

That is, until Phil Kessel scored an empty-net goal with 14 seconds remaining in the game to ice a 4-2 victory for the home team. Then, Montreal got a little frisky as Maxim Lapierre delivered a shot to the face of the unsuspecting Kessel. Boston's Milan Lucic then waded in to protect Kessel and the pushing and shoving began in earnest.

Lucic and Lapierre earend roughing minors and 10-minute misconducts for their scuffle tantrums, as did Boston defenseman Steve Montador and Montreal winger Guillaume Latendresse for a concurrent dustup.

Afterward, however, everybody was playing down the incident, refusing to get involved in the time-honored playoff practice of finger-pointing.

"It might be a little sign of frustration on their part, but we can't dwell on that too much, Lucic said.

His coach, Claude Julien wouldn't take the bait either, even if his 36-goal scorer was targeted.

"I'm one of those guys that understands that it's playoffs, there's a lot of emotion, there may be frustration and stuff like that," Julien said.  "It's part of the game. I think it's important for us to be smart, react properly. I’m not going to stand here and whine about that stuff, because that’s what playoff hockey’s all about.  You stand tall for your team, and you stand up for each other, and that’s what they did.  They were trying to send a message, even in the last 15 seconds."

Montreal coach Bob Gainey clearly graduated with honors from the same school of thought as Julien.

"I thought there were a lot of body checks tonight, and our team looked like they got stronger or enjoyed it more as the game went along," Gainey said. "For a stretch of minutes, maybe late in the second and early in the third, I thought we were able to use physical contact to our advantage.

"At the end of the game, both of those incidents were right along the boards on the same side as the bench, I didn’t actually see how they started, but I think you could probably mix frustration in there somewhere." 

-- Shawn P. Roarke
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