The Boston Bruins are making progress against the Montreal Canadiens, but the results remain the same.
With their postseason possibly on the line and trying to quickly put aside an overtime loss, the Bruins return home to play the Canadiens and avoid falling into a nearly insurmountable three games-to-none deficit in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Boston took only one of a possible 16 points in eight regular-season games against the top-seeded Canadiens. After being nearly run of the Bell Centre in Game 1, the Bruins showed more determination and drive Saturday, unloading 39 shots on Canadiens rookie goaltender Carey Price and rallying from a two-goal, third-period deficit to force overtime in Game 2.
Yet a lack of discipline cost the Bruins as Shawn Thornton
was called for a high-sticking double-minor penalty late in the third period that carried over into overtime. Jeremy Reich added to Boston's troubles in the extra period when he was called for a tripping penalty before Thornton's expired, and the Canadiens made the Bruins pay as Alex Kovalev ripped a shot from the left half-boards past Tim Thomas
for a 3-2 victory and a 2-0 series lead.
"It seems to me I had so many chances today and I couldn't get the puck in, and last game was the same thing, I missed an open net," said Kovalev, whose seven shots were a team high. "I'm glad it went in."
Bruins coach Claude Julien grimly accepted the outcome but was upset over a call not made when he thought Reich was high-sticked.
"We're a team that hasn't hidden behind anything this year and we're not going to start now," Julien said. "We'll take the responsibility for our penalties and we'll move on. I guess the only thing that bothers me is the fact that (Reich) took a stick in the face but because we decide not to embellish, it doesn't pay off. I guess you have to embellish to get a call."
It was Montreal's 13th straight victory over Boston dating to the 2006-07 season, but the Canadiens refuse to take anything for granted as they face what will undoubtedly be a hostile arena as the Bruins play their first home playoff game at TD BankNorth Garden since 2004, when they lost to the Canadiens 2-0 to complete a first-round collapse after taking a 3-1 series lead.
"This was definitely one of their best games, but it's going to be even harder to play against them in their home building," admitted Kovalev, who has been the team captain since Saku Koivu has been sidelined with a foot injury.
Price may be the key to this game as the 20-year-old rookie makes his first road playoff start. He had little trouble at Boston in the regular season, going 3-0-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .945 save percentage, allowing just five goals in 96 shots.
Julien made one key lineup change that likely will continue for this game, using rookie center Vladimir Sobotka and scratching 19-goal scorer Phil Kessel. Sobotka logged just 10 minutes but was the Bruins best performer on faceoffs, winning 6 of 9 draws.
"I think if you look back at the first game they just totally dominated us as far as grit was concerned and along the boards and all those areas that are crucial," Julien said. "We just decided to add some grit in our lineup and they responded well that way."
Game 4 is Tuesday at Boston.