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Canadiens find comfort in split after blowing lead

by Arpon Basu

BOSTON -- The Montreal Canadiens did exactly what they set out to do by splitting the first two games on the road in their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Boston Bruins.

It's how that split came about that may linger in the Canadiens' minds for a couple of days.

Montreal did not lose in regulation time once in 42 games when it led after two periods, going 35-0-3 in the regular season and 4-0-0 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs entering Game 2 on Saturday.

The Canadiens were 10 minutes away from making that 43 games and 5-0-0 in the playoffs, but a 3-1 lead turned into a 5-3 loss in a matter of minutes, and now Montreal is left to wonder what might have been.

The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1 with Game 3 on Tuesday at Bell Centre (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

"It would have been nice, honestly," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "It would have been nice to be in the position to pick up two games here. It would have been a great accomplishment. We have to look at the big picture, winning the first game here.

"We are going home and we know that if we play our game we will get chances."

In contrast to Game 1, when they were outclassed up and down the ice by the Bruins in a 4-3 double-overtime victory, the Canadiens were the better team Saturday. They took care of the puck better than the Bruins and got two power-play goals from Thomas Vanek, who had scored once in his first five games of the playoffs.

In each game at TD Garden, goaltender Carey Price was outstanding. He allowed seven goals but gave the Canadiens an opportunity to take the lead, which they failed to hold.

Price was almost defiant after the game Saturday, stating that the Canadiens will not dwell on how suddenly they blew a two-goal lead in a playoff game, and will instead focus on taking care of home ice.

"Winners regroup and realize the situation they're in," Price said. "I thought we did an excellent job so far. We came and did what we wanted to do, split these two games. Now we're going to move forward and take it to them on home ice."

The two-goal game was a relief for Vanek, who was removed from Montreal's top line for a large chunk of Game 1 and was called out by Therrien prior to Game 2.

"Work ethic is not negotiable, attitude is not negotiable and competing is not negotiable," Therrien said Saturday morning when asked about Vanek. "This is something we ask from every player on our hockey team. We have to make sure everyone brings those elements every single shift. That's the way I see it. It's not about one player, because you can't judge a player with points, or goals.

"As a coach, sometimes I have to make adjustments regarding those things that are not negotiable."

Vanek responded by tipping home two P.K. Subban point shots on the power play at 18:09 of the second and 6:30 of the third to give Montreal that 3-1 lead, one that disintegrated over the final half of the third period.

"It feels good to contribute, especially at that time of the game with the penalties they were taking," Vanek said. "It was good to get the lead. After we made it 3-1, I thought we played well after that, but that one goal just kind of turned the momentum.

"That's a good team. They know how to win. They didn't quit, they just kept believing in themselves. We got the lead we wanted and just gave it away."

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