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Canadiens hope for a boost at Bell Centre

by Shawn P. Roarke
BOSTON -- The Montreal Canadiens hope the answers for their problems can be found in the comfy confines of the Bell Centre.

Through two games at the TD Banknorth Garden, Montreal has looked absolutely bereft of answers on how to compete against the top-seeded Boston Bruins in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.

After Saturday's demoralizing 5-1 loss in Game 2, Montreal heads home facing a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-7 series. Game 3 is Monday night at the Bell Centre, and the Canadiens will have to be much better if they hope to make a series out of this matchup.

The Canadiens were outscored 9-3 in the first two games, including a 4-0 advantage for Boston in power-play goals. In fact, Boston has more power-play goals than Montreal has man-advantage opportunities (three) in the first two contests.

They feel that discipline will be the key to getting back on track.

"It's just the discipline, that's all -- myself included," forward Chris Higgins said. "We can't take offensive-zone penalties. Their power play is too good.

Boston's power-play unit was 3-for-5 in Game 2 after going 1-for-4 in Game 1 -- with Zdeno Chara scoring the game-winning goal on the power play midway through the third period Thursday night.

"We're going to have to play better, and part of that is we are going to have to play smarter, and part of that will be resisting those hooks and slashes," coach/GM Bob Gainey said. "We have enough of a problem handling our opponent. We can't injure ourselves by taking penalties or straying away from the plan that we have in place."

Gainey is also going to have to figure out who will play goal for the Canadiens on Monday. Starter Carey Price was pulled after two periods of Game 2, having allowed five goals on 26 shots. Jaroslav Halak stopped the only five shots he faced in the third period. Price also gave up a bad opening goal in Thursday's loss.

Saturday night, Gainey was non-committal about his plans.

"I don't know," he said after being asked point-blank if Price is his Game 3 starter.

But nobody is putting all the blame on Price's shoulders.

"I don't think the responsibility falls on one guy -- especially Carey," defenseman Mike Komisarek said. "We were not good enough as a group. Carey likes to put a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, but it's not just one guy. It's not his fault. It is everyone as a group. We have to bounce back and get ready for Monday."

Higgins was furious at himself and his teammates that they left Price in such a lurch, and he hopes things change as the series switches to Montreal.

"We just want to forget about this one and try to make it a long series," he said. "We knew it wasn't going to be easy coming into this building and stealing one from them and getting home-ice advantage in the series."

Montreal now is in the unenviable position of having to play mistake-free hockey in the next two games just to hold serve. If not, the odds become that much longer for the Canadiens to get out of the first round in this, their Centennial Season.

Despite the disarray that seems to be surrounding the Canadiens, Boston refuses to get overconfident. For one, the Bruins remember that they were in a similar position last season against Montreal in the playoffs. Then, Boston was out-manned and out-gunned in falling behind three games to one. Yet somehow the Bruins found a way to extend the series to seven games before finally bowing out, putting a healthy scare into the top-seeded Canadiens along the way.

"They've been down before and they know how to come back," said Boston forward Michael Ryder, who was a member of last year's Canadiens. "We have to make sure we keep pushing."

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