MONTREAL - The Montreal Canadiens feel they have to move mountains just to get a goal, while the Boston Bruins are having goals fall in their laps.
The Canadiens came out for the first period of Game 3's 4-2 loss to Boston on Monday night determined to get back in their first round series with the Bruins, forechecking with purpose and dominating practically every facet of the game.
The Habs outhit the Bruins 21-7 through 20 minutes, outshot them 10-6 and won 65 per cent of their faceoffs. All this despite learning shortly before the start of the game that they would be without Alex Tanguay and Mathieu Schneider, both lost to upper body injuries, in addition to already being deprived of Andrei Markov's services.
But even though the Canadiens were up in almost every category on the stat sheet after that first period, they were dead even in the only category that mattered: the scoreboard.
"If you can get a goal or two early on when things are going for you, you can get that momentum and that jump for your team," captain Saku Koivu said. "I thought we played a real strong first period, but they came back and tied it with a lucky goal, but they all count. That was a tough one to take. Then they got their second goal (early in the second period) basically out of nowhere."
The Bruins tied the game 1-1 with only 1:25 to play in the first period when Phil Kessel got a stick on a Dennis Wideman shot after Mike Komisarek turned over the puck at the Montreal blue-line. The Bruins didn't get an even strength shot on goal until 18:06 of the first, and on their second 29 seconds later, they scored.
"It was a goal that had no build up to it," head coach and general manager Bob Gainey said. "It was a goal that seemed to happen without a lot of purpose from their team. It wasn't really a glaring error on our part, but an errant pass that turned into a shot that was tipped by their player.
"It did feel like a punch to the midsection."
Whether the top-seeded Bruins were lucky or simply too good, the Canadiens find themselves in a hole that only two teams in NHL history have ever climbed out of and the old adage of playing one game at a time is the new mantra for Montreal.
"You can't quit at this point," Koivu said. "I think it's up to every individual to prepare themselves for the battle on Wednesday. We understand the odds are against us, but the only thing that can be on our minds is that we have to win one game at home and go from there."
The slogan the Canadiens have used all year to celebrate the team's centennial has been, "This is where history is played," and Gainey would love to make that ring true with a comeback for the ages.
"It's the worst situation, but the biggest challenge," he said. "I would obviously like for us to not be in this situation, but we started the series with the idea of winning one game and we haven't done it yet."