The Montreal Canadiens
owned the Boston Bruins
during the regular season. Game 1 of the playoffs was no different.
Brothers Sergei and Andrei Kostitsyn put the Canadiens ahead with goals in the first 2:02 and Montreal went on to a 4-1 victory over the Bruins, its 12th consecutive victory over Boston, including an 8-0 mark in the regular season. That sweep helped the Canadiens earn the top seed in the Eastern Conference with 104 points and left Boston in eighth.
The series resumes Saturday night in Montreal before moving to Boston for Game 3 on Sunday.
Bryan Smolinski and Tom Kostopoulos added goals for the Canadiens, who’ve won 23 of their 30 previous playoff series with the Bruins. Shane Hnidy had Boston’s only goal on a first-period deflection. Aside from that goal, the Bruins mounted little offense against rookie Carey Price, who had to make just 17 saves to win his NHL playoff debut as Montreal outshot Boston 32-18 and controlled play for most of the night.
''It was really loud out there, as usual,'' the 20-year-old rookie said. ''You could hardly hear yourself think and you almost don't have enough time to be nervous.''
The Bruins looked nervous at the start of the game and the Canadiens came out flying, forcing a turnover that led to Sergei Kostitsyn’s goal 34 seconds into the game. The rookie from Belarus went to the net to jam in a rebound after Thomas stopped a deflection of Patrice Brisebois’ shot.
With the Bell Centre’s sellout crowd still celebrating that goal, Andrei Kostitsyn, the older of the two brothers, made it 2-0 at 2:02 when he took Tomas Plekanec’s pass in the left circle and ripped a shot past Thomas, giving both goals in their first NHL playoff game.
''We couldn't have asked for a better start than the one we got, two quick goals,'' Montreal forward Chris Higgins said. ''The fans were already into it, but they got way more into it after that.''
Boston coach Claude Julien said the Canadiens didn’t do anything unexpected.
“We knew exactly what they were going to throw at us, we did the things that were supposed to prevent those kind of things, but somehow — I don’t know if nervousness or whatever got in the way — we didn’t make the good decisions and it ended up costing us,” Julien said. “We were just OK, and at this stage, OK is not good enough.”
Hnidy gave the Bruins some life at 8:34 when he tipped Andrew Ference’s pass between Price’s legs.
“It was kind of a broken 3-on-2, and I knew we were changing, and I had a chance to kind of jump in the play,” Hnidy said. “I just basically went to the net, got a good shot."
But Smolinski, who centers Montreal’s checking line, restored the Canadiens’ two-goal lead 5:16 into the second period, beating Thomas with a backhander.
Montreal continued to dominate, taking eight of the first 10 shots in the third period and adding to its lead at 7:24 when Kostopoulos swiped the rebound of Maxim Lapierre’s shot past Thomas while falling to his knees.
Boston hurt its own comeback chances by taking five penalties in the third period, including a pair with 3:50 remaining that gave Montreal a two-man advantage for two minutes. The Bruins killed off the 5-on-3 power play but lost valuable time.
The Bruins know they’ll have to pick up the level of their play on Saturday to avoid going back to Boston down two games.
“We’ve bounced back from a lot this year,” center Marc Savard said, “and hopefully we can do the same.”
Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau agreed that his team should expect an improved effort by the Bruins.
"It's a good start," Carbonneau said. "We surprised a lot of people, including ourselves, but the playoffs are a different time. You never know how the players are going to react. There were a few question marks, but we answered it pretty quickly.
“We played really well against them (Bruins) all year, but it's a different season now. Our guys were nervous at the start because they hadn't played in four days, but they played with a lot of confidence and overcame that nervousness.
Getting two quick goals certainly helped matters. We did a lot of good things, but they will adjust before we play them again on Saturday.”
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.