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Price, Bourque put Canadiens up 2-0 in series

by Arpon Basu

TAMPA -- The Montreal Canadiens are heading home hoping they won't have to make a return trip here until next season. But they are also going home knowing just how fragile a 2-0 series lead can be.

Rene Bourque scored two goals and Carey Price made 26 saves in a 4-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round on Friday.

The series now shifts to Bell Centre in Montreal for Game 3 on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, SUN) and Game 4 on Tuesday.

Price was the starting goaltender in 2011 when the Canadiens swept the first two games on the road in their 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins. Five teammates who were in uniform Friday played in that series as well.

After going home with a commanding lead as the underdog in the series, the Canadiens won once in the next five games and lost the series in seven. The Bruins went go on to win the Stanley Cup.

Defenseman P.K. Subban, who assisted on the first two Montreal goals Friday, remembers that series well and vows to learn the appropriate lessons from it this time around.

"I've been in this situation before," Subban said. "It's great to feel good about taking two games on the road but it doesn't mean anything unless you play some good hockey at home. We're going into our building and if we're going to be successful in the playoffs we have to make sure that we're good at home."

Price, who allowed four goals on the first 14 shots he saw in a 5-4 overtime win in Game 1, was a rock in the Montreal net. His best save came a little after the 15-minute mark of the second period with the Canadiens leading 2-0 when he made a post-to-post pad stop on Lightning rookie Cedric Paquette.

"I didn't feel like I played my best game [in Game 1], but that was the best thing about it that we were able to find a way to win," Price said. "That's what it's all about, if one guy's not playing his best the other guys are picking up the slack."

The Lightning face a daunting task going into one of the NHL's most intimidating buildings in an effort to save what has been a remarkable season. But coach Jon Cooper is not afraid -- in fact, he's looking forward to it and fell just short of suggesting the pressure might in fact be on the Canadiens to play well in front of their demanding fans.

"We're coming in fighting," Cooper said. "We like the way we've played there. We like the ice, we like the rink, we like the atmosphere. If I was going to pick any rink we can go to and play, we've enjoyed playing in Montreal.

"The fans are great, they're hockey fans, so it's a lot of fun to play there."

It will be considerably more fun for the Lightning if they are able to find a solution to what Subban referred to as the Canadiens "suffocating" forecheck and defensive play thus far in the series. The Lightning have been outshot 70-52 in nearly seven periods of hockey.

"It is tough when you turn up the ice as a defenseman and you see three forwards, two defensemen and Carey Price standing in the net," Subban said. "It's not easy to create and generate offence when [your opponent] is always in the right position. For us, we've got to continue to do that at home."

David Desharnais' first goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs early in the second period snapped an 0-for-27 drought for the Canadiens' power play dating to March 25, perhaps eliminating what has been the only part of Montreal's game that has not been at a high level thus far in the series.

Bourque's first goal of the game turned out to be the winner; he scored on a spectacular breakaway off a feed from Thomas Vanek to snap a nine-game goal drought. Bourque's two goals came after a difficult season where he scored nine times in 63 games, but he has been engaged in both games of the series thus far with his physical play and creating opportunities around the net.

Bourque has four goals in seven playoff games in a Canadiens uniform.

"It hasn't been a smooth ride since I got here, I can say that," Bourque said. "It's been tough, but I'm just trying to keep my head up. Definitely, it's been up and down. I feel like I can elevate my game in the playoffs and I'm more of a playoff performer. It's kind of more my style, getting gritty and playing hard. Hopefully I can continue to play well."

Brendan Gallagher scored his third playoff goal in his seventh game to make it 3-0 at 11:46 of the third period, ending the night for Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback.

Lindback, starting in place of injured Ben Bishop, stopped 20 of 23 shots and has allowed eight goals on 67 shots in the series for an .881 save percentage. He was replaced by Kristers Gudlevskis, who stopped his first shot by Bourque but allowed the next to go in. Bourque collected his rebound, wheeled around the net and scored on a wraparound with 5:21 remaining to make it 4-0.

"There's no goaltending controversy or anything like that," Cooper said. "We needed a spark, and sometimes as a coach you're grasping for straws."

The Lightning, playing without leading scorer and potential Calder Trophy nominee Ondrej Palat, played better than they did in Game 1 when they were outshot nearly 2-to-1. Tampa Bay began the game with purpose, taking the play to Montreal and getting nine shots on Price before the game was nine minutes old.

"We knew they were going to come out hard; [those] first 10 minutes to be able to weather the storm was huge," Price said. "They didn't create a whole lot of scoring chances and I believe they created most of their shots within those first 10 minutes. We knew they were going to play hard and we were fortunate to weather it."

The Canadiens began to take over in the second period.

Desharnais opened the scoring at 2:34, tipping home a Subban shot. Max Pacioretty got the second assist for his first career playoff point.

Bourque made it 2-0 at 10:35 when he took a no-look pass from Vanek in stride in the neutral zone, split Lightning defensemen Eric Brewer and Sami Salo, and beat Lindback after the goaltender missed a poke check.

"I'm not worried about style points," Bourque said. "Oh, it was a great play [by Vanek]. I knew right away he was going to be able to get it to me. I was screaming pretty loud for it. It was nice to get the puck with speed and make a move there."

The Canadiens were up 4-0 in the third period when Teddy Purcell broke Price's shutout by scoring a power-play goal with 1:59 to go.

But shutouts are of little importance to Price and the Canadiens. At this point, their focus is going home in front of their rabid fans and maintaining what has worked so well for two games in Tampa in the hopes they won't have to play here again.

"Moving forward, this is a team that's been resilient all year; they've got lots of character on that side," Subban said of the Lightning. "There's no shortage of us knowing how important these games are going back home. We're not focusing on what the series is. As far as we're concerned, our mentality is that the series is 0-0 going back home. We need to play our best hockey."

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