BOSTON – The Canadiens left Boston early Easter Sunday hoping the comforts of home will help force a Game 7 of their first-round Eastern Conference series with the Bruins.
The problem facing Montreal, however, is that home ice hasn’t been much of advantage so far. Until Saturday, when Nathan Horton scored the second overtime to give Boston a 2-1 victory and a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven, both teams had yet to win at home.
“Playing at home Tuesday, in front of our fans, hopefully that will make a difference,”said Canadiens coach Jacques Martin. “We’ll regroup, we’ll analyze the game.”
The Canadiens can really only feel bad about the outcome of Saturday night’s game, and what it means in regards to the series. This was an outstanding hockey game that saw two old rivals combine for almost 100 shots.
It was a game that saw the Canadiens battle back after the Bruins had taken a 1-0 lead 4:33 into the third period, after which the Habs drew iron twice before Jeff Halpern tied the game with 6:04 remaining.
The winning goal, the second goal of the series for Horton, came minutes after Tim Thomas, a Vezina Trophy finalist, robbed Brian Gionta as the captain tried to finish off a 2-on-1 pass from Travis Moen.
“Both goalies made some great saves,”said Martin.“It was a great hockey game. Tremendous competition. Our goalie made some big saves as well. It was an exciting game, unfortunately we came out on the wrong end.”
When Thomas slid over and robbed a wide open Gionta, the TD Garden crowd erupted.
“My thought was just trying to get it on the net and get it over him,” Gionta said. “He is a pretty good goalie and he moves well side-to-side and he just read it.”
Carey Price finished with 49 saves and saw his career playoff record drop to 7-14.
“I just saw a shot,” recalled Price of the winning goal, “it hit my pad and scrambled and they buried it.”
The question is: did it bury the Canadiens?
They came to Boston and won the first two games of the series, putting the Bruins in a tough spot. Boston is 0-26 when losing the first two games of any playoff series.
The Bruins’ 0-2 disadvantage ran their playoff losing streak to six straight games, dating back to last year’s collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
It looked like the Habs were in control, but the Bruins have won three straight, two of them in Montreal and the last two in overtime.
Asked about extending the series to a seventh game, which would come just one night after Tuesday’s Game 6 and be played in Boston, Gionta said,“It’s what we have to do.
“Right now it stings for sure. We have two days to get over it and get ready for Game 6.”
“This is just good hockey,” said defenceman Hal Gill. “Both teams are playing hard and unfortunately we didn’t get the win, but that isn’t the end of it.”