MONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens 100th anniversary season ended in boos and disappointment.
Michel Ryder, who was unwanted in Montreal and signed last summer with Boston, scored his third and fourth goals of the series as the Bruins won 4-1 to complete a four-game sweep on Wednesday night. The Bruins won the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final series by a combined score of 17-6.
David Krejci and Phil Kessel also had goals for the Bruins, who outplayed the Canadiens in every facet of the game. The Bruins won a first-round playoff series for the first time since 1999.
“When you realize how tough it’s been for Bruins fans over the last few years, to come home with a series victory has been too long,” said Boston coach Claude Julien, who turns 49 on Thursday. “I think we still owe them more.”
The loss dropped the lid on a season that began with Stanley Cup aspirations for the Canadiens and dwindled in the second half of the season amid injuries, controversy and seeing the team put up for sale by owner George Gillett.
Andrei Kostitsyn had Montreal’s only goal in the opening minute of play.
“We wanted to make this an unbelievable season,” said Montreal defenceman Mike Komisarek, whose team plunged to eight place after finishing first in the conference last season. “After the season we had last year, this is the last way I thought it would unfold. It’s disappointing.”
Unlike Game 3, there was no booing of the U.S national anthem, but the crowd booed often after Kessel and Ryder gave Boston a three-goal lead with goals 45 seconds apart midway through the second period.
Most of the derision was directed at goaltender Carey Price, who was not at fault on any of the Boston goals. The second-year player raised his arms in anger after he got mock cheers to stopping a dump-in from the red line.
Price did not speak to the media after the game, but coach and general manager Bob Gainey leapt to his defence.
“I suppose he could have kept his cool and not made any kind of gesture, but when you’re being bullied, if you don’t stand up for yourself, who is going to?” said Gainey. “He had two or three breakaways to stop, as well as some open scoring chances, so what’s the basis of the jeering?”
As was the case Monday, the Canadiens stormed out of the blocks to take an early lead, only to see the Bruins tie it on a freak play.
The game was only 39 seconds old when Saku Koivu dropped the puck to Kostitsyn for a quick high shot that beat Tim Thomas to the glove side.
But at 17:27 of the period, the puck slipped into the slot after Krejci battled with the Montreal defence. Ryder grabbed the puck and blasted a shot past Price to tie the score 1-1.
Two minutes later, Krejci finished a give and go with Ryder to score into an open side as Boston took a 2-1 lead despite being outshot 16-7.
Midway through the second frame, Kessel came out of the penalty box after serving a slashing call and collected a pass from Patrice Bergeron and went in alone to score on a play that looked offside.
Only 45 seconds later, Ryder was at the far post to tap in a pass from Krejci for his second of the game.
That’s when the crowd began booing the home side. The mock cheers when Price stopped Mark Recchi’s dump-in and the goaltender raised his arms in a move similar to the one Patrick Roy used before demanding to be traded by the Canadiens in 1995-96.
Moments later, Komisarek was felled with one punch from Bruins bruiser Milan Lucic, then was sent off with a major and a game misconduct in the third for a high-stick that left Lucic bleeding from the left cheek.
The defeat could bring sweeping off-season changes, as decisions loom on 11 unrestricted free agents, including Komisarek, Koivu, star winger Alex Kovalev and four restricted free agents. Kovalev said he hopes to stay in Montreal, but does not know if the team will try to sign him.
There is also a question as to whether, with the team up for sale, Gainey will remain with the club he took over in 2003. He suggested that he will not continue to coach. He is to meet with the media on Thursday afternoon.
The Bruins’ last playoff series win was when they beat Carolina in six games a decade ago before losing to Buffalo in the second round that year. It was only their second win since 1994.
The Bruins avenged a seven-game loss to Montreal in the opening round last year.
“We were always playing from behind or tied no matter how well we played,” said Montreal winger Chris Higgins. “It’s frustrating.
“Right after the game I thought ‘I’m surprised it’s over.”‘
It was been a tumultuous centennial season for the Canadiens, who were on fire until the Jan 25 all-star game they hosted at the Bell Centre, before the team went to pieces.
Kovalev was sent home for two games to reflect on a scoring slump, a report surfaced that three players had hung out with a gangster, and injuries began to pile up to key players like Alex Tanguay and Robert Lang, the team’s top two off-season acquisitions.
With the club in a downward spiral, coach Guy Carbonneau was fired on March 8 and Gainey stepped behind the bench for a second time. He had done the same after firing Claude Julien, now the Bruins’ coach, in 2006.
The Canadiens looked to be back on track under Gainey, but with just over a week left in the regular season, Andrei Markov and Mathieu Schneider, the point men on the power play, were both injured. They barely scraped into the playoffs in the eighth and final spot.
Amid it all came news that Gillett had all of part of the team up for sale, with high profile millionaires like Rene Angelil, the Saputo family and even former GM Serge Savard reportedly among the bidders.
The Canadiens are 4-9 in playoff series since their last Stanley Cup victory in 1993.
Notes: With Lucic back after serving a one-game suspension, Byron Bitz came out of the Boston line-up. . . Montreal was without defencemen Markov (knee), Schneider (upper body), Patrice Brisebois (lower body) and Francis Bouillon (torn groin) and forwards Tanguay (shoulder) and Robert Lang (Achilles tendon). Sergei Kostitsyn was a healthy scratch.