MONTREAL (AP) While the Boston Bruins talked about how tough it is to get the fourth win in a best-of-seven playoff series, the Montreal Canadiens contemplated their bleak reality of being down to the final chance to get their first.
Boston practiced at the Bell Centre on Tuesday, one day after taking a 3-0 lead in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal with a 4-2 win in Montreal.
The Bruins, who are poised to win their first playoff series in 10 years, will get their first chance to finish off the Canadiens in Game 4 on Wednesday night.
“We want to come out here and give everything we have, like we have all series, and hopefully get the win,” Bruins center Marc Savard said. “That’s the goal right now, is to come out and play another ‘one game at a time’, and hopefully we win it. It’s going to be tough. We know they’re going to come out and throw everything at us, and we’ve got to be ready.”
P.J. Axelsson was in his sophomore season when the Bruins won their last playoff series, a first-round win over Carolina in 1999.
He said that the Canadiens gave him and his teammates all they could handle at the outset Monday, and he was steeling himself for what they would bring in front of a sold-out crowd on Wednesday.
“I think, if anything, they’re going to come even harder so we’ve got to be prepared for that,” said Axelsson, the longest-serving member of the Bruins.
Shawn Thornton, who scored Tuesday for his first point in 25 playoff games, agreed.
“Yeah, I’m sure they will so I think we can’t be shocked by it, we’ve got to be prepared for it,” Thornton said. “That being said, it’s a lot easier said than done when you get out there and you can’t hear yourself think when you have that puck, you can’t hear your linemates, you can’t hear anything and they’re coming with a lot of energy, it’s pretty tough to play in.”
Aaron Ward has won the Stanley Cup three times, including consecutive championships with Detroit in 1997 and 1998, and a third with Carolina in 2006.
The pressure of those playoff runs didn’t compare to the expectations Boston felt entering the playoffs as the top seed in the East.
“This is probably one of the most stressful series that I’ve been involved in,” Ward said. “The pressure of having gone in through a season and being a No. 1 seed, knowing that there’s a lot of external factors that can really have an influence on the direction of a series, for us, we were well aware of the position we are in.”
Ward recalled Peter Laviolette’s advice when he played for the Hurricanes, stating that his former coach urged his players to “always understand the mental philosophy of the opponent, understand where they’re coming from.”
“You always have to be aware of what your opponent brings to the table,” Ward said. “In Game Fours it’s always the best effort’s brought forth by players. You’re professional athletes and you’re conditioned to play well and understand that no one ever wants to lose, and you have that mentality that you’ll do whatever it takes, and at all costs, to win the game.”
Boston will get a boost from the return of Milan Lucic, who served a one-game league suspension and missed Game 3.
The Canadiens’ task for Game 4 is plain and simple – win, or pack it in.
“Just as with our fans, with our team we’re going to have to prove that we can stay alive by winning a game,” GM and coach Bob Gainey said. “If we win a game, then we play a game on Saturday where we can look to Tuesday. So, it’s by small increments and without the first one it’s hard to move to the second one or the third one, which has been our case since the beginning of the series.
“We need to win a game to get into it, whether it was the first, second, third or fourth, and right now we’re sitting at the fourth, still waiting to get out of the gates as far as putting a win up on our side.”
Montreal was without defenseman Mathieu Schneider and left wing Alex Tanguay on Monday night, both key players sidelined by upper-body injuries. Top defenseman Andrei Markov has been out with a lower-body injury that cost him the last four games of the regular season.
“I can’t really say that they will or won’t be possibilities for (Wednesday),” Gainey said.
The Canadiens held an optional skate at its suburban practice facility and nine players took to the ice, including goalies Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak.
Also taking part where defenseman Mike Komisarek, forwards Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn, Tomas Plekanec, Matt D’Agostini and Gregory Stewart, and rookie defenseman Yanick Weber, who had a goal and an assist in Monday’s loss for his first playoff points.
“There’s always a vein of optimism, there’s always some hope, and until that’s gone, that’s what you play with, that’s what you rely on,” Gainey said.