BROSSARD, Que. – A frustrated Carey Price declined to speak to the media after giving up five goals in the Montreal Canadiens’ 5-4 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, a game the Habs led three times and let slip away.
But the Canadiens’ goalie looked relaxed and confident Friday after a night’s sleep.
”I’m not happy with the result or giving up five goals, but I felt good about my game,” Price said. ”I replayed the game about four times in my head last night and I wouldn’t have changed a whole lot.”
Former Canadien Michael Ryder scored 1:59 into overtime after a botched change of defencemen gave the Bruins a 3-on-1 advantage that was probably offside but was close enough that it wasn’t called.
The Bruins tied the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final 2-2, a series that has seen the road team win every game. That could bode well for Montreal with the fifth contest going in Boston on Saturday night (CBC, 7 p.m. ET).
”It seems both teams want road advantage now,” Price said with a grin. ”It seems like it’s easier when you go on the road because you’re not trying to impress anyone.”
Price was at his best as the Canadiens took the first two games 2-0 and 3-1 in Boston. But he made two mistakes as the Bruins won Game 3 in Montreal before allowing five of the 35 shots he faced get past him Thursday night.
The latest loss was the toughest because Montreal had Boston by the throat after scoring goals 55 seconds apart for a 3-1 lead at 7:47 of the second period. But the Canadiens let the Bruins wriggle free after coach Claude Julien called a timeout and Andrew Ference and Patrice Bergeron scored to tie the game.
Montreal led again on P.K. Suban’s power-play goal 1:39 into the third, but Boston’s Chris Kelly tied it to force overtime.
So instead of holding a 3-1 series lead with a chance to wrap it up, Montreal is now in a best-of-three battle with two of the remaining games in Boston. Game 6 is set for Tuesday night in Montreal with Game 7, if necessary, the following night at the TD Garden.
The Bruins removed whatever momentum the Canadiens had and Ference left their disappointed fans a memento in the form of a one-finger salute after his goal. On Friday, the NHL fined Ference US$2,500 despite his feeble protest the gesture was unintentional and his finger got stuck in his glove.
The crowd had been chanting and singing ”Ole Ole” before the Bruins roared back.
But Price even had a laugh about that incident.
”It’s pretty funny,” he said. ”I have some stuff I’m not very proud of either and I’m sure he feels bad about it.
“I’m sure he feels shame. It is what it is and it’s over now.”
Coach Jacques Martin felt the same when asked what affect blowing a lead and letting Boston tie the series would have on his team.
”In the playoffs, a loss is a loss,” Martin said. ”The key is to identify your strengths and what you did well and why it changed and then correct that.”
What Montreal did well was play an energetic defensive game and use quick puck movement to stay on top of the bigger but slower Bruins.
It went to pieces because the Bruins kept their cool and took advantage when the Canadiens, hyped by the 21,273 Bell Centre fans, got goal-happy and abandoned the smart, safe hockey that put them ahead.
”We had the game in control and got away from it,” said captain Brian Gionta. ”We got too fancy and made some turnovers.”
It made for exciting hockey to watch, however, and was similar to what happened in other NHL series, like San Jose’s comeback 6-5 win over Los Angeles after erasing a 4-0 deficit, or Chicago’s 7-2 blowout of Vancouver when down 3-0 in that series.
There are no team secrets any more and trends have emerged.
The Bruins failed to score on their only power-play opportunity and are now 0-for-12 in the series. The late-season addition of point man Tomas Kaberle from Toronto has so far been a bust.
Montreal hasn’t been much better on the power play, having converted on two-of-14 attempts in the series.
Boston goalie Tim Thomas has been his usual enigma, letting in some soft goals and looking at times like any decent shot will go in, then making some brilliant stops at key times. Included was one on Mike Cammalleri’s third-period breakaway Thursday night.
Bruins winger Milan Lucic, a 30-goal scorer in the regular season, has no points and is minus-2 with only five shots on goal in the series. It is Bergeron, with five points, and his linemate Brad Marchand who have stood out, while the Ryder-Kelly-Rich Peverley unit starred in Game 4.
Bergeron has won 53 of his 84 faceoffs for a 63.1 success rate.
For a second straight year, Cammalleri has been the star on offence for Montreal in the post-season with seven points in four games.
Subban, although he made had some defensive lapses late in Game 4, is logging the most icetime on the team. Another rookie, the allegedly five-foot-seven David Desharnais, had an impressive Game 4 that included winning a puck battle along the boards with six-foot-nine Zdeno Chara.