MONTREAL – Michael Ryder won’t use words like payback, revenge or even “I told you so” when he scores against the Montreal Canadiens.
Not even after getting the game-winning goal against his former team Monday night to break a 2-2 tie and lift the rival Boston Bruins to a 4-2 win and a 3-0 stranglehold in their NHL Eastern Conference playoff series. Boston can close out the best-of-seven series and move on to the second round with a win Wednesday in Game 4 at the Bell Centre.
“I don’t know, I just try to work hard and play my game,” Ryder said, looking innocent as possible after his game-winner. “It was a big win for us.
“My goal was just a rebound goal and it ended up being the winner.”
Phil Kessel, Shawn Thornton and Chuck Kobasew, into an empty net, also scored for the Bruins, the top seed in the East.
Rookie defenceman Yannick Weber had a goal and an assist and Chris Higgins also scored for the injury-plagued Canadiens, who learned before the game they would be without veterans Alex Tanguay and Mathieu Schneider due to upper body injuries.
Boston was outskated by Montreal through the first half of the game before taking over midway through the second period. The Bruins did not appear to miss suspended forward Milan Lucic.
Ryder was a healthy scratch in last year’s playoffs under former Habs coach Guy Carbonneau as Montreal beat Boston in the opening round. It was a dismal season for the native of Bonavista, N.L., in he slumped to 14 goals after scoring 30 in each of the previous two campaigns.
He signed as a free agent with Boston last summer after Montreal failed to make him a contract offer and, reunited with coach Claude Julien, he bounced back with a 26 regular-season goals.
Ryder played for Julien both in junior hockey with the Hull Olympiques and in Montreal before Julien was fired in 2006.
“I knew I could play,” said Ryder. “I never lost it.
“It was just getting the opportunity again.”
His coach agreed.
“Good for him to come in here and showcase what he can do,” said Julien. “I knew him, but it’s not for the coach to tell an organization which guys to sign.
“But before last year, he scored 25 to 30 goals a year. We knew he could bounce back. And with our style of play, he seemed like a guy who could fit in.”
Only two teams have ever come back from an 0-3 deficit in playoff history – the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders. It is the 10th time Montreal has lost the first three games of a series.
With elimination looking imminent, coach and general manager Bob Gainey hinted that drastic measures may be taken for Game 4 and that even injured veterans Andrei Markov and Robert Lang could return. Neither has played in the series.
Lang has been out since early February with a severed Achilles tendon and was not expected back until at least the second round of playoffs. Markov missed the final four games of the regular season with an undisclosed injury. Both have been skating of late, but not with their teammates.
“All our players are on skates now and we know what the game represents, so we will be re-evaluating everyone,” said Gainey. “It’s the worst situation and the best challenge.
“We’d rather not be in this situation. We came in looking for a win and we didn’t get one.”
This was the closest the Canadiens have come to a win in the series thus far, but they failed to get keep the lead when they dominated the opening period.
For the first time in the series, Montreal scored first as Higgins broke down the left side on a counterattack and beat Tim Thomas with wrist shot off his glove at 11:52.
But with 1:25 left in the first, Mike Komisarek’s clearing attempt was intercepted at the blue-line by Dennis Wideman, whose shot toward the net went in off Kessel for his third of the series.
Since the goal was not produced by any sustained Boston pressure, but rather off of a fluke play, Gainey described it as “a punch to the mid-section” for his team.
Two players scored their first NHL playoff goals early in the second frame, as Byron Bitz fought off Weber to feed Thornton in front for his first in 25 career post-season games at 3:36.
Bitz was in inserted in the Bruins lineup for the suspended Lucic.
“Bitzy did a great job for us,” said Thornton. “He was up all day. I don’t think he got an afternoon nap.
“We tried to limit him to one coffee. This is a tough building to play in for your first NHL playoff game.”
Less than two minutes later, Glen Metropolit won a draw off Marc Savard back to Weber, who scored in only his second playoff game and fifth career NHL contest.
After that goal, the Bruins took over and a string of three shots ended in Ryder’s second of the series to give Boston the lead at 17:21.
“The rebound just came to me and I saw (Carey) Price was out of position a bit and I just wanted to get it on the net,” Ryder said.
The Canadiens forechecked hard in the third period, but couldn’t penetrate the Boston defence. Kobasew outraced Saku Koivu to score into the empty net with 37 seconds left to play.
The crowd of 21,273 booed as the game wound down and some chanted “Carbo, Carbo,” for the coach who was fired and replaced by Gainey with a month left in the season.
The same crowd had booed the U.S anthem before the game, which didn’t sit well with Higgins, a New York area native
“I don’t really understand it,” said Higgins. “You can chant through it, but the booing thing, it’s not really needed. What are they booing – the U.S. or that Boston’s from the U.S.? Either way, it doesn’t make sense.”
Notes: Forward Tanguay and defenceman Schneider were surprise absentees for the Canadiens with upper body injuries. Both missed games in the final week of the regular season but played in the opening two playoff games. Since they were already missing top defenceman Andrei Markov, it may be why the scoreboard flashed a quote before the game from Voltaire: “Faith is believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.” . . . Sergei Kostitsyn and Patrice Brisebois also sat out. Gregory Stewart played his first NHL playoff game and Ryan O’Byrne also got into the lineup. . . Lucic sat out his one-game suspension for cross-checking Maxim Lapierre in Game 2 and Bitz, in his NHL post-season debut, took his spot in the line-up.