MONTREAL – The goal was a long time coming for Glen Metropolit and he got it thanks to a rare gift from Montreal goaltender Carey Price.
Metropolit’s surprise goal 3:31 into the third period ended a 33-game goalless drought for the Boston centre and opened the floodgates for a four-goal period as the Bruins kept their playoff hopes alive with a 5-1 victory over the Canadiens on Thursday night.
Montreal leads the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final series 3-2 but missed a chance to clinch and now must return to Boston for Game 6 on Saturday night.
“I think the hockey gods owed us one or two,” said Metropolit, whose last goal came on Feb. 5.
Phil Kessel, back in the lineup in a bid for more offence after sitting out three games as a healthy scratch, defenceman Zdeno Chara, Marco Sturm and Vladimir Sobotka also scored for Boston.
Alex Kovalev scored for Montreal, which had beaten Boston six straight times this season on home ice.
With the game tied 1-1, Price grabbed a bouncing puck with his glove and instead of freezing the puck, dropped it for teammate Maxim Lapierre, but it was kicked it forward by Petteri Nokelainen and Metropolit batted it in.
“It surprised me mostly,” added Metropolit. “I went in front, I heard the crowd moan and there it was.
“For the last three or four games we’ve competed hard. This time, we finally got some breaks.”
Only 2:18 later, Chara’s point shot on a power play sailed past Price to clinch the win, and at 15:13, Krejci sent Sturm on a rush down the left side for a blast that beat Price with the Bruins playing shorthanded. Price barely moved as Sobotka scored on a bad-angled shot at 17:48.
Five goals matched Boston’s output in the opening four games of the series against the Canadiens rookie goalie.
“Price had games like that during the season and he always bounces back, so I’m not saying we got inside his head,” said Boston coach Claude Julien. “We gave away a lot of chances to shoot before but this time we got pucks to the net.”
Julien is hoping to repeat his coaching performance of 2004, only from the opposite end of the ice. That year, he brought the Canadiens back from a 1-3 series deficit to defeat the Bruins in seven games in the opening round.
This time, the Canadiens looked ready to cruise into the conference semifinals as they controlled the opening period and took the lead with the sellout crowd of 21,273 singing and chanting in the seats.
Kovalev, who missed the net on a clean shot from the slot earlier in the period, lost his helmet in a stick war with Chara but got to the net to grab a pass out of the air, drop it to the ice, wheel and beat Tim Thomas with a backhand shot 8:34 into the game.
After that, it looked like classic overconfidence, as the Canadiens stopped battling as though wating for the series to be handed to them by the Bruins.
Coach Guy Carbonneau knows it doesn’t work like that in the NHL.
“We played very well in the first period and we could have had a bigger lead, but then we stopped skating,” said Carbonneau.
“Maybe we thought it would be easy and that Carey would make all the saves .But then they got that goal and the gates opened up.”
He called the Metropolit goal “an error of youth.”
Price, coming off a 1-0 shutout in Boston on Tuesday, made the goaltending play of the series in the final seconds of the first period when David Krejci got around Josh Gorges. Price poke-checked the puck off Krejci’s shin and off the post, then spun and batted the puck out of the air and out of danger.
He had little chance as Kessel tied the game on a power play 7:45 into the second frame. After his first shot was blocked by defenceman Mike Komisarek, Kessel slapped in the rebound for his first of the playoffs.
It was a huge goal for Kessel after Julien sat him out because he said he lacked the grit to compete in the playoffs.
“When a player comes back from being out, you hope he makes an impact,” said Julien. “I’m one of the first guys to challenge players to prove me wrong.”
Montreal has never lost a playoff series in which it led 3-1 and is 26-0 in that situation.
Notes: Defenceman Aaron Ward sat out for Boston with a knee injury and was replaced by Andrew Alberts. Jeremy Reich was also out in favour of Kessel as the Bruins went looking for offence. . .Mark Streit missed for Montreal with a hip injury and was replaced in the lineup by Michael Ryder.