BOSTON – The Boston Bruins are painfully aware of how teams can come back in the NHL playoffs.
They blew a 3-0 lead in games and a 3-0 lead in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia Flyers last year. So their loss to the Montreal Canadiens this year in the post-season opener is just a minor obstacle.
“We’re not frustrated,” forward Brad Marchand said Friday after an uptempo, 30-minute practice. “It’s one game, it’s behind us and we just have to move on to the next one.”
Besides, the Bruins lost the first game of last year’s opening series at home 2-1 to Buffalo then won the next three and eliminated the Sabres in six games. They have plenty of hope going into Saturday’s second game of the best-of-seven series against Montreal.
And they didn’t play that badly Thursday night in their 2-0 loss. They outshot the Canadiens 31-20 but got little traffic in front of the net, allowing goalie Carey Price to see the puck well and record his third playoff shutout.
Milan Lucic, a physical winger who led Boston with 30 goals, managed just one shot. The Bruins spent time Friday practicing with offensive players in front of their net.
“We all know that although we played a decent game, we can all be a little better,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “And that’s to a man, not just necessarily putting all the emphasis on one guy. But no doubt this guy (Lucic) has a big impact on our hockey club and we certainly need him to be at his best.”
Brian Gionta scored for sixth-seeded Montreal just 2:44 into the game, but the third-seeded Bruins pressured Price for much of the last 10 minutes of the second period. It wasn’t until Gionta scored again with 3:18 left in the game that the Canadiens could feel secure.
“We need to be better (Saturday) night,” Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. “We know they’re a tremendous team. They’re an excellent hockey team. They’ve got some great players, so we know that we’re going to have to be better in our own end (Saturday) night and we’ll have to have a better execution.”
One of the Bruins best stretches in the opener came after they killed a penalty midway through the second period. They kept shooting the puck at Price, who easily stopped most of them while others were blocked by his teammates. At 11:45 of the period, Patrice Bergeron had a clear shot from 15 feet on the left but put it into Price’s midsection.
“I’m sure they’re going to try to throw more pucks to the net and go to the net and try to get more traffic in front of Carey,” Montreal defenceman James Wisniewski said. “They didn’t score goals so they’re going to try to change something.”
Boston needs a better performance from its top line of Lucic, Nathan Horton and David Krejci. They combined for just four shots in the opener.
“We had chances and the (defence) came in and they had chances and we just couldn’t capitalize,” Horton said.
The Bruins also can use a better power play, a season-long problem. They finished 20th in the NHL by scoring on just 16.2 per cent of their extra-man opportunities and were 0-for-3 on Thursday. But the Canadiens were one of the best penalty-killing teams in the league, finishing seventh.
The Bruins know the importance of avoiding another loss and going to Montreal for the next two games trailing 2-0 with no guarantee the series would return to Boston.
“Nobody’s too low,” defenceman Johnny Boychuk said. “We know that it’s a seven-game series and we’re going to come out (Saturday) and get that next one.”
And if they don’t?
“If you can come in and win the first game on the road in any playoff series, it’s a huge win,” Wisniewski said. “You always say if you’re going back to your home-ice advantage at the worst scenario at 1-1 that you did a good job.”
The Canadiens were 1-2 against the Bruins in Boston and 3-0 at home during the regular season. Their last two losses at Boston were 8-6 and 7-0, with Price giving up 13 of those goals, but he was much sharper on Thursday.
“We were just playing patient,” he said. “It is not our rink so we don’t have to put on a show or anything. We just have to play simple road hockey.”
Price started just one of the Canadiens 19 playoff games last season when they made it to the Eastern Conference finals where they lost to the Flyers. But he outplayed Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who led the NHL this season in goals-against average, save percentage and winning percentage.
“We carried the play for the majority of the game,” Thomas said. “We just couldn’t get those goals and didn’t really penetrate to the areas that you need to to score.
“You don’t want to lose the first game, obviously. You’ve got to put it behind you.”