MONTREAL – Old rivals Montreal and Boston are going to a decisive seventh game once again.
The Canadiens kept up a furious pace and produced their best effort of the playoffs as Max Pacioretty had a goal and an assist and Carey Price made 26 saves in a 4-0 victory over the Bruins that staved off elimination on Monday night.
The NHL Eastern Conference semifinal series is tied 3-3 going into Game 7 on Wednesday night in Boston, where the Bruins will no doubt be looking for the same boost from their fans that the singing, chanting and generally deafening 21,273 at the Bell Centre gave the Canadiens.
“It’s sudden death now,” said Pacioretty. “Everything in the past will be forgotten once Game 7 rolls around.
“They like playing in their building. We have to find a way to come out the same. We’re a frustrating team when everyone’s skating like that and everyone’s on board. We have to find a way to do that again.”
Pacioretty, who had only one assist in the first five games, scored and set up Thomas Vanek’s goal in the second period. Lars Eller scored in the first for Montreal and Vanek added his second of the game into an empty net with 3:56 left in regulation time.
“I was just waiting for my time to pitch in offensively,” said Pacioretty. “Obviously you wanted it to happen more often in the playoffs. But I feel confident. You want to feel you’re helping the team win and I think I did that.”
It is the same scenario as the last time the teams met in the post-season in 2011, when the Canadiens won at home to force a Game 7. That year, they lost the decisive first-round game in overtime. It is the 34th time overall the teams have faced each other in the playoffs.
The game turned in the second period after the Canadiens, leading 1-0, held off a ferocious Boston attack through a five minute 11 second stretch without a whistle. It included killing a minor penalty to P.K. Subban and was highlighted by a Price stop at the doorstep on Milan Lucic.
Defencemen Mike Weaver and Josh Gorges shared a nearly three-minute shift in the midst of it.
“You’re just buying time,” said Weaver. “I think guys at that point, you’ve just got to be positionally sound. You can’t be chasing all over the ice.”
Not long after, rookie Nathan Beaulieu threw a pass up the middle that Pacioretty chased down and went in alone to score.
Boston coach Claude Julien felt that stretch was his team’s best chance to make a game of it.
“The second goal probably hurt us the most because we were spending a lot of time in their end and we had some great chances to tie the game, but that kind of turned the tide around,” said Julien. “I didn’t like the way they got their goals tonight.
“But we had more lines going than we’ve had this whole series. We spent a lot of time in the offensive zone, but if you hit posts and miss open nets. . . You’ve got to bury those chances. Tonight they came back to haunt us.”
Asked what he expects from game 7, Julien said: “I expect us to win.”
When Montreal coach Michel Therrien was asked the same question, he said: “Anything can happen in a Game 7. That’s the beauty of it.”
The TD Garden crowd in Boston is especially hostile to Subban, but the flashy Canadiens defenceman denied feeding off it even if he has had some big moments in that rink, including a late goal in a 4-2 loss in Game 5 on Saturday.
“I don’t give them that credit,” he said. “I go and play the game.
“I play to win, I don’t care who’s there. I don’t care if there’s nobody in the stands. I’m going there to win. It’s irrelevant to me. I hope that it’s a hostile environment. It makes it all better.”
Montreal’s big move was to bring 21-year-old Beaulieu in to replace the slow-footed Douglas Murray on the third defence pair. The team’s 2011 first-round draft pick responded to his first-career NHL playoff start with an assist and a plus-2 performance in only 9:36 of ice time.
“I never played at a pace like that before,” he said. “It was incredible. It was good to get the first period under my belt and I felt I settled down after that.”
Montreal busted out of the gate after a rousing pre-game show and the teams played at a frantic pace through the first two periods.
Despite having the best of the play in the opening 20 minutes, the Canadiens needed a freak play for the only goal.
Kevan Miller lost the puck off his stick behind the Boston net and then inadvertently tripped goalie Tuukka Rask as he tried to smother it, leaving Eller free to score unassisted 2:11 into the game.
Beaulieu flipped the puck up the centre of the ice and saw it go off Loui Eriksson to Pacioretty, who won a race with Zdeno Chara and beat Rask between the pads at 15:24.
Pacioretty kept a puck alive with his feet amidst a crowd in front of Rask during a power play and saw the puck slide to Vanek for a shot into an open side at 17:39.
The Bruins came close at 11:05 of the third when a Chara shot went off Price and dropped behind him, but with Jarome Iginla digging in the crease David Desharnais was on his knees to stop the puck with his stick just as it had almost crossed the goal-line. The no-goal call stood up to video review.
There were some nasty moments near the end, including a clash that saw Montreal’s Andrei Markov jab his stick between Chara’s legs. Chara, Iginla and Weaver were assessed penalties when the skirmish ended.
In Game 5, Boston’s Shawn Thornton got fined for squirting water from the bench at Subban. Julien said it wasn’t all his team’s fault this time.
“We’re perceived as the bad guys and they’re the good guys,” he said. “When Markov trips Chara and then puts his stick between his legs and nothing’s going to be called, eventually somebody’s going to react.
“Whether it’s right or wrong. Zdeno reacted and then everything else started. There was a slew foot before, Desharnais on (Brad) Marchand. A slew foot. Those are things we keep talking about that are dangerous in our game.
“It’s a rivalry and there’s some things going on on both sides. I’m not portraying ourselves as innocent here. I’m just saying it takes two teams to tangle and that’s what happened.”
Notes: Daniel Briere returned to the lineup for Travis Moen. . . Eller scored during Beaulieu’s first career NHL playoff shift, making him plus-1 only 2:11 into the game. . . Boston made no changes. . . Shawn Thornton played his 100th career playoff game.