The chippiness from last Thursday's regular season finale between the B's and Habs definitely was a prelude to this series. At almost every whistle tonight, there was the constant threat that someone was going to light the fuse that blew the roof of the building. There was no “typical game one feeling out” process tonight. Both teams know each other and the hate started early. Milan Lucic was throwing his weight around for the Bruins and his buddy Mike Komisarek was tagging Bruin players just as frequently.
Offensively, the Bruins started slowly but once they got going, they pounced for a pair of goals midway through the first period. Phil Kessel opened the scoring with a hard working goal. After a Bruin power play expired, Kessel attacked the net from the faceoff circle and took a wrist shot that Price saved but left a short rebound. Before he could get his catching glove completely on the puck to freeze it, David Krejci turned his stick over and just poked the puck to the center of the net. Kessel followed up his shot, took the Krejci pass and deposited the puck into the empty net. Just a minute and a half later, the B's doubled their lead. The Bruins slowed down a Canadien breakout and dumped the puck into the right wing corner away from Price. Milan Lucic won the race to the puck and chipped it towards the net where Michael Ryder tapped it towards the slot. David Krejci found himself all alone with Price and he roofed a backhander for the goal. It was right about this time when the Bruins stopped skating.
The Canadiens broke out of their zone and turned the breakout into a 2 on 1. When Patrice Bergeron dove to break up a pass that would have led to an empty net, the Bruins appeard to have dodged a bullet. Unfortunately, the Habs kept control of the puck in the Bruins zone. After a shot from the point that Thomas saved, Glen Metropolit dished a pass to Alex Tanguay in the slot. Tanguay's shot was saved by Thomas but that rebound went to Higgins at the side of the net and he ripped one into the empty net. You could see after the Canadiens scored, they appeard to have an extra spring in their stride. They took it to the Bruins for the final minute of the period and continued it for a good portion of the second period as well.
Late in the second, as a Bruins penalty expired, the Canadiens took advantage of a Bruin mistake. The B's killed the penalty but as Stephan Yelle got back into the play, he went for Saku Koivu who had the puck at the Bruin blueline. Koivu passed to Josh Gorges who tipped the puck towards Alexi Kovalev. Kovalev took a wrist shot that no goalie in the world could have saved. Short side, glove side, high, near the post and crossbar. I'm probably exaggerating but this shot was moving. P.J. Axelsson was killing the penalty and he was in Koivu's neighborhood and Yelle probably should have gone towards Kovalev as he filtered through the Bruin zone.
So the two long time rivals went into the third period all tied up. Montreal continued to take the play to Boston until the 9:00 minute mark of the period. That's when the B's started skating again. Price was strong as the Bruins ramped up their attack until a dumb penalty by Gorges, 10:12 into the final frame. Gorges cross checked P.J. Axelsson and knocked him down in front of hte Habs net as they were starting to clear the puck out of their zone. On the power play, the Bruins got the hi/low game going, moving the Montreal penalty killers down below the face off circle. Phil Kessel took the puck from the half wall and attacked the net. Very much like his goal in the first period. As he got to the slot, he passed to Marc Savard at the goal line who kicked it back out to the big Captain. Chara's blast beat a screened Price with only eight and a half minutes left in the game. After that the Bruins seemed to be energized defensively and blocked, deflected or intercepted almost every pass the Habs made while trying to get into the offensive zone. The game wasn't sealed until Phil Kessel scored an empty net goal from Milan Lucic with 13 seconds left but that's when things got interesting. After Kessel's goal and as he raised his arms to celebrate. Maxim Lapierre either decided to get tough or forgot Lucic was on the ice and he attacked the celebrating Kessel. Now he didn't go all Dale Hunter on Pierre Turgeron from the early 90's so don't think I'm making it out to be worse than it was. It was a stupid thing to do because Milan Lucic was right behind him and Looch didn't waste time and grabbed Lapierre. After the scrum both combatants were given 10 minute misconducts. There was more dancing after the final horn sounded.
So the Bruins got away with one tonight. Any win in the playoffs is a good thing but especially when you don't play your best. When the Bruins were skating, they were the better team but they weren't doing that enough.
Tonight's three stars are as follows:
1 – Zdeno Chara with the game winner and his usual 25 minutes of ice time. He did everything as usual
2 – David Krejci with a goal and assist. I was surprised by this one. Other than his goal, I didn't really notice him tonight
3 – Phil Kessel with a pair of goals and an assist. His first goal got things going for the B's, he assisted on Chara's game winner and sealed the Habs fate late in the game.
Game two has a late, 8:00 PM start this Saturday night as the Boston Celtics open the defense of their 2008 NBA Championship in the building Saturday afternoon at 12:30. The “bull gang” does a great job changing the arena from hockey to basketball and back again but something tells me the ice might not be so good for game two.
As always – Go B's
About the Author
Written by Jim Mulligan