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Thursday, April 14, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Canadiens 2, Bruins 0

By James Murphy



BOSTON -- The Montreal Canadiens, heavy underdogs coming into this first-round playoff series against the Boston Bruins, got an early goal from Brian Gionta 2:44 into regulation and then rode a brilliant performance from goalie Carey Price, who made 31 saves and led the Habs to a 2-0 win for a 1-0 series lead. Gionta added another goal 16:42 into the final frame and Scott Gomez had two assists as the Habs silenced a sellout crowd at TD Garden.

Tim Thomas made 20 saves for the Bruins.

Price is right -- Heading into Game 1, Montreal goalie Carey Price had two career shutouts in the playoffs and they both came against the Bruins in the 2008 Eastern Conference quarterfinals series, when the Habs beat the Bruins in seven games. On April 15, 2008, Price shut out the Bruins 1-0, and on April 21, 2008, he shut out the Bruins 5-0 in Game 7. Add another playoff shutout over Boston to the list. After the Habs took the early 1-0 lead, they went into prevent mode and just waited for chances, leaving Price to get the job done. The goalie who was almost booed out of Montreal last season delivered in a big way, making 31 saves and stemming every bit of momentum the Bruins could muster. As the game went on, it was clear Price was frustrating the Bruins, and that was no more evident than in the second period, when he made 18 saves to preserve the then-1-0 lead.

Eagle was flying around TD Garden -- Brian Gionta helped the Boston College Eagles win Hockey East championships and a national championship when he played for the Eagles from 1997 to 2001. On Thursday, though, he was breaking the hearts of Bostonians. The Habs captain scored two goals and was a force all night, buzzing around the ice and driving the Bruins nuts with his blazing speed.

Hard-luck Marchand -- Playing in his first playoff game of his NHL career, winger Brad Marchand was everywhere on the ice. He was bringing it physically, getting under the skin of the Habs players and he had six shots on net. The problem was he just couldn’t seem to get luck on his side and find the twine. He was robbed twice by Price in the first period and also fanned on an open net in the opening frame. But there didn’t seem to be any first-playoff-game jitters in the pesky rookie. Marchand took a bad penalty with 50 ticks left in the second period, but if a bad penalty here and there is the cost of the intensity and game Marchand brought Thursday, then so be it.

Kaberle needs to shoot -- There is no doubting Tomas Kaberle is one of the best passers and puck-movers in the NHL, but just as Bruins fans used to get frustrated when former Bruins playmakers such as Adam Oates or Craig Janney would pass on scoring opportunities to dish the puck off, Kaberle almost seems programmed to do the same. On more than one occasion Thursday, Kaberle had a clear path to the net for a scoring chance and opted to look for the pass. If he just shot a little more, he might light the lamp or at least create a rebound opportunity. It’s OK to shoot Tomas!

Power play -- The power play was a huge focus coming into this series, and with the Habs having the seventh-ranked power play in the NHL this season, the Bruins' penalty kill would need to be at its best. That’s exactly what it was, as the Habs were 0-for-4 on the man-advantage Thursday. But the problem was once again that the Bruins themselves struggled when they were on the power play, going 0-for-3. In a tightly contested game like Thursday night's, the power play can be the difference between winning and losing, and the Bruins just can’t seem to get it going on the man-advantage.

Habs show they can be physical, too -- Heading into this series, many picked the Bruins to win because they were bigger and more physical, but it was the Habs who came out and matched the Bruins physical intensity in this game. From the opening faceoff, Montreal did its best to set the tone and show it wouldn’t be pushed around. The Bruins were still physical and led in hits 29-28, but the Canadiens did a great job of showing they can match the Bruins.

Seguin starts playoffs in press box -- Forward Tyler Seguin started his first Stanley Cup playoffs experience as a healthy scratch, as expected. Shane Hnidy was the other Bruin that finished the season with Boston to be a healthy scratch. The rest were Providence Bruins who were called up as the Bruins taxi squad or “Black Aces." They were Colby Cohen, Jordan Caron, Yury Alexandrov, Trent Whitfield, Matt Bartkowski, Steve Kampfer, Zach Hamill, Lane MacDermid, Jamie Arniel, Anton Khudobin and Michael Hutchinson.