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Monday, April 18, 2011
Rapid reaction: Bruins 4, Canadiens 2

By James Murphy

MONTREAL -- Tim Thomas made 34 saves, and the Bruins took their first lead of the series, then held on for a 4-2 win in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series with Montreal, cutting the Habs’ series lead to 2-1.

The Bruins got goals from David Krejci, Nathan Horton, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly, and played the perfect road game, taking the Bell Centre crowd out of the game early. The Montreal fans were largely quiet until the final minutes, when the Habs pressed for the tying goal but were denied by Thomas.

Montreal got goals from Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec, and Carey Price made 21 saves.

Thomas silences Bell Centre ghosts. Thomas had not won in the Bell Centre since Game 4 of the 2009 Eastern Conference quarterfinals, when the Bruins swept the Canadiens out of the playoffs. With his subpar performances in Games 1 and 2, many were wondering whether coach Claude Julien would turn to Tuukka Rask for Game 3. But Julien stuck with his Vezina Trophy candidate, and Thomas rewarded him with a much better performance, making 34 saves to lead the Bruins to their first win of the series. A good portion of those saves came in the final period, when Thomas stopped 14 of 15 Canadiens shots, including a glove save on the goal line on a Scott Gomez shot that would have tied the game.

Chara returns. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara returned to the lineup after missing Game 2 with dehydration. Chara had an assist in 26:20 of ice time. With Chara’s return, defenseman Shane Hnidy returned to the press box as a healthy scratch. Here’s what the forward lines and defensive pairings looked like to start Game 3:

Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Mark Recchi
Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley-Michael Ryder
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg
Tomas Kaberle-Adam McQuaid
Andrew Ference-Johnny Boychuk

Bruins finally score first. After falling behind early in both Games 1 and 2, the Bruins finally lit the lamp first. In fact, they scored the first three goals of the game before Kostitsyn got the Habs on the board 7:03 into the second period. Krejci scored the Bruins' first goal 3:11 into the game, and Horton found the twine at 14:38 of the first. Peverley scored at 2:02 of the second period on a gift-wrapped play by Price, who errantly passed the puck from behind the net to Mark Recchi, who fed Peverley. Kelly added an empty-netter.

Role reversal. The Canadiens succeeded in the first two games because they stuck to their game plan, stayed disciplined and played the perfect road game, not getting too cute and keeping it simple while taking advantage of numerous Bruins turnovers. In Game 3, the Bruins played that role. They remained calm, didn’t let the Habs get under their skin and rattle them, and played the prototypical road game. That’s what enabled them to take a 3-0 lead.

Two of big three finally deliver. The Bruins have been waiting for their first line of Horton, Krejci and Lucic to deliver, and two of the three big guns finally lit the lamp. Both Krejci and Horton did their jobs, with Krejci creating scoring chances for his teammates and Horton playing a physical game to get in position for scoring chances. But Lucic continued to struggle and does not look like the Lucic who was a force this season, scoring 30 goals. Lucic had a breakaway on Price just less than seven minutes into the second period and didn’t get off much of a shot. The play then went the other way and turned into Kostitsyn's goal at 7:03 of the middle period. Lucic needs to find his game soon.