Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Rapid reaction: Bruins 4, Habs 3 (OT)
By Brendan Hall
BOSTON -- The Bruins are moving on to the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia Flyers after downing the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in overtime in front of a heated sellout crowd at TD Garden. Everyone will be talking about Nathan Horton’s game-winning goal tomorrow morning, but not to be forgotten is Chris Kelly's hustle that produced a go-ahead goal at 9:44 of the third period, putting back Rich Peverley's shot from the high slot to send the home crowd into a frenzy.
With the victory, Zdeno Chara finally won his first Game 7 (1-5 overall), while Claude Julien won his first as head coach since he manned the Canadiens in their Game 7 upset of the Bruins in 2004. The Bruins also became the first team to win a seven-game playoff series without scoring a single power-play goal.
Now that they’ve finally exorcised one demon, the Bruins have another one on their plate. It goes without saying there will be plenty of talk about the epic collapse in last spring’s conference semis against the Flyers.
Tank talk -- Tim Thomas needed be huge in net in Game 7, and the last two Habs goals -- especially P.K. Subban's game-tying slapper with two minutes left in regulation -- would've been tough to stop by even the world’s most elite netminders. The most important save of regulation happened with six minutes to go, when Thomas flopped backwards from his knees to stop a Mike Cammalleri rebound at the doorstep. He avoided another scare when a shot from the left circle ricocheted off Cammalleri’s stick just wide of the open post. Thomas made 34 saves in the game, while Habs goalie Carey Price had 30.
Short circuit -- When Bruins coach Claude Julien was asked during his pregame press conference about the struggling power play and its miserable 0-for-19 clip, he declined to elaborate, saying, “I’m not going to even comment on our power play right now because I’m only commenting on something that’s positive.” We’re guessing his response to Game 7's power play won’t be much better. The Bruins were able to get off more shots this time, only to come up goose-egg again. They had the same problems that had plagued them all playoffs long: Price saw too many shots and the point men were caught either second-guessing or mishandling the puck.
Dirty work -- The 2-0 lead was the product of Brad Marchand grinding gears in the corner and in front of net. On the first goal, Marchand won Johnny Boychuk's errant slapper in the corner and set a screen in front of Price. Price lost sight of the puck as Boychuk fired again, from the right side of the blue line, to beat him top shelf glove-side at 3:31. Two minutes later, the Bruins scored again off Marchand’s hustle, this time winning a puck from P.K. Subban in the corner to set up Recchi in the slot, beating Price stick-side.
Neutral zone fizzles -- On the Boston side, the second period was highlighted by some miscues at their own blue line. Mike Cammalleri’s goal was the beneficiary of a poorly placed cross-ice pass from Dennis Seidenberg on a breakout. Seidenberg’s pass off the right wall hit Mark Recchi at his feet, and Cammalleri easily picked his pocket to break in all alone and beat Thomas under his right armpit. Later in the period, the Bruins nearly gift-wrapped the Habs a 3-2 lead when the defense lost sight of Jeff Halpern in the neutral zone and Halpern took the breakout pass alone but was stuffed on the doorstep by Thomas.
Passive aggressive -- The Bruins were aggressive on the forecheck in the opening minutes, winning puck battles in the corner and finishing checks to help them to a 2-0 lead. Then, for whatever reason, they let off the gas a little and the Canadiens responded by knotting the game at two. But after a lackluster second period, the Bruins emerged with some aggression in the opening minutes of the third and played a more disciplined level of hockey. It paid off with Chris Kelly’s pivotal shift that produced his goal at 9:44, flattening Roman Hamrlik along the boards at center ice and then putting back Rich Peverley’s snapper from the high slot at the open post.
Third line is terrific -- Until Chris Kelly’s third-period goal, the line of Mark Recchi - Patrice Bergeron - Brad Marchand carried the Bruins’ play, scoring the first two goals and putting a handful of near-misses on net. Marchand worked pucks out of the corner and Recchi did a good job fighting for positioning at the weak-side posts.
Home-ice advantage revitalized -- The sellout crowd was on their feet in the early goings of this one, joining Rene Rancourt in the singing the national anthem and letting Carey Price and P.K. Subban know what they thought of them. But Mike Camalleri’s second-period, game-tying swipe-and-score seemed to take the wind out of the sail in the building. Things picked up again in the third period, following Chris Kelly’s put-back at 9:44, as the crowd sang along to “Black Betty” and stood on its feet.