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Once again, the Bruins forced Montreal to play more hockey than the Habs had planned.
Once again, the Bruins fell just short.
After erasing a 3-0 lead that the Canadiens established in the first period, the Bruins were unable to spoil Montreal’s home opener when they were blanked by Carey Price in a shootout.
The last time the Bruins paid a visit to this arena, their 2007-2008 campaign came to a crashing halt after pushing Montreal to seven games. Much like that series, Montreal controlled early last night but would be forced to earn the W against a Bruins team that doesn’t surrender.
It took a little over two minutes for Shawn Thornton and Georges Laraque to hit the ice… and a little over two seconds for their gloves follow. With the puck all the way across the ice, Thornton and Laraque both hopped over their respective benches and made a beeline for each other. Thornton appeared to strike first, with Laraque ultimately gaining the upper hand. This was no wrestling match. There was no strategic attack. No search for an opening to jab through. This was a fight. Blow for blow with the toughest guy on each squad reminding, the spectators learned what a rivalry is really about. Whether it’s May or October, these teams don’t like each other. And these two players, well, they hate each other.
You kind of had that feeling before last night’s game. Something happened to me that hasn’t happened in a long time. I got more than one text message from multiple people who were legitimately excited about a Bruins game, in October!
As pumped as I was before the game, I had this looming sense of uneasiness that the Bruins wouldn’t treat the game with the same intensity that fans (and coaches) crave. Thornton removed that doubt after going toe to toe with the 250-pound Laraque. The fire that was extinguished by these same Canadiens five months ago appeared to be rekindled.
The Bruins skated stride for stride with the Montreal for the first fifteen minutes Wednesday night. With the exception of Thornton’s fighting penalty, the Bruins managed to stay out of the box up until about five minutes remained in the opening frame. After cleanly taking down Andrei Kostitsyn, Dennis Wideman had his legs wrapped up by the Montreal forward. Wideman took the bait.
With the puck nowhere in the neighborhood, Wideman turned and put Kostitsyn on to his backside: Two minutes, stupidity crosschecking. Just as Wideman was getting comfortable in the box, Alexei Kovalev walked into the middle and put the Habs on top. Fast forward 3:24, 3-0 home team.
Memo to Wideman: Hockey 101 states that you DON’T retaliate because it ALWAYS get called. When you’re facing a team with as dynamic a power-play unit as Montreal, it’s got to be a no-brainer. If you want to hit someone, take the Thornton approach; don’t leave your team a man down. After matching Montreal’s intensity for fifteen strong minutes, the B’s made one mistake and it seemed we were destined for another Game 7-like rout.
Down 3-0, David Krejci managed to beat Carey Price in the second period. Things got a little testy shortly after, with Milan Lucic and Mike Komisarek getting the gate after matching misconduct penalties. Your guess is as good as mine as far as what was said, but it didn’t look like anything warranting game misconducts. Regardless, the Bruins still had an uphill climb entering the third down 3-1.
Enter Marc Savard.
After going on the power play a little over seven minutes in, Savard managed to cut the lead to one after finishing off a Zdeno Chara feed. The Bruins continued to keep up their tempo but we making ill advised passes consistently. The aggressiveness that maintained, however, paid off with under a minute left.
The Bruins continued the dump and chase strategy that they had exhibited all night. This time, the speedy Savard was the first man to the puck. Carey Price was on his way behind the net tracking the puck before a gift of a bounce sent the puck back in front. Savard’s hustle and relentlessness left him in prime position to even the score. He didn’t disappoint, smacking the layup into the wide open net for his second goal of the period and the equalizer.
Despite ultimately falling short (again), the Bruins were able to salvage a point out of what appeared to be a blowout in the making. Not only does that speak highly about the potential of the team, but the character that these young kids displayed in the face of adversity exemplifies their confidence. There’s a decent amount of teams that would have packed it in trailing 3-0 in the first against the best in the conference. Not these Bruins. Not against those Canadiens. Not again.