MONTREAL -- Dave Lewis had no explanation.
The first-year Bruins coach didn't know why, despite an avalanche of a first period that saw the Montreal Canadiens send 14 shots -- most of them grade-A opportunities -- on Tim Thomas, Lewis's team held a one-goal lead.
He also couldn't understand how his club handed away a three-goal advantage in the second period.
All Lewis knew for a fact was that the Bruins somehow managed to record a 6-5 win last night before 21,273 fans at the Bell Centre.
"Can you guys explain this one to me?" asked Lewis, turning the tables on his questioners.
The Bruins played an up-and-down, chase-'em-around match that bantam coaches would use as a don't-try-this-at-home example for their players. They failed to clear the puck consistently from their zone. They didn't clear Montreal bodies from in front of their own net. Their defensemen coughed up the puck, as the Bruins had 19 total giveaways.
"I don't know if we deserved to win," said Lewis. "But we won."
Buzzing in the first period, the Canadiens forced Thomas (34 saves total, 13 in the first) to make his best stops to keep the Bruins in the game, and they ended the period with a 2-1 lead.
Then after the Bruins inexplicably took a 4-1 lead -- starting netminder Cristobal Huet (12 saves on 16 shots), yanked in the second period, didn't have his best stuff -- the Canadiens poured three goals past Thomas.
"There was nothing funny about that game," said Thomas, shaking his head. "I don't know how to describe it. I've barely absorbed it. But somehow we came out with two points."
The oddities were numerous. In the first period, Zdeno Chara, who was called for his second dive of the season, had as many giveaways (4) as the entire Montreal club. Also in the first period, as he stood behind the goal line, Glen Murray banked a shot off the back of Huet's leg into the net for Boston's first goal. The Bruins actually played better in the second period when they allowed three straight Montreal strikes.
"In the first period, I could see we came out a little flat," said Thomas. "I was doing everything within my power to keep it close and give us a chance."
By 3:12 of the second period, when Wayne Primeau scored a shorthanded goal to give Boston a 4-1 lead and chase Huet, it looked as if the Bruins would run away with a result they didn't deserve.
But five seconds after Primeau's goal, Brad Boyes took an ill-timed hooking penalty, putting the Bruins down two men (Chara was also in the box for hooking). The Bruins killed off Chara's infraction, but forward Michael Ryder flipped a short-side five-on-four goal over Thomas, making it a 4-2 game.
Forward Mike Johnson scored his club's third goal, and forward Alexander Perezhogin capped the Montreal rally by scoring with 39 seconds remaining in the second period to even the score at 4.
Somehow, the three-goal comeback didn't deflate the Bruins for good. Brad Stuart gave Boston a 5-4 lead when his blast from the point bounced off several bodies and past relief goalie David Aebischer at 10:35 of the third period.
Fittingly, the Canadiens tied the game. Defenseman Sheldon Souray, who owns one of the most feared shots in the league, netted his team-leading 10th goal with a top-shelf rocket from the point.
By then, even the Bell Centre scoreboard went into overload. The board's upper panels, which show each team's score, blanked out with 6:18 remaining.
But with 1:48 remaining, when it appeared the Bruins would be going to overtime once more, Stuart gave his team the game-winner with another shot from the point. While Primeau appeared to get a piece of the shot, Stuart was credited with the goal.
Naturally, the game didn't end without a twist. Aebischer was waved toward the bench for an extra attacker, but as he approached the boards, a Canadien went over the wall too soon. Montreal was called for too many men on the ice, snuffing any opportunity for a six-on-five tying goal.
"Back and forth," said Stuart. "We'd hem them in their zone, then they got us in our zone.
"That was two pretty good teams going at it. We were upset with the way we blew the lead there. But it showed good character on our part that we didn't fold, were able to come back, and pull it out."