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Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

Let's Knock it Off; Subban Play Was Deliberate, but Bruins Were Already Cooked

What the hell was that last night?

Sorry, I meant to ask, what the hell was that last night yet again?

For the third-straight game, the Boston Bruins had to play comeback against the Montreal Canadiens in their best-of-seven playoff series, but in none of the previous games had the Black and Gold been forced to recover from a first period so uncharacteristic that fans could be excused for wondering when Peter Chiarelli brought Hal Gill back, right under their noses.

Let’s face it, the Montreal Canadiens could very well be up 3-0 in this series, with the Bruins facing elimination at Centre Bell Thursday night. The Habs, now 6-1 in these playoffs, have out-skated the Bruins, been more aggressive with puck possession, and Carey Price, as “lucky” as he’s been in the first three games, has outplayed Boston goalie Tuukka Rask by such a wide margin that the Quebecois may establish a new unit of measurement with it.

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Tuesday’s Game 3, a 4-2 loss that goes down as the Bruins’ worst performance of this postseason, was a game of identity crisis as much as anything else. The Bruins came out of the gate about as aggressive as a wet napkin, intelligently playing to stay out of the box, but with a purpose that also took away their edge. There was only one penalty called in the first 50 minutes of play - P.K. Subban for roughing. And all the Canadiens did to respond was score the game’s second goal, giving Montreal a 2-0 lead, thanks to Subban’s timely dash from the penalty box.

"We tried to play the game the right way," Bruins center David Krejci said. "We stayed out of the penalty box for a very long time today. We didn't give them many power plays, so that was a positive thing, but we have to play on the edge. It comes back to the first period; I think the game was lost there, even though we had a chance to come back."

The Bruins scored late in the second period to make it a 3-1 game, then not again until Rask was pulled in the game’s final three minutes. Facing a one-goal deficit with time ticking away, Boston was left battling for a miracle, and frankly, they should have gotten it.

In the game’s waning seconds, Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, making a case for the Conn Smythe if the Canadiens can dream of making it that far, skated into the goal post framing teammate Price, and knocked the net off. There was no penalty called on the play, and in the wake of the final horn, Montreal media boys (who didn’t witness any phantom Bruins cartel cheering in the press box this time around) were quick to preach that Subban’s contact was incidental, and that any disagreement with that take would only come from Cam Neely’s whiny decree to the Boston corps. Noted.

Except, to consider the play chance one would have to watch it on replay only with Habs-approved contact lenses. Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins had to be impressed with the shoulder power Subban delivered to the net, knocking it off his mooring.

Yes, maybe he was pushed into it. If that’s the case, then Claude Julien has been taking lessons from Yoda on Dagobah, because that’s the only physical force that was anywhere in his general vicinity on the ice.

It was deliberate, and it should have been a penalty shot for the Bruins.

According to Rule 10.1 - Delay of Game:

(e) if in the last two minutes of regular playing time, or anytime in overtime, a team is penalized for any of the following infractions, a Penalty Shot shall be awarded against the offending team: Deliberate illegal Substitution - Rule 2.5 (f), Protective Equipment - Rule 3.6 (c), Deliberately Knocking the Goal Net from its Position - Rule 10.1 (c), Refusing to Start Play - Rule 10.14 (a), Rule 10.14 (e)...Note: In overtime, a Penalty Shot shall be assessed under this rule, except in the case of Rule 10.14 (a) - Refusing to Start Play, in which case a Penalty Shot and a Major Penalty plus a Game Misconduct shall be assessed.

Under the parameters of the rule book, Boston should have had the opportunity for a last-gasp penalty shot, which might have resulted in immediate secession up in Montreal, but nevertheless, was the right call. But in a game where the refs had their whistles swimming with lunch, what were the odds that Subban was going to get called for his little knockoff job? And how much do you think that factor played into the defenseman - who had a goal and an assist in Game 3 - knowing that he’d probably get away with it?

I’ll put it at 100 percent.

“He's playing the clock, and he's trying to make something happen,” Patrice Bergeron said. “Maybe he felt that we were coming hard. You've got to leave it to the refs, and they didn't make the call. It's about bearing down and starting a lot earlier to make it a game.”

Rask, who stopped 22 of 25 shots on the night, for one, was unaware that if called in the final two minutes of the game, that it would have been a penalty shot.

“Is it? I didn’t know that,” he told ESPN Boston. “Maybe I should’ve bitched about it then.”

Nah. That’s what Montreal figures we’re here for. Silly Bostonians.

The way the Bruins played Tuesday night. Subban’s cuteness didn’t cost the Canadiens. The Bruins had already accomplished sinking themselves just fine. Let’s not play into the fallacy that it wasn’t a purpose, but in the end, the net coming off meant nothing.

The wheels had already come off for Boston long before.


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