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Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

Luck and 'suck': The Game 1 story of Carey Price and Tuukka Rask

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The bad news? Carey Price was good. He was really good.

The good news? He can’t be that lucky again in this series.

Can he?

There’s little that can be taken away from the performance the Montreal Canadiens goalie gave in net Thursday night, riding a pair of P.K. Subban power play goals to a 4-3, double overtime victory over the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series. Price made 48 saves on the evening. His teammates blocked another 30 en route to the pipes, which witnessed too many near misses to count and elicited enough pings that the Bruins could be justified for thinking the net’s inanimate presence was taunting them.

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Price stoned David Krejci twice. He frustrated Reilly Smith and Jarome Iginla. He’s also kissing the post to his left for stopping a Dougie Hamilton power play ripper. He’s probably still looking for the puck Carl Soderberg snuck by him in overtime, somehow, someway, inexplicably not crossing the goal line.

Price was awesome in Game 1. He also had a horseshoe lodged deep within his poutine-infused intestines.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, in my opinion [Price] is the best goaltender in the league,” Subban said, “and he showed that again today.’’

That’s a similar refrain said about the guy at the other end of the ice, Boston’s Tuukka Rask, the Vezina Trophy finalist who nonetheless is also starting to compile some ugly statistics against Montreal that few in Boston want to acknowledge as becoming a problematic trend. Rask is now just 3-11-3 against the Habs. Thursday night was his ninth failure to beat the Canadiens on home ice. He’s now 0-9 against his team’s fiercest rival in his own building.

That could be better.

Of course, Rask’s latest attempt was marred by defenseman Matt Bartkowski, who probably got a talking to from Claude Julien in the wee hours Friday morning after committing a pair of penalties (the second of which was a renegade call, particularly in double overtime) that led to Subban’s blasts. Torey Krug, who made up for his boners with a third period score that knotted the game at two, coughed up the puck leading to Rene Bourque’s goal in the second. Francis Bouillon wouldn’t have even been there had Krejci found a way to clear the puck from behind the net just about midway through the third.

But after the game, Rask still needed a Sean Maguire moment. “It’s not your fault.”

“I was $%&* tonight,” Rask said. “I’ve gotta be better.

“When you suck, you suck. That’s it. What I can I say? It’s the playoffs,”

What can you say, indeed?

As for Price, this was only the second look the Montreal goalie had at the Bruins all season, with backup Peter Budaj getting the nod for three of the four meetings. He’s now riding a five-game playoff winning streak, watching his teammates score four goals, almost the entire amount Rask allowed (six) in the Bruins’ five-game dispatch of the Detroit Red Wings.

“I don’t want to sit here and point out things I did well throughout the game or point out individual efforts. It was a full team effort,” Price said. “We just gutted it out. It was a hard-fought game, it could’ve gone either way.’’

That’s encouraging for the Bruins even in the wake of ultimate disappointment. They had every opportunity to put this game away, only to come away with little other than dumb luck to explain why they’re not up 1-0 in this series. The puck flew here. The puck got directed thattaway. The puck plain just put on the brakes in the case of Soderberg’s near-miss. Bartkowski and Krug deserve just as much as the blame as Rask seems to believe should be on his shoulders. Let’s just blame the damned puck for its screwy GPS system.

Just in case NBC didn’t tell you, this is the 34th playoff meeting between the Bruins and Canadiens, and the latest showdown couldn’t have started with more of a dramatic opener. The B’s and Habs are at it again. Bostonians are freaking out while Montrealers are flaunting their team’s 2014 playoff record, with nary a blemish.

It’s not the way the Bruins wanted to start things out. It’s not the way they should have started things out.

Rask has another chance on Saturday for his first win against the Canadiens at the Garden. That’s a situation that still seems difficult to fathom.

Price has a shot to put his Canadiens up 2-0, a situation that didn’t turn out so well the last time for him, Subban, and Co.

“I don’t even think we can think about winning the series,’’ said Subban. “A couple years ago, we came in here and took two games and went back and lost in Game 7. When there’s success, you’ve got to take it and get better. There are a lot of things we need to get better on. We can’t be giving up 50 shots, I can tell you that, for the rest of the series. Pricey shouldn’t have to stop that many pucks. He shouldn’t have to.’’

Just in case, serendipity showed up and took care of the rest.


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