MONTREAL -- Bruins coach Mike Sullivan has been telling anyone who will listen that his big line of Joe Thornton, Mike Knuble, and Glen Murray was due to break out in this playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens. It wasn't a matter of if, said the first-year NHL bench boss, it was a matter of when.
Last night, Knuble scored the tying goal with 30.6 seconds left in regulation and Murray potted the winner at 9:27 of the second overtime, lifting the Bruins to a 4-3 victory and giving them a commanding three-games-to-one lead in this Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup.
Boston can close out the Canadiens with a win at the FleetCenter tomorrow night.
Murray's goal, his first in the series, came as a result of a collision between two Montreal players. Right wing Alexei Kovalev, who was carrying the puck and felt he was slashed by Bruins center Travis Green, was shaking his hand and had his head down as he ran smack into defenseman Sheldon Souray. That sprung Murray for a breakaway, and he buried a shot to the stick side of goalie Jose Theodore.
"I thought they had a great game," said Sullivan. "They played a lot of minutes. I thought they were dominant when they were on the ice and they certainly created a lot of scoring chances.
"I was real happy for [Murray] to get rewarded. Those guys have been working extremely hard. We believe in these guys and they've done it for us all year. They're three quality guys who care about winning, and the expectations on them are so high. They put the expectations on themselves, they put a lot of pressure on themselves, and they want to be the go-to guys. And I thought tonight we needed a big effort from that line in order to be successful and I thought they were terrific."
Boston had to battle back from a two-goal deficit to get it to overtime. Montreal got on the board at 4:41 of the first period on the first of two goals by center Mike Ribeiro, who was the subject of much controversy in Game 3. Ribeiro was called out by the Bruins for falling to the ice and writhing around with 33.7 seconds left and Boston pressuring to tie the game. The Bruins believed it was an attempt to get a whistle and stop play. Ribeiro then laughed when he got to the bench. He missed practice Monday and coach Claude Julien said he was injured. However, he certainly didn't seem to be ailing last night.
Ribeiro tipped a shot between his legs and past Andrew Raycroft inside the left post for the lead. It was Montreal's second shot of the contest.
Center Michael Nylander, back last night after missing Game 3 with the flu, pulled the Bruins even at 16:25. Left wing Sergei Samsonov, in the right corner, backhanded a pass to Nylander who was below the right circle. Nylander's shot beat Theodore for his third goal of the series.
With just 4.9 seconds left in the period, the Habs went up, 2-1, with Kovalev scoring off a scramble in front. Ribeiro struck again at the 1:48 mark of the second, giving his team a two-goal lead. The Bruins closed within one on defenseman Jiri Slegr's first tally of the series at 11:30. Slegr, just inside the right side of the blue line, flung the puck at the net and it appeared to hit defenseman Francis Bouillon before it beat Theodore to make it 3-2.
Knuble made overtime possible when he scored with 30.6 seconds remaining in regulation. Knuble, his back to the net, shoveled the puck in to force the extra session. The goal was initially waved off by referee Mick McGeough but video replay showed the puck did indeed cross the goal line completely inside the right post.
"All the guys on the ice said it was in," said Sullivan.
In the second overtime, the Habs had a power play when Murray was whistled off for interference on Kovalev but the Bruins killed it off, setting the stage for Murray's redemption.
"From my short coaching career, it's one of the most gratifying [victories]," said Sullivan. "We're playing a quality opponent who played a hard game and it's not an easy place to win. From my standpoint, it's a very satisfying night for us."
Green said he and the rest of the team were thrilled to see Thornton's line come through. If the captain is not fully recovered from his upper-body injury, he's close.
"It was awesome," said Green. "It was evident from the first shift. You can see Joe is coming around and feeling better. It was obvious. The whole bench, right from the get-go, I heard guys saying and I said it, `Joe's on tonight, so let's jump on.' "