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Bruins’ spirits are high

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By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / April 20, 2011

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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — The good times started for the Bruins in the visiting dressing room at the Bell Centre after Monday’s 4-2 win. They spilled over into the bus that hauled them south for two-plus hours, from Montreal to Lake Placid. And they continued yesterday, as most of the Bruins, granted a rest day, took a breather in this town of miracles.

“If we were down, 3-0, right now, it wouldn’t be a very fun area to be in,’’ said goaltender Tim Thomas. “It’s 2-1. We still have a lot of work ahead of us. But now we can come here, step back, recharge ourselves, and get ready to do it again. It’s not easy.’’

After going through off-ice workouts, most of the players strolled on Main Street downtown. Had they not corrected their mistakes from Games 1 and 2, sightseeing would not have been the first task on their to-do lists yesterday.

As a whole, projected Andrew Ference, the Bruins might have committed the same number of errors in Game 3 as they had in the two losses. The difference was that the Canadiens didn’t capitalize on every cough-up.

“The ones in the first two games, you notice them, right? Because they scored on them,’’ Ference said. “I’m sure there were still turnovers [Monday] night. But when they don’t get scored on, it’s like they just get forgotten.

“It’s the way the game goes. Nobody’s ever going to be perfect. There’s always going to be turnovers and mistakes. It’s just minimizing.

“I think we did a decent job. But we didn’t play that much better. We played just solid, I think.

“It was a good start, a better start for us. The whole 60 minutes, it was a good game. The first two weren’t awful. It’s just that those turnovers, they capitalized on them the first couple games.’’

The first piece in the turnaround was the return of the captain. Zdeno Chara, skating on the top pairing, logged 26:20 of ice time. He might not have been 100 percent after missing Game 2 because of a virus, but he was good enough to be the Bruins’ most important defenseman.

And Chara had a consistent sidekick as his right-hand man. All season, the coaching staff has been wary of pairing Chara with Dennis Seidenberg. Such a power pairing could serve as a smothering shutdown duo. But it also could create a top-heavy six-pack. By playing their most consistent two-way defensemen together, the Bruins might see their other blue liners exploited. That wasn’t the case Monday night.

Johnny Boychuk had his best game of the playoffs. He landed three shots, connected with two hits, and blocked three pucks in 18:55 of ice time. Ference, Boychuk’s partner, blocked a game-high four shots in 18:10 of ice time. Adam McQuaid assisted on Boston’s second goal.

“It doesn’t feel weird playing with other guys,’’ said Ference, who was paired with McQuaid in Game 1 and Shane Hnidy in Game 2. “It’s good for the coaches, where they can have confidence to be able to change and not have to worry whether guys are going to jell. We have seen each other quite a bit. It’s no big deal, really.’’

Up front, the Bruins finally got better presence from their top forwards. Patrice Bergeron submitted his best all-around performance of the series. In 17:15 of ice time, Bergeron recorded two helpers, landed two shots, and threw four hits. As usual, he was an ace on the draw, winning 10 of 17 faceoffs.

“He’s probably been our best forward,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “He was such a good player for us. I think he was First Star, and it was well-deserved. He was the best player out there.

“He’s so focused and determined. Everything about his game is so professional, whether it’s conditioning, whether it’s rest, whether it’s focus.’’

The Bruins also had some push from their previously invisible first line. David Krejci opened the scoring at 3:11 of the first. At 14:38 of the first, Nathan Horton made it a 2-0 game. Those were the first points the No. 1 line recorded in the series.

“He’s done well,’’ Milan Lucic said of Horton. “Obviously his game’s gotten better as the series went on. I told him before, ‘You’ve just got to go in and enjoy it. It’s the time of year you need to go out there and enjoy the experience.’

“It’s a first-time experience for him. I think it’s been a weight off his shoulders, being able to get his first playoff goal.’’

In the second period, Lucic nearly scored his first goal of the playoffs. He stripped P.K. Subban, then had a lane on Carey Price. Had Lucic buried his five-hole shot, the Bruins would have grabbed a 4-0 lead. But Price stopped Lucic’s shot, the Canadiens rushed the other way, and Andrei Kostitsyn slipped a puck behind Thomas for Montreal’s opening goal.

It was the first of two questionable goals Thomas allowed. A third would have been unacceptable. Thomas made sure that didn’t happen. And now the Bruins have some life.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com.

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