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Masterful effort by Marchand

Pesky forward kept Montreal off-balance

By Michael Whitmer
Globe Staff / April 24, 2011

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Tim Thomas made the clutch save, Nathan Horton scored the winning goal. However, the Bruins wouldn’t be waking up this morning with a 3-2 series lead without Brad Marchand.

Marchand seemed to be everywhere in last night’s 2-1, double-overtime win against Montreal in Game 5 of the first-round series at TD Garden. Scoring, creating chances for his teammates, mixing it up with Canadiens. If there was a key sequence — and there were many, despite the low score — the 22-year-old from Halifax seemed to be in the middle of it.

“We wanted to make sure we did the little things right, and take advantage of their mistakes,’’ Marchand said. “Everyone played their part, didn’t try to do too much. That’s what we needed in a game like this.’’

Blessed with speed, skill, and toughness, his is a multi-faceted arsenal, and while he appeals to Bruins fans, he is a nauseating pest to opposition followers. If Marchand were a baseball player, he’d be the guy who somehow gets his uniform the dirtiest every single game, and makes plenty of plays that never show up in a boxscore.

Generously listed at 5 feet 9 inches, he has a tendency to play much bigger. Astute Hub fans of a certain age might see Marchand and think Kenny Linseman. Same position. Same kind of game. Even the same nickname: “Rat.’’

It took five games for the home team to win in this series, but Marchand made sure it was the Bruins who broke the streak.

Officially, Marchand had one goal on five shots, blocked two, and had two hits. But those are just numbers.

The only penalty in overtime? Patrice Bergeron drew it, but Marchand quarterbacked the play. With Montreal trying to clear the puck from their own zone late in the first overtime, Marchand chipped the puck from Lars Eller, raced to retrieve it, then found a streaking Bergeron, who was taken down by Brent Sopel. But the Bruins, still looking for their first power-play goal of the postseason, couldn’t capitalize.

Eight minutes into the first extra period Marchand nearly ended it himself, with a little help from Canadiens goalie Carey Price. Marchand raced toward Price, forcing him to play the puck. Price tried to send the puck toward the boards but fanned. Marchand was waiting, but Price landed on the puck.

Marchand began the third period in the penalty box, and had yet to score a playoff goal, despite potting 21 in the regular season, fourth-best on the team behind Milan Lucic, Horton, and Bergeron.

That changed early in the third. Marchand, set up behind the Montreal goal along the boards, took a pass from Tomas Kaberle, turned, and fed the puck through the crease toward a charging Bergeron, who was being hounded by P.K. Subban. Heading for the right side of the crease after the pass, Marchand immediately got the puck back, staring at an open net because Price’s focus had been on Bergeron.

Unlike the other close-in chances he’s had in the series, Marchand didn’t whiff this time. One of his easiest goals of the season might have been his most important, giving the Bruins a 1-0 lead with 15:27 left.

“It was nice to get the monkey off the back. It took a little while,’’ Marchand said. “I just saw Bergy driving through the slot, I passed it to him, a puck hit a foot, and came over to me, and I put it in the open net.’’

Said Bergeron: “Marshy’s been great all year. Every game he’s been competing hard. It’s nice to have him on my side.’’

Late in the second period, with the game still scoreless and the building clamoring for a reason — any reason — to get loud, Marchand provided one with a push-and-smash with Tomas Plekanec in the Canadiens crease. Sitting on the doorstep, ready to pounce on a rebound if Price didn’t control the puck, Marchand was shoved by Plekanec from behind, with both losing their helmets in the ensuing scrum and getting sent to the box with roughing penalties.

“I was trying to stay away from it a bit there at first, but Plekanec kind of got in my face there and I wasn’t too happy about it,’’ Marchand said. “I tried to throw a punch, but I don’t think I got him.’’

That might have been Marchand’s only miss of the night.

Michael Whitmer can be reached at mwhitmer@globe.com

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