To the limit
Canadiens force Bruins to Game 7
MONTREAL — By now, game plans are irrelevant. Injuries, as the Canadiens proved last night, mean nothing. History means squat.
For both the Bruins and Canadiens, just one task remains at hand tonight at TD Garden.
“Win. Go home and win,’’ said Tim Thomas. “We’ve won three. So if we play the same way we played when we won three, we’ll win the fourth.’’
Last night, the Bruins failed in their first attempt at ending Montreal’s season. The Canadiens buried a pair of five-on-three goals to claim a 2-1 series-extending win before 21,273 at the Bell Centre.
Tonight is Take 2. Last night is already a long-vanished memory. It would not be worth replaying the chances — four in total on the power play — the Bruins had to bury the Canadiens.
The game was there to be won. Montreal was without David Desharnais and James Wisniewski. The Canadiens had their heels perched on the cliff’s edge, just waiting to be nudged over.
The Bruins simply couldn’t get it done.
“We had opportunities. It wasn’t good enough,’’ said Mark Recchi, citing the wayward power play. “Five-on-five, we were terrific. They got a couple five-on-three goals.
“We’ll go home, get some rest, and be ready.’’
The Bruins were on the power play for 4:35. They put all of two pucks on Montreal goalie Carey Price with a man up. In contrast, the Canadiens threw an 11-shot barrage on Thomas in 9:39 of power-play time.
After six games, the Bruins are 0 for 19 on the power play. Last night, nothing worked. Poor entries. Ineffective setups after gaining the blue line. No good looks down low.
About the only things the Bruins haven’t tried are using Tyler Seguin as a power-play specialist and stationing Zdeno Chara down low. Seguin has been a healthy scratch for all six games. The coaching staff only places Chara in front of the net in empty-net situations. Coach Claude Julien has noted that putting Chara down low eliminates his boomer from the point, for which there is no replacement.
“You want to use the odd-man advantage to score,’’ said Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. “They did. We didn’t.’’
So it comes to this: another Game 7 at the Garden. The Bruins didn’t fare so well last time that happened.
“Just focus on getting ready,’’ Recchi said. “You’ve got to relax. You’ve got to be ready. It’s a one-game series now.
“We worked all year to get home ice. We’re going home. For the most part, we’ll save our energy and get ready.’’
Last night, the Bruins burned far too much gas on the penalty kill. The Canadiens are dangerous when up one man. They were ruthless with two-man advantages.
In the first period, a bad change — Adam McQuaid rolled over the boards, Johnny Boychuk didn’t reciprocate by hustling off — gave the Canadiens a five-on-four power play at 8:54. Four seconds later, Seidenberg slashed Mike Cammalleri to put the Bruins down two men.
The Bruins killed off the first half of Montreal’s two-man advantage. Boychuk, Chara, and Patrice Bergeron were effective at keeping the Canadiens from getting any sniffs on Thomas.
But the Canadiens busted through with 51 seconds remaining on Seidenberg’s penalty. From the left circle, P.K. Subban whistled a pass to Cammalleri at the right dot. Before Thomas could slide over, Cammalleri hummed a one-timer into the cage at 10:07.
It all went wrong again for the Bruins again in the second. At 4:37, the game exploded. Milan Lucic flattened Montreal defenseman Jaroslav Spacek into the glass near the penalty boxes. Lucic was whistled for a five-minute boarding major and a game misconduct.
Spacek staggered to the dressing room with assistance, leaving drops of blood on the ice, though he would return later.
Only six seconds into the penalty kill, Bergeron flung the puck over the glass and was called for delay of game. For the second time, the Bruins went down two men. For the second time, the Canadiens made them pay.
Again, Cammalleri unleashed a one-timer from the right circle. This time, Thomas stopped Cammalleri’s shot. Thomas also got a piece of Scott Gomez’s rebound bid. But Brian Gionta jammed in the second rebound at 5:48 to give the Canadiens a 2-1 lead.
“Obviously, when it’s five-on-three, it’s hard to keep the puck out of the net,’’ said Thomas (25 saves).
The only goal the Bruins managed came in the opening minute of the second period. During four-on-four play, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly cycled well and kept the play alive. Seidenberg drifted down low, was in the right position when the puck arrived, and swept a close-distance shot five-hole through Price (31 saves), tying the game at 1-1.
“Four-on-four, you try and create confusion on their part,’’ Seidenberg said. “It’s man-on-man four-on-four, right? So I just got down there. Somehow the puck landed on my stick and I wrapped it around.’’
The Flyers await. Philadelphia, the No. 2 seed, took care of business by dispatching Buffalo last night in Game 7. The Bruins would like nothing better than to face off against the Flyers once more in the second round.
Before that, it’s up to the Bruins to do their part tonight.