Inspired Montreal Canadiens take 2-1 series lead over Boston Bruins

Canadiens, Subban

P. K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Unlike Games 1 and 2, this one wasn’t so ridiculously lopsided Boston’s way in puck possession or Montreal’s way in shooting percentage.

The Habs played their best game of the series, and Boston had its worst but remained in it until the end.

The Bruins were good in Game 3, but they weren’t great. And despite carrying the play more often than not, Boston didn’t play with the same level of desperation the Canadiens did.

The Montreal Canadiens scored three breakaway goals (one was an empty net goal) in Game 3 to defeat the Boston Bruins 4-2 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

The series lead belongs to the Canadiens. They’ve played smartly. Montreal is avoiding after-the-whistle nonsense and punch-for-punch tactics against Boston. Instead, the Canadiens are playing a simple defensive brand of hard-working hockey. Habs coach Michel Therrien called it business-like in his post game comments on Hockey Night In Canada. It’s working.

The Canadiens roster is leaving it all on the ice; blocking shots, taking hits and making unselfish plays. This Habs group is committed to a game-plan. They are dedicated to a strategy. Their shot blocking efforts would make John Tortorella proud and their ability to take a beating is reminiscent of Tie Domi’s head. They’ve bought-in in Montreal and it’s allowing them to poke the bear without suffering from its bite.

The Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Jarome Iginla line has been overwhelming but they haven’t scored a lot for all the time they’ve spent in Montreal’s end throughout the first three games of the series. But Iginla did tip one home tonight in the third-period. Not enough on this day.

The Bruins second-line, centred by Selke Trophy finalist Patrice Bergeron, also scored in a losing effort. And despite the Bruins inability to be as desperate as Montreal, Bergeron can not be accused of playing poorly in Game 3. He put in one of his typical, honest efforts.

In another dimension or moment in time, Bergeron is probably a member of the Montreal Canadiens. He’s a rare star forward, most known for defence like former Hab Bob Gainey. Bergeron is a Quebecor, too. He’s the sort of player I imagine the Canadiens won Cups with before the NHL entry draft was introduced in the 1960s. But he grew up a Nordiques fan.

Goaltending is what separates the Bruins and Canadiens in the second-round.

Say what you will about which goaltender is better in the grand scheme of things, Carey Price or Tuukka Rask, but through three games of Round 2 Bruins-Canadiens there has been one clear stand-out in goal, and one goalie who has been average.

Price is stealing ’em for the Canadiens. Montreal was outshot again tonight, and out Corsi’d, too. But, unlike the first two games of this series, the Bruins didn’t enjoy half a dozen point-blank scoring opportunities in Game 3. Yes, Boston carried the play more often, but a lot of their puck possession push was contained to the outside. Many of their shots were blocked. And the B’s didn’t load up on second chances in close.

Bruins defenceman Dougie Hamilton was unable to execute his plan: feather high shots top corner on a crouching, screened Price.

Game 4 is crucial for both clubs.

If the Canadiens win they’ll take a 3-1 lead over Boston, earning three chances to win one single game and the series against the Bruins machine. And from the Bruins’ perspective, a Game 4 loss would put them in a situation that requires perfection the rest of the way versus Montreal.

Should Boston win Game 4 the series will be tied at two apiece, and it will feel as though the Habs burned a lot more fuel than Boston did and all they’ll have to show for it is a split in wins. Conversely, the experienced Bruins would be in a comfortable situation needing to win two-of-three with two home ice opportunities.

Tonight was Boston’s first game three loss in its past twelve. They say the winner of the odd games usually wins the series. The Canadiens won Game 1 and Game 3.