Montreal Canadiens 1 Boston Bruins 2 Overtime
Boston Takes A Three Games To Two Series Lead
After Nathan Horton scored the winner at 9:03 of the second overtime, I went numb. I took walk, but didn’t know whether to be angry, frustrated or sad. Montreal hadn’t played their best game of the series, but neither did Boston.
The game was easily the most exciting of the series and the series itself has been like a crescendo, as the games have gotten more exciting as the series has moved along. Only after watching all the post game analysis and reports did I realize how and what to feel. I felt good. Montreal was on the road in a hostile environment. Clearly Jacques Martin will tell you that the team gave up way too many clear cut chances, but he would also say that the Canadiens got their chances as well. The Habs stuck to their system, other than for the game winning goal, and needed one lucky break to come home with a lead in the series.
Even though I felt good, I also felt heartbroken. It’s like spending the evening with a beautiful girl and having everything go perfectly. Yes there might be the awkward silences and slip-ups, but every once in awhile there are laughs and innocent stupidity between two people really enjoying each other's company. But much like the game last night, the date ends only with the girl saying that she had a good time, but she is dating someone else. That’s exactly how I felt after last night's game. Carey Price made big saves, the players worked hard almost every shift and it was an exciting game, but in the end the Habs lost. Now, they come home for game six with their season on the line.
The game was a carbon copy of game four. The score was much lower, but each team had the same amount of scoring chances and there was the same amount of emotion. Every whistle lead to a scrum. Every scramble in front of the net lead to a shoving match with the occasional face wash and punch thrown. Carey Price and Tim Thomas were spectacular. Most of the night was spent wondering how each made the last save. By the end of the game Price had made 49 saves and Thomas has made 44.
Both regulation goals came in the third period, and came from sheer hard work, with a lucky bounce or two. Brad Marchand potted the first from the side of the net as the puck bounced off of P.K. Subban’s foot, deflecting from Patrice Bergeron’s broken stick. Marchand scored his goal at the 4:33 mark, but Jeff Halpern tied the game up at 13:56. Lars Eller and Matheiu Darche out-worked the Bruins on the sideboard and eventually the puck came out to a wide open Halpern, who easily beat Thomas. Price and Thomas had no chance on both goals.
The third period ended and the game went into overtime, and then second overtime, littered with events though out. There was Michael Ryder’s glove save on Tomas Plekanec with the open net behind him. Yes, Ryder, the ball hockey goaltender from Newfoundland. There was Carey Price fumbling around with the puck and eventually being crashed into by Marchand. All Price could do was fall on the puck with his helmet popping off. Then, another open net was blocked by both Bergeron and Zdeno Chara.
There were countless big saves by both goaltenders with two on ones, breakaways and deflections. But the biggest save of the night came on a two on one for the Habs. Brian Gionta had a chance to finish the game in overtime with a wide open net. Unfortunately, Thomas flung himself across the net to make the game saving stop. Only a few minutes later, the Habs were caught running around their own zone and after a couple of short passes and some picks at the blue line Andrew Ference let a shot go from 30 feet out. Price couldn’t control the rebound, and Hamrlik was on the wrong side of Horton. Horton had an open net and finished the game scoring his second goal of the playoffs. The Habs bench sat in disbelief realizing that they had given up a two game lead in the series, much like they did in 2006 to the Carolina Hurricanes. They went on to lose that series at home in game six.
Usually, after every game three stars are selected but for this game only two players stood out and were worthy of that nod. Carey Price and Tim Thomas had their best games of the playoffs, maybe of their careers. Both made the spectacular saves at the right times. They had to because their teams in front of them made it easy for scoring changes to appear every three minutes or so during the game.
Three players stepped up during the game. For Boston it was Brad Marchand. Slowly, throughout the series, he has been making his presence known with his hitting, skating and his ability to get under everyone’s skin. Tonight he did it every shift and was easily the best Bruin forward. When you have every Hab fan hating you, then you know you are doing your job.
For the Habs, it was the emergence of Lars Eller and David Desharnais. Coach Martin went to three lines early in the third period. Desharnais got a regular shift with Gionta and Scott Gomez. Eller played with Halpern and Darche. Desharnais showed why the Habs’ brass are so high on him. He isn’t the fastest or the most skilled forward but he just get things done. He created scoring chance after scoring chance and might have scored the winner only to miss out on the second overtime with an injury. Eller made people understand why Gainey and Gauthier traded Jaroslav Halak for him. He was a force with his skating and his physical play. He was the one that created the goal for Halpern. He has magic hands and is slowly understanding what it takes to be a top line centreman.
The Habs go into game six with two injury worries. James Wisnieswki limped around for much of the game and missed the entire third and first overtime periods. He did come back in the second overtime, but by this time the rest of the five defencemen had logged too many minutes. Desharnais was sandwiched trying to break in on Thomas late in the first overtime and did not play the rest of the way. The two day break before game six should help both get healthy.
Now, onto game six Tuesday night in Montreal, where the Bell Centre will once again be rocking. Looking back on the series any serious hockey analyst and fan cannot say that one team dominated any game. All the games have been close and could have gone either way. Do the Habs have a chance to come back and take the series? Of course they do. Will the Bruins win game six in Montreal and move on to the second round? They might. Whatever happens, we all know that game six will be better than game five. Let’s just hope there isn’t a game six repeat of 2006 against the Carolina Hurricanes. In that game, Jose Theodore, the MVP of the league was pulled and then reinserted for the end of the game. The Habs lost bad and Theodore was never the same goaltender again.
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Shahab Khan the Schoolboy