The Boston Bruins lost a playoff series last year when they had a 3-0 lead. So a mere 3-2 edge over the Montreal Canadiens guarantees nothing.
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Coach Claude Julien knows how tough closing can be.
”I think we experienced that last year,” he said after Boston’s 2-1, double-overtime victory Saturday night. ”You don’t want to bring it up, but we know how hard it is. We’ve got to go to Montreal knowing we’ve got to be ready. Montreal will come out and play the game of their lives.”
The Bruins won their second overtime game in three days when Nathan Horton scored at 9:03 of the second extra session.
But they remember one of the darkest stretches in club history when they lost four straight games to the Philadelphia Flyers – and squandered a 3-0 lead in Game 7 – last year in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
”We learned about last year you can’t take any lead for granted,” said Milan Lucic, who had seven shots after taking just five in the first four games.
On the winning goal, Montreal goalie Carey Price stopped Andrew Ference’s wrist shot from 30 feet but couldn’t control the rebound. Horton put the puck into the open right side of the net for his second goal of the playoffs.
”I saw the rebound come out,” Horton said. ”It was like it was in slow motion. It was just sitting there.”
The win was the first by the home team in the first-round series.
”I felt confident,” Julien said. ”I liked our composure in overtime. We were making some strong plays. We didn’t really panic.”
The Bruins, who have won three straight games, can end the series Tuesday night in Montreal.
”Playing at home Tuesday in front of our fans, hopefully that will make a difference,” Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said.
In Game 4, also in Montreal, Boston won 5-4 when Michael Ryder scored at 1:59 of overtime after the Bruins overcame deficits of 1-0, 3-1 and 4-3.
On Saturday, Horton came through in a well-played, tiring game.
”I just saw a shot,” Price said. ”It hit my pad … and they buried it.”
Boston’s Tim Thomas made a brilliant save at 5:35 of the second overtime on a 2-on-1 Montreal break. Travis Moen passed from the left side across the slot to Brian Gionta, and Thomas slid across the crease to turn aside Gionta’s shot from 5 feet.
”My thought was just trying to get it on the net and get it over him,” Gionta said. ”He moves well side to side and he just read it.”
At 8:08 of the first overtime, Price nearly gave the game to the Bruins when he whiffed as he attempted to clear the puck from the crease. He then fell backward on it as his mask fell off while Brad Marchand was just a few feet away.
”We were getting very tired,” Marchand said. ”Guys were starting to cramp up. I’m pretty tired right now but it was a pretty special feeling being out there, very intense.”
Thomas made 44 saves, and Price stopped 49 shots.
The Bruins are 0-26 in series they trailed 2-0. But the Canadiens have lost the last two series in which they won the first two games – in 1996 against the New York Rangers and in 2006 against the Carolina Hurricanes, who went on to win the Stanley Cup.
After two scoreless periods, Marchand gave Boston the lead at 4:33 of the third period before Jeff Halpern tied it at 13:56.
Marchand passed from behind Price’s left side across the crease. The puck hit Boston’s Patrice Bergeron and trickled back to Marchand, who put it in the open side of the net to the left of Price.
Halpern scored with a short shot over Thomas’ right shoulder after taking a pass from Lars Eller from behind the net.
There was plenty of tight checking and end-to-end action in the first two periods as the Bruins outshot the Canadiens 21-16.
Montreal got a break about 8 minutes in when Dennis Seidenberg’s pass from the right to left point intended for Zdeno Chara was stolen by Michael Cammalleri. He skated in ahead of the defense, but Thomas knocked his shot to the left of the crease. Tomas Plekanec got the puck and shot it toward the open right side where a sprawling Ryder swatted it away with his right glove.
”It was sort of a 2-on-1, 3-on-1,” Ryder said. ”I think Timmy was out of position and I just tried to get a glove on it.”
Boston had the better opportunities for the rest of the period.
Horton stole the puck behind the Montreal net and fed David Krejci out front, but Price made the save at 10:38. Then, with Montreal’s David Desharnais serving an interference penalty, Milan Lucic had a clear shot from 5 feet but put it right into Price’s pads.
The Bruins had another opportunity early in the second period, but Marchand and Mark Recchi, both just in front of Price, couldn’t put the puck in at the 52-second mark.
One of the Canadiens’ best chances of the period came at 10:59 when Plekanec fired a 10-footer into Thomas’ pads. The goaltender quickly looked behind to see if the puck went into the net but it stayed in his pads.
NOTES: Boxer Micky Ward of Lowell, the subject of the movie ”The Fighter” was in the crowd. … The teams played their first scoreless first period of the series. … The game was the third of this year’s NHL playoffs that lasted two overtimes. … Price allowed a total of one goal in the first two games in Boston. … The start of the second overtime was delayed as workmen cleared puddles from the ice.