MONTREAL — In 18:47 of ice time in Game 6 Monday night, Jarome Iginla ripped off 10 of the Bruins’ 63 attempted shots. That’s usually a very good thing. It means the first line is controlling the puck and putting heat on its opponents.
But the Canadiens blocked three of Iginla’s blasts. One missed the net. The other six thudded into Carey Price. Iginla entered the night with only seven shots on goal in the previous five games.
The No. 1 right wing had his chances. So did many of his teammates. They didn’t do anything with them.
“We had good looks,” Iginla said. “I missed the net on a few myself. We just keep going. We had some great chances and opportunities where on a different night in this series, they go in. We just reload, get ready for the next game, get those same chances, and find a way to score again.”
Iginla and his first-line mates, quiet for much of the series, were better in Game 6. But better doesn’t cut it.
It wasn’t enough that Iginla, Milan Lucic, and David Krejci combined for 11 of the Bruins’ 26 shots on goal. They had their chances. They didn’t finish. And for that, the Canadiens punted the Bruins out of Montreal for one last time this season with a 4-0 drubbing.
“They played a good game,” Iginla said. “But at the same time, on another night in this series, they would go in. Our focus now is to get ready, reload, and get those same chances.”
Sometimes it’s luck that stands as the difference between a goal and a missed chance. The puck glances off a stick. It clatters off a crossbar. It bobbles off a stick just as a shooter loads up for a net-front opportunity.
It was a good thing that the Bruins gave themselves opportunities to score. In the first period, after taking a dish from Carl Soderberg, Loui Eriksson ripped the puck off the crossbar. In the second, Brad Marchand went wide on a net-front sniff. Later in the second, Lucic had a wide-open chance that didn’t turn into anything when the puck dribbled off his blade. In the third, only a full-out sprawl by David Desharnais kept the puck from rolling over the goal line after a Zdeno Chara shot.
There were times in this series when those chances never happened. The Canadiens locked up the defensive zone and blocked every puck the Bruins aimed in Price’s direction.
That wasn’t the case Monday night. The Bruins had good chances. But when good teams get good chances in the playoffs, they finish them off. The Bruins didn’t do that a single time.
“We had some good chances out there,” Krejci said. “They didn’t go in for us. But we’re going to stay positive in here. We believe in ourselves. We’ve got a job to do in two days.”
The Canadiens had no issues with burying their looks. In the first, they put the Bruins in a bad position by applying a textbook forecheck on Torey Krug and Kevan Miller, the No. 3 pairing.
Krug had the puck behind the goal line. Brian Gionta, Montreal’s first forechecker, closed on Krug. At the same time, Rene Bourque sealed off Eriksson, one of Krug’s outlets, along the left-side wall. Lars Eller jammed down on Soderberg to take away that option.
Krug had to go D-to-D behind the net to Miller. Then when Miller fumbled the pass and the puck skittered out front, Eller was in position to tuck a shot behind Tuukka Rask. Eller didn’t shoot wide. He didn’t strike iron. He hit the back of the net at 2:11 of the first.
The Bruins spent the remaining 57:49 of the night chasing the game. It’s no way to play against the Canadiens.
During the regular season, when scoring first, the Canadiens had an .822 winning percentage, fifth-best in the league. Conversely, when their opponents scored first, Montreal had a .243 winning percentage, the NHL’s sixth-worst mark. The Canadiens excel when they lead and protect. They were not built to chase.
Because of Eller’s goal, the Canadiens never had to pursue the Bruins. They stuck to their game, even when the Bruins found their rhythm for a burst in the second period.
The Bruins controlled the puck for approximately two minutes in the offensive zone. The Canadiens sagged back and gave the Bruins tons of room at the points. By keeping the puck in Montreal’s zone, the Bruins got good looks. The Bruins snapped six pucks on goal. But the Canadiens turned back three of them, including a pair of blocks by Mike Weaver on Soderberg.
Had the Bruins sunk just one of those shots, they could have tied the game, 1-1.
“We capitalize on a chance there, it’s a different game,” Lucic said. “We’re not frustrated with what happened here today. We were able to establish some pretty good zone time. Not more to talk about than looking forward to Game 7.”
Later in the second, the Canadiens showed the Bruins how things should be done. After taking a stretch pass from Nathan Beaulieu, Max Pacioretty got a step on Chara. Pacioretty converted his chance at 15:24.
Then when Gregory Campbell went off for high-sticking Andrei Markov, the Canadiens buried the puck once more. With Rask down and out after a scramble, Thomas Vanek swooped in and tucked the puck into the net at 17:39. Had that been a Bruin, the puck would have sailed wide, hit the crossbar, or settled into the CH on Price’s chest.
Maybe the Bruins were unlucky. They had as many decent chances as Montreal. But the Canadiens finished their opportunities. The Bruins could have used some of that touch.