MONTREAL — This was, at its best, edge-of-the-seat, no-time-to-breathe, heart-rate-high hockey.
At one point in the middle of the second period, with the Bruins trailing the Canadiens, 1-0, the teams went 5 minutes and 11 seconds without a whistle, a stretch full of zone time for the Bruins, full of passes, but not of shots.
They had hemmed the Canadiens in. They hadn’t made it count.
As Milan Lucic said, “We capitalize on a chance there, it’s a different game.”
But they didn’t then, nor did they throughout a game in which the Canadiens played exactly the desperate hockey the Bruins had expected from them. It started immediately, moments after Ginette Reno and the full house at the Bell Centre finished their rousing rendition of “O Canada.”
And by the end of the second period, the Bruins were down, 3-0. The heart rate had slowed. The resignation set in. The thoughts turned to Game 7, set for Wednesday night at 7 at TD Garden.
It was the second time in four postseasons that the Bruins weren’t able to close out a series with the Canadiens in Game 6 in the Bell Centre, losing, 4-0, Monday night. Just like in 2011 — on their way to the Stanley Cup that year — the Bruins will have to return to Boston this time with a trip to the Eastern Conference finals in doubt.
Though, at least for Claude Julien, there appears to be no doubt.
“I expect us to win,” the coach said.
The performance of his team, though, might not have inspired such confidence. The Bruins looked slow at times, and sloppy, and yet again weren’t able to take advantage of the chances they did create. But that, they said, didn’t matter going into Game 7. That was done, out of their minds, swept away.
“Can’t dwell on anything going into a Game 7,” Lucic said. “For guys that have been around here for a couple years, this is the ninth one since 2008, so it’s all we’re looking forward to right now. We’re putting everything else behind us. We know one game, winner moves on.
“You hope that [the experience helps]. You know it’s not going to be easy. You fought all season long to get the home-ice advantage in situations like this. You’ve got to go out there and get it.”
That was, in the end, exactly what the Canadiens did Monday night.
“Definitely they capitalized on their chances and we didn’t,” center Patrice Bergeron said. “We had a lot of chances to get back in the game, but yeah, we didn’t match their desperation and, in a game like that, it’s going to hurt you.”
That was most notable in that second-period flurry for the Bruins, in which Lucic couldn’t connect on a spectacular chance with plenty of space in front of him from the left side with Carey Price protecting the right post at 8:22. But Lucic shot it into Price, not the back of the net.
“Bouncing puck, overshoot it,” Lucic said. “It’s just one of those plays that you get nine out of 10 times. Today was that one that you didn’t get. You get the same opportunity next game, you’ve got to make sure you bury it.”
The closest the Bruins came to scoring was at 11:05 of the third, when the puck appeared to roll halfway over the goal line on its side after a shot by Zdeno Chara before David Desharnais brought it back with his hand. The puck hadn’t completely crossed the line.
Clearly, it wasn’t to be for the Bruins.
Perhaps that should have been evident on the first goal of the game, the eventual game-winner, which came at 2:11 of the first period. The puck bounced away from Kevan Miller at the endboards to the front of the net. Tuukka Rask sprawled to get at it and, with the goaltender down and out, Lars Eller backhanded it past him and his outstretched stick.
“It was a tough play,” Miller said. “I’ve got to make a better play than that. I kind of handcuffed myself, it bounced out in front. It was unfortunate.”
The goal was especially notable because, in the first five games of the series, the team that scored first had won each of those games. In fact, in the second round, NHL playoff teams scoring first had gone 19-1 overall, entering Monday.
And then, after the Bruins were unable to come through in the second, the Canadiens turned it on with two goals in 2:15 at the end of the period, starting with a stretch pass from Nathan Beaulieu — Douglas Murray’s replacement — to Max Pacioretty. It left the Montreal forward with only Rask ahead of him and Chara beside him, and neither Bruin played it well, with Pacioretty scoring five hole.
“It was kind of a race,” Rask said. “Me and Z kind of got caught looking at each other there, I guess. I didn’t do anything and Z didn’t do anything, so I kind of gave him that lane there.”
Montreal went up three at 17:39 of the second, with Thomas Vanek cleaning up on a scrum in front of Rask on the power play, after a high sticking call on Gregory Campbell. Vanek added another goal at 16:04 as Rask was heading off the ice to gain the extra skater.
So that means the teams head back to Boston. It means more words added to the tale of a storied rivalry. It means one more game to decide the team that goes on to the Eastern Conference finals and, perhaps, gets a chance to play for yet another Stanley Cup.
“We knew they were a tough team, they have a lot of character,” Bergeron said. “So do we. It’s about Game 7 now.”
Game 6 a tough road for Bruins
|The Bruins have now lost five straight Game 6s in which they had a chance to close out a playoff series. They are 1-5 in such contests under Claude Julien.|
|Series||Game 6 result||Series result|
|2010 East quarterfinals||W||4-3, vs. Sabres;||Clinched series|
|2010 East semifinals||L||2-1, at Flyers;||Lost Game 7|
|2011 East quarterfinals||L||2-1, at Canadiens;||Won Game 7|
|2011 East finals||L||5-4, at Lightning;||Won Game 7|
|2013 East quarterfinals||L||2-1, at Maple Leafs;||Won Game 7|
|2014 East semifinals||L||4-0, at Canadiens;||TBD|