MONTREAL — It’s fitting that a series that had a controversy over the squirting of a water bottle would end up being completely draining.
Call it fate or a term more familiar to the folks here, a fait accompli, but there was no way this Eastern Conference playoff series between the Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens wasn’t going to Game 7. Animosity and destiny forged the inevitable.
The final act of this pucks passion play will play out on Wednesday night at TD Garden. The hatred, the heroics, and the histrionics will be tossed in a martini shaker and poured out onto the ice in a winner-take-all final skate.
The Bruins and their fans were no doubt hoping to avoid such a dramatic development by winning Game 6 in Montreal. Not even close.
The Canadiens squeezed another game out of the series with a 4-0 victory Monday night at the Bell Centre and poured cold water on the notion that the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Bruins would escape without being taken to edge of elimination.
A second-round exit at the hands of the hated Habs would be completely unbearable for the Bruins. It would be another gut punch from a franchise that has delivered too many of them to the Black and Gold over the years.
The pucks fatalists knew it was not to be for the Spoked-Bs when the Canadiens scored their first goal in a numinous fashion that evoked the ghosts of the Forum, just 2 minutes and 11 seconds in.
Torey Krug, under duress from Montreal’s Brian Gionta, tried to reverse his position and backhand a pass off the boards to defense partner Kevan Miller. The puck took a bizarre bounce, Miller couldn’t corral it, and it slid out front for Montreal as if it had been delivered via UPS. Lars Eller scooped it up and put a backhander past Tuukka Rask.
It was one of those quintessentially Montreal moments that felt like an omen. It was. It was reminiscent of the parquet floor at the old Boston Garden, which always seemed to meet an opponent’s dribble with a dead spot at an opportune time.
“It was along the boards. It took a bad bounce. I kind of hand-cuffed myself and one in a million it ends up on the guy’s stick out in front,” said Miller. “That was unfortunate. I’ve got to be better. Definitely frustrating because I thought we had moved the puck a little bit, felt pretty good, felt ready to go, and then just a bad play.”
But the Bruins shook off that bit of misfortune and were actually controlling the play in the second period.
They generated a five-on-five power play, pinning the puck in the Montreal end for a two-minute-plus stretch that seemed a lot longer. Boston was in the Montreal zone so long it should have had to pay property taxes.
So, it was completely deflating to see the sequence of opportunities end with a Canadiens goal.
Montreal goalie Carey Price (26 saves) stopped Patrice Bergeron at the right post. Newly-inserted defenseman Nathan Beaulieu got the puck and sent a saucer pass down the ice.
Max Pacioretty beat Zdeno Chara to Nouveau Nate’s pass and flicked the rolling puck through the five-hole of Rask at 15:24 of the second. It was the first goal of the series for Pacioretty.
The wheels then came off for the Black and Gold. Gregory Campbell was whistled for high-sticking at 17:13. Just 26 seconds later it was 3-0. Bruin-killer Thomas Vanek, unmarked, did the honors.
The Bruins were buried under an avalanche of Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge desperation.
The Bruins’ best game washed the Canadiens out of the rink in Game 5. In Game 6, it was the Canadiens who poured it on.
This game is gone. It was never really within the Bruins’ grasp.
But tough losses have curfews. They have to be in the past and out of the back of your mind by a certain time. Let them linger, bouncing around your head like a group of bar-hopping buddies, and there is the possibility they’ll linger long enough to get you in real trouble.
In the Bruins’ case, that would be a premature exit from the chase for Lord Stanley’s chalice.
Miller said the Bruins would let the loss go by midnight. Some of his teammates seemed to have moved on even sooner.
“We can talk about their game, our game, let’s put everything in the past and just focus on Game 7,” said center David Krejci, who was an early bird on the ice in the morning skate in an attempt to break out of his slump.
Krejci played better in this one and was in the middle of several scoring chances, but he still remains a Blank Czech in these playoffs — zero goals in 11 games. He has just one point in the series.
If anyone wants to forget the past, it’s Krejci. All will be forgiven if Krejci returns to his normal playoff form in Game 7.
But Wednesday is going to be a nervous night for the Spoked-Believers. History has a way of repeating itself in this rivalry.
It was during the infamous 1971 upset of the Big, Bad Bruins that Canadiens forward Frank Mahovlich said, “With the Canadiens, pride is instilled even in the ratholes of the Forum.”
The edifice has changed for the Canadiens, but the sentiment has not.
“We knew they were a tough team,” said Bergeron. “They have a lot of character, and so do we. It’s about Game 7 now.”
It was always going to be about Game 7.
These two proud hockey houses would not have accepted anything less.Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.