2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs Blog - Conference Quarter-finals
The video montage prior to Montreal Canadiens games at the Bell Centre this season always begin with a quote flashed on the scoreboard monitor.
They are normally inspirational little messages delivered by the likes of Vince Lombardi or Scotty Bowman, something to make the crowd understand their role in helping their beloved Canadiens to victory.
“Faith consists in believing when it is beyond reason to believe,” the screen read, essentially telling the fans it may be unreasonable to expect the Canadiens to win the series.
That was followed by a shot of a Canadiens logo beating like a heart then slowly fading to black.
When you combine those two images with the sellout Bell Centre crowd of 21,273 all waving white flags, it would have been easy to think Game 3 was over before it even began.
But the Habs, much like Voltaire suggests, did believe in their chances when they came out for the first period, even with the news that neither Alex Tanguay nor Mathieu Schneider would be playing fresh in their minds.
Everything they had
Montreal gave everything it had in the opening 20 minutes, out-shooting Boston 10-6, out-hitting the Bruins 21-7 and winning 65 per cent of the faceoffs.
But Phil Kessel – who was a healthy scratch for three games last year when these same two teams met in the first round – scored his third goal of the series with 1:25 remaining, and the Bruins went into the first intermission tied 1-1 despite being thoroughly outplayed by their opponents.
“Good teams get bounces,” said Habs captain Saku Koivu. “Their first goal was a fluky one, but they all count. I thought we deserved to have the lead after the first period but that wasn’t the case.”
And that, for all intents and purposes, extinguished any chance the Canadiens had to climb back into this series. Montreal needed to build at least a two-goal lead with the first period it had, but not being rewarded for that hard work had a natural deflating effect on the team.
“[Montreal] came out the way we knew they would,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien.
“You’ve got to give them credit, they came out hard and pressured us more than they have in the past. It took us a while to adjust, but what I liked was that we weathered the storm, we didn’t really panic and eventually we got better as the game went on.”
The Bruins went ahead 2-1 early in the second period, but rookie Yannick Weber scored less than two minutes later to tie it back up on a goal that should’ve given the Canadiens an extra boost.
Instead, the opposite happened. The Bruins out-shot Montreal 20-4 over the next 25 minutes of play.
Boston grabbed a 3-2 lead on a goal by former Hab Michael Ryder at 17:21 of the second, and the team wouldn’t relinquish it.
“We kind of played into their hands,” said Canadiens winger Christopher Higgins, who opened the scoring with his second of the series. “Their neutral zone fore-check was too good for us to put any consistent pressure on them after the first.
“It was just frustrating. When we wanted to push the hardest, they played their best defensively.”
Montreal is now down 3-0 in the series and faces the prospect of trying to become only the third team in NHL history to erase such a huge deficit.
Afterwards, captain Koivu was asked how his team could prevent the idea of this series already being over from creeping into their heads.
He paused for a long time after hearing the question, either because he wanted to think about his answer or simply because he didn’t know what to say.
“You can’t quit at this point,” he finally said. “I think it’s up to every individual to prepare themselves for the battle on Wednesday. We understand the odds are against us, but the only thing that can be on our minds is that we have to win one game at home and go from there.”
The Bruins also have a challenge: maintaining their intensity in the face of what looks to be a done deal.
But Julien insists that will not be an issue in Game 4 on Wednesday night.
“This game is already put aside,” he said. “Our heads are into the next game already because that’s the way we’ve been all year.”
Glimmer of hope
Canadiens head coach and general manager Bob Gainey was asked whether Tanguay or Schneider might be available for Game 4, and he answered that those two may not be the only ones making a return.
“We have a number of players [injured] and all of them are on their skates now,” he said. “We understand what the game Wednesday represents, so we’ll be re-evaluating everybody.”
This means Andrei Markov and centre Robert Lang could return along with Tanguay and Schneider, since they too are skating now.
If all four make a bid to play in Game 4 and beyond, this could become a very different series quite quickly.
But even Voltaire would have trouble believing the Habs have any chance to get back in this thing, no matter who steps out onto the ice.
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