Bruins have Habs on the brink
Michael Ryder haunted his former club on Monday night, scoring the key goal to help put the Boston Bruins on the verge of a sweep of the Montreal Canadiens in their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series.
Phil Kessel, Shawn Thornton and Chuck Kobasew — into an empty net — also scored for Boston in the 4-2 victory. The Bruins can close out the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final series on Wednesday at Bell Centre (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET).
As in Game 2, Ryder scored a big goal in the waning moments of the second period. The Bonavista, N.L., native cashed in a rebound from defenceman Mark Stuart's shot.
Ryder endured a horrendous fourth season with the Canadiens in 2007-08, but as a Bruin this season scored 27 goals — more than any Montreal player.
"It's good to get the goal and just get the win, but being this is my former team it's always nice," a beaming Ryder told Hockey Night in Canada. "But we have another game to play."
Yannick Weber had a goal and an assist for Montreal, with Chris Higgins scoring his second goal of the series. Alex Tanguay and Mathieu Schneider missed the game with unspecified injuries, hampering a power play already missing star defenceman Andrei Markov.
The Canadiens are 0-for-6 on the power play in the series.
"Right now it feels we have to work real hard for our goals and they're being really effective. They're waiting for their chances and they're capitalizing on them," Montreal captain Saku Koivu said. "The things we're doing are just not enough right now."
Carey Price got the start in net for Montreal, after some speculation after Saturday's loss that Jaroslav Halak would be inserted.
Price is now winless in his last six playoff games but made 26 saves and arguably looked better than Boston counterpart Tim Thomas, who looked shaky on a few of his 23 stops.
Montreal flurried furiously right after the puck dropped to begin Game 3, but Thomas eventually froze the puck on Alex Kovalev's backhand attempt.
Price displayed early cool, stopping Chuck Kobasew in close on an early Boston power play.
The Canadiens grabbed their first lead thus far in the series when Higgins finished his line's rush up ice by firing a shot from the left side between Thomas's chest and arm.
The Bruins caught a break not long after when the whistle was blown just before a loose puck skidded across their goal line.
Boston was playing their worst period of the series, but the Bruins tied it up late in the first when Mike Komisarek's clearing attempt wasn't picked up by rookie Canadiens forward Gregory Stewart. The puck found its way to Bruins defenceman Dennis Wideman, who fired it at the night for Kessel to redirect past a helpless Price.
"It did [feel] like a punch to the midsection, but our players stepped back again in the second period and I thought really came back with the same idea — to move the puck towards their net and to spend a little more time around [their] goal crease area," Montreal coach Bob Gainey said.
The rivals exchanged goals early in the second.
Fourth-line grinder Shawn Thornton capitalized on his line's good work, converting from the slot on a pass from Byron Bitz at the 3:36 mark.
Bitz was making his NHL playoff debut, inserted into the lineup after Bruins forward Milan Lucic was suspended for Game 3 after his stick infraction in the previous game.
Glen Metropolit helped get that goal back for Montreal just 90 seconds later, winning a faceoff cleanly in Boston's end to set up Weber's point shot.
Price kept things tied with a strong stop on a Kessel rush midway through the second.
Puck takes bizarre bounce
Montreal went on the power play for the first time in the game late in the period, but it was the Bruins who enjoyed the stronger bid for a goal, from a David Krejci shot.
Boston centre Marc Savard, who had two goals in Game 2, nearly found the mark again. His shot hit the crossbar, with the puck bouncing off Price's back and then the post before it was covered up.
Wideman notched his second assist of the game on Ryder's goal with 2:39 left in the middle period, one that held up as the winner.
"I thought tonight, besides his goal he was solid and played a really good game for us," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "Good for him to showcase what he can do."
Kovalev drew a Bruins penalty for a second time in the period's final minute, but Montreal again fizzled on the power play.
Price kept his team's chances alive in the early seconds of the third after a turnover by Komisarek, getting a piece of a P.J. Axelsson blast.
Boston neutralized Montreal in the period, limiting the Habs to five shots on net. Maxim Lapierre, from a sharp angle, offered a late, desperate bid for the Canadiens.
"I just thought our team played extremely well in the third at protecting that lead, not necessarily sitting back but making strong plays and not giving them too much momentum, and it was nice to see us score that empty-netter at the end," Julien said.
Kobasew's second of the series came with 37 seconds left and Price on the Montreal bench.
Matt D'Agostini and Tomas Plekanec returned to Montreal's lineup after being scratched for the second game. Sergei Kostitsyn, who played in Game 2, was back on the sideline in favour of Stewart.
Montreal couldn't change the course of the series in their first game home and now face the possibility of seeing their centennial season end with a playoff defeat in four consecutive games.
"I hope in the bottom of my heart this team is going to be ready for Wednesday's game," Koivu said. "We battled through a lot of adversities throughout the season and we played really well in the last 10-15 games to make it, so as long as we have chance, you've got to believe."