Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara broke a tie midway through the third period with a power-play blast, helping lift his team to a 4-2 victory Thursday over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final.
David Krejci and Phil Kessel scored 90 seconds apart in the opening period to give the hometown Bruins a 2-0 lead, but Montreal controlled much of the action after that point.
Chris Higgins and Alex Kovalev brought the Canadiens back to even terms by the end of two periods, before Chara and Kessel — into an empty net — finished the scoring in the third.
"We came, we competed pretty good [but] we still have more to go," said Montreal coach Bob Gainey. "We'd like to get ahead of the them and not just get even with them, and if we're going to do that, we need to find another reserve to insert into the game in effort and work and controlling a little better some of the things that add up to spending more time in the offensive zone."
Goaltender Carey Price, who struggled for much of the second half of the regular season, gave no cause for alarm with his play in the opener. Price stopped 30 shots.
Game 2 of the series will take place in Boston on Saturday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 8 p.m. ET).
"We know we've won just one game and we have to focus for the next game and be really sharp," Chara told Hockey Night in Canada. "Obviously, they're going to come out really hard, and we just to have be ready for that."
Kessel finished with three points on the night, Krejci had an assist to go with this goal, and Milan Lucic drew two assists.
Boston coach Claude Julien couldn't help but praise the young trio.
"I thought Krejci had a solid game for us for tonight. Looch was good," said Julien. "Looch, in big games, he seems to really get up for those kind of games, and Phil again [was] on the spot. He's in the right place and he scores goals that way."
Tim Thomas finished with 27 saves in the Boston net.
Bruins seize momentum
Montreal killed off an early power play without much difficulty in the first and was doing a good job of clogging Boston's shooting lanes.
The Canadiens were doing a good job on a second penalty kill, but the Bruins established momentum to score just after the penalty lapsed.
Price could not completely cover the initial shot, with Krejci jarring it loose and over to Kessel, who put it into a half-empty net.
Gainey said it was the only play Price would likely want a do-over on.
"He provided us with really solid play at that position," said Gainey.
The Bruins quickly struck again. Lucic chased down a dump in behind Montreal's net and fed it out front. Former Canadien Michael Ryder found Krejci in the slot with a cross-crease pass for a 2-0 lead, and it appeared Montreal was in for a long night.
The Canadiens halved the lead after buzzing around the Boston zone to get Thomas moving around in his crease late in the period. Higgins finished the job at the side of the net with a high shot at the 16:17 mark.
After a bout of sustained pressure early in the second, the Canadiens got their first power play. Alex Tanguay had the jump on a diving Thomas, but his shot went just wide of the post.
Montreal had a three-on-one later in the frame, but Glen Metropolit could not get the puck by the Bruins goalie.
Price handled a pair of Chara shots from the point on a Boston power play to keep it a one-goal game.
Kovalev then stunned the crowd at TD Banknorth Garden when he one-timed a slapshot from the right faceoff circle over Thomas's shoulder for a tie game at 17:37 of the second.
The goal came just as a Boston penalty expired, so Montreal's official ledger for the game was 0-for-2 on the power play.
Habs hold initial edge in 3rd
Thomas was down early on a play to open the third, but he poke-checked the puck away from Matt D'Agostini.
Montreal had a huge territorial edge for the first half of the period, but Josh Gorges would take a cross-checking penalty that proved fatal.
Dennis Wideman almost scored, unleashing a shot off the crossbar and Price's back before it was covered by the Canadiens goalie.
Chara made it moot seconds later, though, with his powerful drive to the short side of the net, set up by a no-look pass from Marc Savard.
"Marc made a helluva play to get the puck back to me and I just stepped right into it," Chara said.
Price gave his team hope with a pad save on Mark Recchi and, on the same shift, by squeezing the pads on Patrice Bergeron's redirection. Kessel soon followed by hitting the crossbar.
Montreal had a chance of its own, but P.J. Axelsson blocked a Patrice Brisebois shot and limped off to the Boston bench as a result.
With Price pulled out of the net late in the game, Lucic gained control of the puck and opted to pass over to Kessel for the empty-netter.
Scrums ensued after the goal and the final whistle to help stoke the already heated rivalry.
"I'm not going to stand here and whine about that stuff, because that's what playoff hockey's all about," said Julien. "You stand tall for your team and you stand up for each other, and that's what they did and they were trying to send a message even in the last 15 seconds."
Boston won five of six regular-season meetings between the clubs this season.
The franchises are meeting for the 32nd time in the playoffs, the most of any two teams in the NHL. The Canadiens hold a 24-7 edge and have beaten the Bruins in the squads' last three post-season series.