Michael Ryder scored twice and added an assist on Wednesday night, giving the Boston Bruins a playoff series sweep and bringing a resounding end to the centennial season of the Montreal Canadiens.
David Krejci added a goal and an assist, with Phil Kessel also scoring in the 4-1 victory. The Bruins won the Eastern Conference quarter-final series in four consecutive games and will likely have more than a week's rest as their second-round opponent is still being determined.
"I like the way, even after the game, we realize we have a lot more to do," said coach Claude Julien. "This was just a small part of the puzzle, and it's only going to get tougher, but the way our guys handled themselves and the focus they kept — it's not easy to sweep a series."
Andrei Kostitsyn gave hometown Montreal the lead just 39 seconds into Game 4, but Boston scored all of its goals within a 15-minute span over the first and second periods to quickly take the Bell Centre crowd out of the game.
Boston outscored Montreal 17-6 in the series and as a franchise beat the Canadiens for just the eighth time in 32 NHL post-season meetings. The Bruins previously swept the Canadiens only twice — in 1929 and 1992.
It was the first time a Canadiens team has been swept in the opening round of the playoffs since 1983.
"We got beat by a better team," said coach and general manager Bob Gainey. "Some nights we helped them, we helped them by beating ourselves and we did some of that tonight.
"The season has been disruptive in a lot of ways. We've had more things to deal with, some in our control and some not. We had more injuries, probably five or six times more man-games lost this year than we had a year ago."
Montreal's tumultuous centennial season, which began with a strong start in October, ended with a thud.
The next several weeks figure to be full of change for the franchise, a process that began on March 9 when Gainey took over behind the bench from Guy Carbonneau, and continued in recent weeks with talks of a possible sale of the franchise.
On the ice, longtime captain Saku Koivu is among a number of players who will be unrestricted free agents come July 1, a list that also includes Alexei Kovalev, Alex Tanguay, Mike Komisarek and Robert Lang.
There will also undoubtedly be much talk in the off-season among Montreal fans and the media about the enigmatic Price, who turns 22 in August.
Montreal won just seven of 28 games with Price in net (7-16-5) since the start of 2009. The cold stats will have to be tempered with the fact that among No. 1 goalies in the NHL, only Steve Mason of Columbus is younger.
The goalie finished with 26 saves in Game 4.
Some fans in the crowd got on Price after the Bruins widened their lead, but he was playing behind a beleaguered defence corps that was missing Andrei Markov, Schneider, Francis Bouillon and Patrice Brisebois.
Bruins not rattled by slow start
Montreal held the lead for just over 23 minutes combined in the series despite strong starts in three of the games.
In Game 3, the Canadiens outplayed the Bruins in the first period but were only tied at intermission.
Montreal arguably were even better to start Game 4 but came away trailing by one goal after 20 minutes.
Kostitsyn scored on Montreal's first shot of the net 39 seconds into the game, picking the top corner over the right glove of Thomas.
The Canadiens were continually pushing the puck up ice, but Boston forward Patrice Bergeron told Hockey Night in Canada the visitors weren't rattled by their slow start.
"We just tried to stay patient," said the native of Ancienne-Lorette, Que. "We know that in their building, they're tough to play against. The crowd is very loud. We just tried to stay composed and get our chances."
The Canadiens took a penalty with six minutes left and were able to kill it off, but not long after couldn't control a bouncing puck in their own end, with Ryder streaking into the slot to blast it on past Price on the short side at the 17:27 mark.
Gainey said the goal was emblematic of Montreal's problems in the series.
"We weren't in danger, we had three players around the puck, we found a way to lose it and fumble it and leave a wide open shot for a Boston player to nail it for the first goal from about 20 feet in front of the goalie," he said.
Nearly two minutes later, Ryder was part of a pretty 2-on-1 that had Price and his defenders moving fruitlessly. Krejci finished off the play, with Milan Lucic returning from his one-game suspension for stickwork to earn the second assist.
Montreal had Thomas flopping all over the place in the final seconds of the period, with Boston defenceman Zdeno Chara forced to block an Kovalev shot in front of an empty net.
Thomas was again solid but not outstanding in net, making one of his best saves early in the second on Komisarek.
"From a goaltender's perspective, my team made it easy," Thomas told HNIC. "We got so much offence throughout this series, there was a never a time period where I was like, 'Hey, I gotta bail us out here.'
"All I had to do was keep us close."
Komisarek could be disciplined
Price came up huge for the Habs, with a glove save on a Kessel breakaway in the middle period.
Kessel took a penalty, but it was killed off by his teammates, and he came out of the box and made no mistake on a second breakaway, taking a Bergeron pass and beating Price at 11:58 of the second.
"He does everything well now, and he's a game breaker, and he's always going to find a hole in the net or find a seam to make a play," Bergeron said of Kessel.
Replays indicated that Kessel may have been offside on the play, but Ryder struck again just 45 seconds later, the beneficiary of a Krejci cross-ice pass.
As in a one-sided Game 2 loss, Maxim Lapierre was one of the Canadiens still going strong to the net in the third period but was not rewarded.
Julien said he liked the fact his team went for the throttle even though they were up 3-0 in the series.
"It would have been easy to come in here tonight and just kind of play OK, but our guys did a great job. We were determined to not only win the game, but play it right and stay sharp because that's what it's going to take in the playoffs to move forward here."
Boston did squander nearly seven minutes of power-play time in the third, but it didn't matter. Ryder was denied a hat trick by a solid Price save.
Despite the elimination and the fact he may not be a member of the Canadiens next season, Komisarek could be in line for NHL discipline after a blatant cross check in the third period on Lucic.
Boston advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.