Canadiens can't finish off Bruins
Carey Price is human after all.
The Montreal Canadiens rookie goalie was far from his best Thursday night, as the Boston Bruins earned a 5-1 victory over the hometown Habs in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final, exploding for four goals in the third period to stave off elimination.
Montreal still leads the best-of-seven series 3-2. Game 6 goes Saturday in Boston (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 pm ET). Montreal has never lost a playoff series in which it led 3-1 and sports a 26-0 record in that situation.
Price, the 20-year-old goalie sensation who earned his first-career playoff shutout in Game 4, was completely off his game in Game 5, giving up five goals on 24 shots.
"Price had games like that during the season and he always bounces back, so I'm not saying we got inside his head," said Boston coach Claude Julien. "We gave away a lot of chances to shoot before but this time we got pucks to the net."
Price has shown maturity well beyond his years in the playoffs, limiting the Bruins to just five goals through the first four games of this series.
But Montreal fans saw no evidence of his steely poise on Thursday, as the Habs netminder, clearly rattled after Boston's fourth goal, made a rash error that led to the Bruins' second goal, was beaten through the pads on another, and gave up too many big rebounds.
Not that he was solely to blame for the loss, however.
Goals have alarmingly dried up for the Canadiens, who have only scored twice in their last two games after finding the net seven times in the first two contests of the series. The Bruins' defence did a masterful job of thwarting Montreal's forwards, controlling the tempo of the game and smothering the Habs in the neutral zone.
Meanwhile, Boston's five goals matched its output in the opening four games of the series
Prior to Thursday's loss, Montreal had beaten Boston six straight times this season on home ice.
Kovalev starts off scoring
Alexei Kovalev opened the scoring at 9:47 of the opening frame when he scooped up a loose puck in the slot on a broken play and beat Thomas with a backhander.
Boston came within inches of tying it up in the final seconds of the period on a weird play.
Price's poke check sent the puck off the shin of onrushing Bruins forward David Krejci and then it hit the post, and even though another Bruin was right on the doorstep, the puck managed to stay out of the net after Price recovered and batted the puck out of the air and out of danger.
The Bruins continued to press for an equalizer and tied the affair at 7:45 of the second while on the power play. Forward Phil Kesell, a healthy scratch for the last three games, collected his rebound that hit Price's blocker and then slipped the puck through the pads of the Habs goalie.
"When a player comes back from being out, you hope he makes an impact," said Julien. "I'm one of the first guys to challenge players to prove me wrong."
Kovalev came close to restoring Montreal's lead early in the third when he broke in on net off the wing, but the Habs forward shot wide.
Kovalev paid for his wastefulness when the Bruins grabbed the lead just minutes later on an error by Price. The rookie netminder collected the puck out of mid-air at the side of the net and then dropped it for teammate Maxim LaPierre in the slot, but Boston's Petteri Nokelainen cleverly stripped him of possession and Glen Metropolit banged the loose puck home at 3:31.
"It's a momentum changer," Price said. "When a team gets a break like that, they're going to come harder."
"It surprised me mostly," said Metropolit, who scored for the first time in 33 games. "I went in front, I heard the crowd moan and there it was.
"For the last three or four games we've competed hard. This time, we finally got some breaks."
Metropolit's goal opened the floodgates, and the tide turned in Boston's favour.
Boston padded its lead two minutes later on the power play as Zdeno Chara ripped a blistering slapshot from the point past a screened Price.
The Bruins put the game away with five minutes left in regulation while playing shorthanded, the Boston winger silencing the Montreal crowd with a wicked slap shot that breezed by Price.
Just to further compound the Habs' misery, Bruins forward Vladimir Sobotka added another goal at 17:48 with a weak shot from a bad angle that Price should have easily saved, but instead let slip through his glove and into the back of the net.
"We played very well in the first period and we could have had a bigger lead, but then we stopped skating," said Habs coach Guy Carbonneau.
"Maybe we thought it would be easy and that Carey would make all the saves .But then they got that goal and the gates opened up."
With files from Canadian Press