Canadiens flatten Bruins in playoff opener
No less than four Montreal Canadiens impressed in their first taste of Stanley Cup playoff action on Thursday night.
Tom Kostopoulos had one goal and one assist as the Montreal Canadiens cruised to a convincing 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final at the Bell Centre on Thursday night.
Rookie Sergei Kostitsyn, Andrei Kostitsyn and Bryan Smolinski rounded out the scoring for the Canadiens, who secured the No. 1 ranking in the conference with 104 points.
Rookie Carey Price was rarely tested, turning aside 17 of 18 shots.
Price, Kostopoulos and the Kostitsyns were making their post-season debuts.
"It was really loud out there, as usual," Price said. "You could hardly hear yourself think and almost don't have enough time to be nervous."
Price, in particular, entered the playoffs on a hot streak, allowing just 15 goals in winning his final seven regular-season starts.
"It was a really good start," he said. "We brought a lot of energy."
Although Canadiens captain Saku Koivu remained sidelined with a broken left foot, defenceman Mike Komisarek returned to the lineup and earned an assist on Smolinski's goal.
Komisarek, the team leader in hits and blocked shots, missed the previous seven games because of an injured hip.
"It felt good," he said. "I felt better as the game went on."
Tim Thomas faced 32 shots in his playoff debut, while Shane Hnidy tallied the only goal for the eighth-seeded Bruins, who failed to establish the physical presence that helped propel them into the playoffs.
"The players decided that they were not going to be run out," Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau said. "We always have to expect the best from the other team, expect to get hit and not be frustrated by it."
"Their physicality was a testament to how badly they wanted to win the game," Bruins head coach Claude Julien said.
Montreal has dominated the Original Six rivalry this season, winning all eight regular-season meetings by a combined score of 39-16.
The Canadiens have been the better team in the post-season too, taking 23 of 30 series from Boston, including the last two in 2002 and 2004.
"It is not disrespecting to them, but we have played really well against them all year," Carbonneau said. "The guys came in nervous — anxious to start — but with a lot of confidence."
Kostitsyn siblings strike
The Kostitsyns staked Montreal to a 2-0 lead in a span of 1:28 in the first period, becoming the third-fastest siblings to score goals in NHL playoff history.
Bill and Bun Cook of the New York Rangers scored in a record 27 seconds on March 26, 1933, while Peter and Frank Mahovlich tallied 58 seconds apart for the Canadiens on April 29, 1973.
"We could not have asked for a better start than the one we got — two quick goals," Canadiens forward Christopher Higgins said.
Thomas kicked out a slapshot from Patrice Brisebois, which banked off the skate of Bruins defenceman Aaron Ward, but Sergei Kostitsyn whacked in the rebound for his first-ever playoff goal just 34 seconds into the contest.
Andrei Kostitsyn, Sergei's older brother, scored from the slot to make it 2-0, converting Tomas Plekanec's slick pass from the side boards at the 2:02 mark.
"We knew they were going to come out like that," Thomas said. "We expected the crowd [of 21,273] to be crazy — this is Montreal.
"We thought we were ready for it. But we weren't."
"The fans were already into it," Higgins said. "But they got way more into it after that."
Boston replied six minutes later, with Hnidy tipping Andrew Ference's point shot between Price's pads.
Smolinski, who broke into the NHL with Boston in 1992-93, put Montreal ahead 3-1 as he reached for a rebound and backhanded it behind Thomas, who was pushed by Kostopoulos after stopping the initial slapshot from Mike Komisarek 5:16 into the second period.
On Montreal's final tally, Maxim Lapierre sped behind the Bruins net and flicked the puck into the slot for Kostopoulos, who beat Thomas with a rising shot 7:24 into the third period.
"I do not think we played well, that was the bottom line," Julien said.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series goes Saturday (CBC, 7 p.m. ET).
With files from the Canadian Press