Habs blank Bruins to stay alive
MONTREAL — The slump is over for Max Pacioretty.
The big left-winger had a goal and an assist in the second period and Carey Price made 26 saves as the Montreal Canadiens downed the Boston Bruins 4-0 to force a seventh game in their Eastern Conference semifinal series on Monday night.
The series is tied 3-3 going into Game 7 on Wednesday night in Boston.
Pacioretty, who had only one assist in the first five games, scored and set up Thomas Vanek’s goal in the second period. Lars Eller scored in the first for Montreal and Vanek added his second of the game into an empty net with 3:56 left in regulation time.
“I was just waiting for my time to pitch in offensively,” said Pacioretty. “Obviously you wanted it to happen more often in the playoffs, but it’s two do-or-die games where I’ve scored a goal so I feel confident that I’m helping the team.
“You want to feel you’re helping the team win and I think I did that tonight.”
Rookie Nathan Beaulieu, the Canadiens’ 2011 first-round draft pick who was given a surprise start by coach Michel Therrien, picked up an assist in his first NHL playoff game and was plus-2.
“I never played at a pace like that before,” the 21-year-old said. “It was incredible. It was good to get the first period under my belt and I felt I settled down after that.”
The Canadiens repeated the scenario of their 2011 first-round series against the Bruins, winning at home to force a Game 7. That year, they lost the decisive game in overtime.
Boston coach Claude Julien felt his team played well, but didn’t finish its chances.
“The second goal probably hurt us the most because we were spending a lot of time in their end and we had some great chances to tie the game, but that kind of turned the tide around,” said Julien. “I didn’t like the way they got their goals tonight.
“But we had more lines going than we’ve had this whole series. We spent a lot of time in the offensive zone, but if you hit posts and miss open nets. . . You’ve got to bury those chances. Tonight they came back to haunt us.”
Montreal busted out of the gate after a rousing pre-game show and the teams played at a ferocious pace through the first two periods.
Despite having the best of the play in the opening 20 minutes, the Canadiens needed a freak play for the only goal.
Kevan Miller lost the puck off his stick behind the Boston net and then inadvertently tripped goalie Tuukka Rask as he tried to smother it, leaving Eller free to score unassisted 2:11 into the game.
The second frame was marked by a remarkable 5:11 stretch without a whistle in which the Bruins bottled the Canadiens in their end for minutes at a time, only to see Milan Lucic botch their best scoring chance from the edge of the crease.
Soon after, Beaulieu flipped the puck up the centre of the ice and saw it go off Loui Eriksson to Pacioretty, who won a race with Zdeno Chara and beat Rask between the pads at 15:24.
Pacioretty kept a puck alive with his feet amid a crowd in front of Rask during a power play and saw the puck slide to Vanek for a shot into an open side at 17:39.
The Bruins came close at 11:05 of the third when a Chara shot went off Price and dropped behind him, but with Jarome Iginla digging in the crease David Desharnais was on his knees to stop the puck with his stick just as it had almost crossed the goal-line. The no-goal call stood up to video review.