Habs battle back

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:18 PM ET


 MONTREAL -- The Boston Bruins were disgusted by a number of things -- their own play included.

 The Montreal Canadiens were proud of most aspects and promised to fix the rest.

 As might be expected under such circumstances, it was the Canadiens who emerged victorious in what they had touted as their most important game of the season.

 But by virtue of their 3-2 win last night, they're back in their Eastern Conference quarter-final series, trailing the Bruins 2-1 with Game 4 in Montreal tomorrow night.

 The Bruins were upset with the Montreal fans, who booed relentlessly during the U.S. anthem.

 They were upset with Mike Ribeiro who, in the final minute and the Canadiens under pressure, fell on the ice and writhed about until play was stopped. Then he popped up and went to the bench, giving the Bruins a "come-on" gesture in the process.

 "It's embarrassing," Bruins defenceman Nick Boynton said. "The guy's rolling around on the ice. I thought he had swallowed his tongue. He's not much of a man if he's not embarrassed after doing that."

 As for the Bruins' performance, Boynton said, "There's nothing to talk about. It was a horrible game by us. "

 "I thought we played better in the third period," said Brian Rolston, whose goal narrowed the gap to 3-2. "But it was too little too late."

 From the other point of view, the Canadiens had much of which to be proud. The anthem booing aside, the fans were boisterous and loud and the Canadiens did a lot to earn further encouragement.

 They played a rugged, hitting, playoff-style game, not an easy thing to do for a team much smaller than its opponents.

 They took their first lead of the series with the game a little more than two minutes old, lost it four minutes later, then went to the fore to stay late in the period.

 In the second, it was an all-out blitz. Richard Zednik had a series of excellent chances. Michael Ryder had a bunch of others. And the rest of the Habs were swarming as they outshot the Bruins 14-6.

 But it was defenceman Andrei Markov who got the only goal. Once again, Zednik had been stoned by the brilliant Andrew Raycroft, but the rebound came out to Markov who, with the teams playing four on four, had some room.

 He also had a yawning net and he made no mistake.

 The earlier Montreal goals were scored by the much-maligned Alex Kovalev who, after an abysmal team-wide performance in Game 1, was moved to the top line. It was a desperation move for coach Claude Julien whose only other option was to scratch Kovalev, a move that, by definition would not increase Kovalev's production.

 Kovalev's play improved in Game 2, when Julien first made the move, and last night, it got even better.

 He scored the first after Saku Koivu slid the puck to him for an easy goal. But Kovalev's second goal was typical of him at his best. When Craig Rivet cleared the puck to the point in his own end, Kovalev chipped it past Hal Gill and snapped a wicked shot into the upper corner that gave Raycroft no chance.

 Rolston narrowed the gap to 3-2 in the third, thereby making the crowd nervous. But in their biggest game of the year, the Canadiens managed to hang on.


Videos

Photos