Habs in big hole

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:02 PM ET

 BOSTON -- On the basis of their play, the Montreal Canadiens deserved a better fate.

 But there are no door prizes for effort in a playoff game.

  You either win or you lose.

 The Boston Bruins won.

 The Canadiens lost.

 So now the Bruins hold a commanding 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference quarter-final.

 Patrice Bergeron, an 18-year-old Canadiens' hater from way back, was the hero, giving the Bruins a 2-1 victory 1:36 into overtime on a shot Habs goaltender Jose Theodore probably should have stopped.

 It was a fairly innocent-looking rush, as Mikael Nylander slid the puck to Bergeron just over the Canadiens' blue line with Montreal defenceman Francis Bouillon in good position.

 "I was one-on-one with Bouillon and I knew I didn't have enough speed to go around him," Bergeron said. "I just tried to use him as a screen and get the puck on net."

 Theodore got a piece of it, but not enough.

 "I lost it for a second," Theodore said. "He shot it and it hit the bottom of my glove and trickled by."

 Bergeron is from Quebec City and, as an old Nordiques fan, never has liked the Canadiens. But the other Boston star of the game was goaltender Andrew Raycroft, who grew up a Canadiens fan in Belleville.

 But when it came to last night's winning play, he and Bergeron were of the same mind.

 "I was thinking, 'Get to the middle and put it on the net.' He must have listened to me," Raycroft said. "He's a great player. He's a 30-year-old in an 18-year-old body."

 There was no laughter in the Montreal room. The Canadiens knew they had played an excellent game -- perhaps as well as they can play. Yet they still had not come out on top.

 After being virtually chased out of the rink in the first period on Wednesday, they started off as aggressors this time, initiating a number of hits and taking the play to the Bruins.

 And they didn't just start quickly then let the effort fizzle. They kept it up all game.

 A measure of their resurgence was the fact that by the 3:15 mark on Wednesday they had allowed seven shots. At the end of two periods last night they had allowed nine.

 Boston took the lead when the Canadiens, despite a much-improved defensive effort, made a major mistake and paid the price. Defenceman Sheldon Souray got trapped outside his blue line to give the Bruins a two-on-one break.

 A perfect pass from Bergeron set up Nylander, who made no mistake.

 But in the second period, the Canadiens started to take over the game, allowing Boston only two shots and tying the score.

 They needed a two-man advantage to do it, but for a team that was in such desperate need of a goal, the means were not important, only the end.

 Patrice Brisebois took a pass from Alexei Kovalev, waited a split second for Raycroft to drop, then fired a shot into the upper corner.

 Habs captain Saku Koivu admitted the loss was hard to take.

 "It's frustrating," he said.

 TOUGH TO LOSE

 "It's the way playoff games are played. Emotions are high. But the bottom line for us is that we lost. It's a tough way to lose. It's tough to lose in overtime, and especially the way we played."

 The Bruins did have some misfortune of their own when they lost Ted Donato for four weeks with a broken foot.

 But other than that, it was a good night for them, and even though the Canadiens tried to put a brave face on it, they know they can't change reality.

 If they don't win four of the next five, they are toast.


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