Habs come up small in Boston

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:55 PM ET


 BOSTON -- Perhaps the Montreal Canadiens did something right last night.

 If so, it was away from the play.

 The Boston Bruins, on the other hand, produced an excellent playoff game and as a result, came away with a well deserved 3-0 victory in the opener of the Eastern Conference quarter-final.

 "They really took it to us," Montreal defenceman Sheldon Souray said. "We, putting it plain and simple, did not show up. We just didn't have it. We have to get better than that."

 After that, everything else is elaboration. Souray had it in a nutshell right there.

 If the Canadiens are to have a chance in this series, they have to prevent the big Boston forwards from parking themselves in front of the net.

 Since the Bruins have a significant size advantage, the best way for the Canadiens to do that is to get the puck out of their zone in a hurry -- at first touch

 And it would also help if they didn't take any stupid penalties.

 The Canadiens failed on both counts. The Bruins took an early lead -- the last thing the Canadiens wanted -- when Sergei Gonchar scored at 5:12 with Alex Kovalev in the box.

 Then, 59 seconds before the period ended, Michael Nylander's beautiful deflection following a Montreal turnover made it 2-0.

 The Canadiens showed occasional signs of life in the second period and looked as if they might make a game of it if they could get the next goal. But as the period wound down, Stephane Quintal took a self-indulgent roughing penalty and Mike Knuble scored on the ensuing power play.

 At no point did the Canadiens seriously look as if they were any match for the Bruins.

 "We established a pretty good forecheck right off," said Boston forward Sergei Samsonov, who had a couple of assists, "and they took a couple of penalties and that changed the momentum."

 Not that there was a lot of momentum to be changed.

 By the end of the evening, the Canadiens were still looking for momentum and Boston rookie goaltender Andrew Raycroft had a shutout.

 "He was outstanding," teammate Martin Lapointe said. "He is so calm and when you see a goalie who is so calm, it rubs off on the rest of us."

 Raycroft didn't feel calm.

 "I wanted to get a little work early and get the butterflies out," he said. "I think that everyone, whether you're a veteran or a rookie, gets butterflies before a game like this."

 The ice was awful, which was a surprise to no one, since no fewer than six teams practiced on it during the day.

 The Bruins and Canadiens were on in the morning, then the top four college teams in the United States, here for the NCAA finals, turn their turns chewing it up.

 Do you think the NFL would let six teams practice on a field before an evening playoff game? There are, after all, other rinks in Boston. The Bruins themselves have a practice facility that the college teams could have used.

 "We can't use that as an excuse," Souray said. "They're a good team. Give them credit. They caught us not really ready at the start of the game and they took it to us."

 That was certainly true. The first period shots on goal reflected the situation -- 23-9 for the Bruins. The score was a good reflection as well -- 2-0 for Boston.

 For the New Jersey Devils, 23 shots represents a sloppy overtime game. Even for the Canadiens, it's in the range of a three-period total.

 But to give up 23 shots in one period? They're lucky they weren't embarrassed a lot more than they were.


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