Habs struggle to control Bruins offence

Mike Zeisberger, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:47 PM ET

BOSTON - For more than 50 minutes, Zdeno Chara was forced to endure Montreal Canadiens pugilist Georges Laraque constantly yapping in his face.

In the end, Chara let his stick do the talking for him.

And it spoke volumes.

The towering 6-foot-8 captain of the Boston Bruins had the last laugh on this night, blasting home the winning goal with just 8:45 remaining in regulation to give the hosts a 4-2 victory over the visiting Montreal Canadiens at the TD Banknorth Garden.

Chara's missle allowed the heavily-favoured Bruins to take a 1-0 lead in this highly emotional best-of-seven eastern conference quarterfinal. Game 2 goes tomorrow night here in Boston.

After Chara's goal snapped a 2-2 tie, fireworks erupted when Phil Kessel sealed the deal with an empty net goal with 13.4 seconds left. Kessel was immediately mugged by Canadiens forward Maxim Lapierre, causing Milan Lucic to come to Kessel's aid.

The ill-will continued at the final horn when a melee broke out in the corner, the Canadiens obviously taking out their frustrations at the loss.

Laraque and Chara were up close and personal for much of the evening after Habs coach Bob Gainey inserted Laraque onto the second line alongside Alexei Kovalev and Saku Koivu on the second shift of the game. Gainey made the move in order to add some muscle to a Habs team that had been beaten up by the Bruins during a 5-4 Boston victory just seven days earlier.

Just a day after Laraque claimed he would like to duke it out with Bruins bruisers Chara and Lucic, the first period featured bone-crushing hits, great saves and three goals.

With the capacity crowd at the TD Banknorth Garden already in a frenzy, Lucic raised the noise level even higher when he smeared Habs defenceman Patrice Brisebois into the glass, much to the glee of the fans.

The Bruins opened the scoring at 13:11 of the first period when Habs goalie Carey Price lost sight of the puck, which was nestled against the front of his pads. David Krejci saw it and quickly poked it to Phil Kessel, who drilled it into the open net to give Boston a 1-0 lead.

Price briefly argued with the officials that he had the puck covered up, but that was certainly not the case.

Just 90 seconds later, Krejci upped the score to 2-0. Credit for the goal goes to Lucic, who outhustled Canadiens defenceman Josh Georges to the puck before his centring feed eventually found Krejci.

Montreal closed the gap to 2-1 at 16:19. Former Bruin Glen Metropolit set up the goal when he found Higgins all alone at the side of the net. Higgins made no mistake.

Just before the horn sounded, Laraque and Chara got into a shoving match, causing the crowd to wonder if it was a harbinger of things to come.

Having escaped the opening frame trailing by just one, the Canadiens must have felt as if they had escaped Boston's early onslaught relatively unscathed.

As a result, the Habs looked far more composed in the second period, carrying the play at times and taking the raucous Boston crowd out of the game in spurts.

The fans did get riled up midway through the period when Chara and Laraque began flapping their gums at each other again during a break in play. Once again, the only things exchanged were verbal barbs, not punches.

The Habs received a break late in the period when Stephane Yelle tumbled into Price, earning a goalie interference minor for his efforts. There were protests that Brisebois had shoved Yelle into the Montreal goalie, but those cries fell on deaf ears.

Just seconds after the power play expired, the Habs tied the game 2-2 at 17:37 on a blistering one-timer by Alexei Kovalev. Koivu and Georges drew assists on the play.

"We have to get back to the way we started the game," Lucic said in an interview during the second intermission. "We have to step on the gas pedal again."

Thanks to Chara, they did exactly that.


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