BOSTON - The curse of the two-goal lead in these playoffs claimed the Montreal Canadiens Saturday afternoon.
The Boston Bruins struck for three goals in a span of five minutes and 32 seconds in the third period to overcome a 3-1 Canadiens lead and snatch a 5-3 win in Game 2 of their Atlantic Division final at TD Garden, sending the series back to Montreal for Games 3 and 4 tied 1-1.
With Canadiens goaltender Carey Price looking invincible and Montreal scorer Thomas Vanek coming to life with a pair of power-play goals, the Bruins were looking dead in the Charles River. But they roared back with goals by Dougie Hamilton at 10:56, Patrice Bergeron at 14:17 and Reilly Smith with the winner at 16:28.
It was tough to fault Price, who was beaten by Hamilton on a screen, Bergeron on a deflection off Montreal defenceman Francis Bouillon and Smith, who had a wide-open look.
The loss was the Canadiens’ first in these playoffs after sweeping the Tampa Bay Lightning in the opening round and winning Game 1 4-3 in overtime.
The Canadiens looked ready to take control of the series for the first 50 minutes of the game.
Vanek called himself out after a weak performance in Game 1. The Canadiens winger had been skipped over for some shifts by Habs coach Michel Therrien and dropped to the fourth line for some others.
Was it a matter of being hurt?
“No. It’s just a matter of not being good,” he said frankly. “It’s as simple as that. Sometimes you overthink the game and when you overthink it you don’t play as well. We just need to realize the three of us are good hockey players and start making plays again.”
The Canadiens got their third power-play goal of the series late in the second period Saturday on a rare 4-on-3 advantage when Vanek found a moment of solitary peace in front of the net and tipped a shot from Subban by Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, who got his first win against the Habs here and is now 1-9.
Price, meanwhile, continued his magnificent goaltending. The most impressive thing has been his best saves have not been out of desperation, but a result of superior technique. He’s been reading the play and his lateral movement has been explosive.
Saturday afternoon, for example, Boston’s Loui Eriksson found himself alone in the slot about 40 feet out and moved diagonally down and across the slot, hoping to improve his shooting angle and find some room by the right post. But Price tracked across the net with him, the angle never materialized and Eriksson wound up launching a shot that the Montreal goaltender turned aside with his blocker.
You could just imagine the whirring of some well-oiled and expensive piece of machinery as Price tracked across his crease.
He made a save on Boston winger Milan Lucic with about five minutes to go in the second period moving to his left this time, stretching across the net to get his left pad on Lucic’s shot. That came just seconds after a goal by Lucic had been disallowed because the winger directed the puck into the net with the palm of his left glove.
Price neutralized a bunch of other potentially dangerous scoring attempts by making himself big. He swallowed up a redirect by Boston’s Jordan Caron in the slot five minutes into the game.
The Bruins opened the scoring at 13:02 of the first after a turnover in the neutral zone by captain Brian Gionta, which concluded with Boston’s Daniel Paille firing a shot from the slot over Price’s glove hand.
Montreal’s Mike Weaver tied it 69 seconds into the second period after the Bruins own neutral zone turnover, this by forward Brad Marchand, when Weaver’s shot through traffic beat Rask.