Canadiens start strong, grab 2-1 series lead against Bruins

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Though they split the first two games in Boston, the Montreal Canadiens blew two-goal leads in both Games 1 and 2 of this second-round series. That wasn’t the case on Tuesday, however, as they won 4-2 in Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead against the Boston Bruins.

That’s not to say that the B’s didn’t make things interesting, however.

A late charge comes up short

With about six minutes left in the second period, the Canadiens had a 3-0 lead after an unlikely Dale Weise breakaway goal. Patrice Bergeron gave the Bruins some hope heading into the third period with a beauty of a tip-in tally.

The Bruins didn’t truly make the Habs sweat until Claude Julien pulled the Patrick Roy Special in yanking Tuukka Rask at a pretty aggressive point in the third period. It paid off with a Jarome Iginla goal with 2:16 left in the game, but the Bruins were unable to score again. Lars Eller then iced the game with an empty-netter.

(Some might wonder why P.K. Subban didn’t get a delay of game penalty with 10 precious seconds remaining, though the officials would likely chalk it up to an accidental moment. Still, there might be some who grumble about that moment.)

Subban stars

Really, that late moment just cemented Subban’s big impact on the game. The sensational defenseman got an assist on this great play by Thomas Vanek:

Then he delivered a hit that hurt Vanek as much as anyone else:

… And scored a fantastic goal after the resulting penalty was killed:

Habs played well

The Bruins made a mad rush late in the game, but Montreal was explosive in the first period and strong for most of the game (especially before they started to sit on the lead a bit in the third).

With Subban, Vanek, Tomas Plekanec and other Canadiens really humming and certain Bruins struggling, the Habs have to feel good about their chances with a chance to take a 3-1 series lead if they win in Montreal in Game 4. Boston needs a better 60-minute game to avoid that perilous situation and tie it 2-2 instead.

Murray, Moen in for Habs; Bruins stick with Game 2 lineup

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While the Boston Bruins are primed to stick with the same lineup that won them Game 2, the Montreal Canadiens are making two minor tweaks to their mix for Game 3.

The Habs are moving Travis Moen in for Brandon Prust and are shifting veteran defensemen by replacing Francis Bouillon with Douglas Murray.

At least one indication is that Prust is injured:

Both Moen and Prust are rugged players, so the lineup impact is probably minimal.

The more interesting shift is that they added a lot of beef to their blueline. According to the Habs’ Web site, Murray is seven inches taller and 46 lbs. heavier than “The Bouillon Cube.” At 34 to Bouillon’s 38, Murray’s also a bit younger (though basically his equal as far as experience goes).

Some have criticized Murray for questionable hits and perhaps equally questionable mobility, but he certainly should be prepared if the physicality of this series ratchets up another level.

(Oh yeah, it also shapes up for a battle of Douglas [Murray] and Dougie [Hamilton], if you’re into jokes like that.)

WATCH LIVE: Boston Bruins at Montreal Canadiens (Game 3)

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When you look at the history between franchises, there’s an enormous gap between Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens and any other second-round series, even with regional rivalries taken into consideration.

For fans of bitterness and hostile hockey, the two historic teams haven’t disappointed through the first two games … and it’s difficult to imagine them becoming chums as a 2-1 series lead is on the line in Montreal for Game 3. The action airs on NBCSN and via the livestream link below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

There could be some noteworthy lineup changes right before things kick off, so stay tuned for updates at PHT.

Bruins coach downplays any controversy ahead of Game 3

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Hey, remember yesterday when we suggested the media was doing its best to stir up the maximum amount of controversy in the Bruins-Canadiens series?

If you missed it, it was in a post where we…um…kinda tried to stir up some controversy based on some remarks Montreal coach Michel Therrien made about the Bruins trying to influence the reffing.

Which in our defense, was a pretty darn controversial thing to suggest.

Still, Boston coach Claude Julien thinks all this controversy stuff is getting a bit overblown.

“We know that since the beginning of the playoffs, lots of things have been exaggerated to build an off-ice rivalry,” Julien said, per CSN New England.

And we’ll concede, maybe he has a point.

Game 3 of the series goes tonight in Montreal, where it should be noted that controversial things have happened before…

So if something controversial happens tonight — like, say, that cheap-shot artist Milan Lucic sticks a guy in the groin again, or that serial flopper PK Subban takes another dive  — be sure to visit PHT.

Not that we’d ever intentionally try to stir things up.

Get your game notes: Bruins at Canadiens

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Montreal Canadiens hosting the Boston Bruins starting at 7 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• Tonight, the Canadiens will host the Bruins in a playoff game for the 88th time. The Habs hold a 64-23 edge on home ice, but have taken only eight of 15 games vs. Boston since moving into the Bell Centre in 1996. The Bruins have won four of five postseason games in Montreal since 2009.

• With the N.Y. Rangers’ loss in Game 3 vs. Pittsburgh, the Canadiens enter tonight’s game as the only team this postseason not to have trailed in games in any series. In fact, the Habs have only trailed within a game on four occasions this postseason. (See table.) They hadn’t trailed by more than one goal at any point until Milan Lucic scored an empty-netter to give the Bruins a 5-3 lead with 1:06 left in Game 2.

• The Bruins came back from two-goal deficits in each of the first two games this series (2-0 in Game 1 and 3-1 in Game 2). In this postseason of two-goal comebacks (18, of which 11 resulted in wins), the Bruins became the only team to do so in consecutive games.

• Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara logged a game-high 26:59 time on ice, assisted on the game-winning goal by Reilly Smith and was on the ice for all five Boston goals (and two Montreal power-play goals). His +5 rating matched a career high, accomplished twice in the regular season with Ottawa (Jan. 24, 2004 vs. NYR; Feb. 28, 2004 vs. BUF).

• In Game 2, the Bruins exploded for four goals in the final 9:04 to rebound from a 3-1 deficit to post their first-ever regulation victory in a postseason game when trailing by two goals in the final 10 minutes. Elias Sports Bureau The first three goals came with Canadiens goaltender Carey Price in net. Price has arguably been the Canadiens’ best player through two games, but the third period has not been a charm.

• Canadiens winger Thomas Vanek rebounded from his zero point-zero shots on goal performance in Game 1 to score two power-play goals in Game 2. In 60 career regular-season and playoff games vs. Boston, Vanek has 34 goals, 33 assists and 67 points, with Buffalo (31-29–60 in 53 games), the N.Y. Islanders (1-3–4 in 3 games) and Montreal (2-1–3 in 4 games).

• The Bruins’ second line of Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Reilly Smith led the way for Boston in the first two games of the series, combining for nine points (three goals, six assists) on 18 shots on goal. During that span, the B’s first line of Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jarome Iginla combined for only three points (one empty-net goal, two assists) on 15 shots.