MONTREAL — The Bruins managed just one goal in the first two games of their opening-round series against Montreal.
In Game 3 in Montreal, they had twice as many before the first intermission.
The Bruins added another early in the second for a three-goal lead, and then needed every bit of that cushion as they held off the Habs for a 4-2 victory. The win cuts Montreal's series lead to 2-1 and puts Boston right back in business. There's plenty of work left to be done, with the Bruins still needing three more wins out of the next four games, but at least they have a fighting chance now.
"I think we had a better start," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "And I'm not necessarily talking about the early goals. The early goals certainly helped, but we had a better start. The last two games in Boston we didn't have a good start and they scored early and we know how they play when they score early. They really get in that defensive shell and make you work hard to get back in the game. Maybe playing with a lead got them out of their comfort zone a little bit."
Getting out of Boston may have helped the Bruins find some comfort. Boston has been a better road team all season long, and that tendency showed again in this one as the Bruins took quickly to the challenge of playing before 21,273 hostile fans at the Bell Centre.
"We scored some early goals which helped our confidence," Julien said. "I thought our guys were ready to play tonight and weren't as tense as they were in the first two games at home. That really helped as well. It gave us more energy."
David Krejci opened the scoring at 3:11 of the first, just three seconds after a too many men on the ice penalty to the Bruins had expired. The deafening crowd noise helped cause the confusion on Boston's first line change that led to that penalty, but the Bell Centre lost a bit of its roar after that early goal.
It got quieter when Nathan Horton banked in a shot from below the goal line, off the back of Montreal goalie Carey Price and in at 14:38 of the first. A Price miscue on a clearing attempt led to Rich Peverley's eventual game-winner at 2:02 of the second.
"It was just a lucky break," Peverley said. "Price shot it and I think it hit Rex's [Mark Recchi] shin pad and hit my glove. I didn't even see it. It hit my glove and plopped right in front of me. It was pretty lucky. I kind of fanned on it too and it just sort of fluttered into the net, but I'll take it."
That was the kind of break that the Bruins never got in the first two games. Of course, they also weren't exactly deserving of a lot of breaks in those game. Monday's effort was a different story.
"It feels good, but you create your own breaks," Peverley said. "Montreal did it in the first two games. They worked hard and they created their own opportunities. I thought we had a good game tonight, but it's just one game."
And in many ways, it was just one good period. After jumping out to its early lead, Boston just barely hung on as the Canadiens dominated play for the final two periods. The Habs outshot Boston 28-16 in the final 40 minutes, and cut the lead to one before Chris Kelly iced it with an empty-netter with 25.6 seconds left.
But while the Canadiens may take some solace in their comeback attempt, Julien wasn't willing to concede anything about the victory.
"When they took the lead in our building they just sat back," Julien said. "We outshot them every game and out-chanced them and they seemed to get a lot of credit for winning those games. So I don't know that I'm going to stand here and take away credit from our hockey club for hanging in there and winning a hockey game. Our guys got the lead and we had to make saves at the right time and we scored some big goals when we needed to. Take it for what it's worth, it gets us back in the series."
It also gives the Bruins an idea of what they'll need to do again on Thursday in Game 4 to pull even in the series.
"We have to," Peverley said of playing the same way on Thursday. "We're still down in the series. [The Canadiens] still played a great game. You have to give them a lot of credit. But we're going forward here. They're still in the lead and we're still the underdog here, so going into the next game we still have to have that same mentality."
The Bruins aren't going to lose the sense of desperation that fueled their effort on Monday. But they can at least enjoy the next two days in Lake Placid, where they will practice before returning to Montreal, a little bit more.
"It's definitely going to help the bus ride," said goalie Tim Thomas, who made 34 saves for the victory. "That's going to be much more enjoyable and these two days off between games are going to be much more enjoyable. But we have to be ready to go back it Thursday and find a way to end up with the same result we ended up with tonight."