MONTREAL — The Bruins have a chance to close out their series Tuesday night in Montreal. The Canadiens will be trying to stave off elimination at the Bell Centre. It's the first time in this opening-round series that either side will be facing elimination, but it's an all-too-familiar scenario for both sides.
The Bruins had four chances to close out their series against Philadelphia last year and failed, falling in seven games after building a 3-0 series lead. Montreal, meanwhile, was 5-0 in elimination games in the first two rounds last year, rallying from a 3-1 hole against Washington and a 3-2 deficit against Pittsburgh to win both series and reach the Eastern Conference finals.
On Tuesday, with the Bruins looking to close out the series with a 3-2 lead, both teams will be applying lessons from those experiences to their Game 6 showdown at the Bell Centre.
"We're going to draw from the experience," Montreal defenseman Hal Gill said. "We know what this takes, we just have to execute. It's not about worrying about what has happened in the past or what will happen in the future. It's about being in the moment and taking care of business at this time."
Canadiens forward Michael Cammalleri agreed.
"Last year helps for sure," Cammalleri said. "Experience always helps. Being in the situation and understanding what you're capable of as a group for sure adds to the confidence."
The Bruins can't take any confidence from last year's collapse, but they do hope to apply some lessons learned the hard way from that experience.
"You learn from it, you definitely do learn from it," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. "And it's a lot easier to talk about it now than before."
And what did the Bruins learn from that devastating defeat to the Flyers?
"You don't want to relax just because you're in the position that you're in," Lucic said. "It almost felt like that a bit [last year], too. And after [the Flyers] won Game 4, then they win Game 5 and all of the sudden you start panicking. You don't execute like you did the first three games. You're seeing a little bit of it right now with Vancouver and Chicago. You give the other team a little bit of life and they start building momentum and start coming at you."
The Bruins aren't likely to get too relaxed this time around, but they also have to guard against taking things too far in the opposite direction.
"We have to control our emotions," Lucic said. "We can't be overexcited where the emotions are getting the better of us and we're gripping our sticks and can't make plays. That's obviously going to be a challenge for us and hopefully we can overcome that."
The Bruins are certainly aware of what Montreal did last year and understand what they're capable of doing now.
"It just goes to show that they're not going to quit," Lucic said. "There's still a lot of fight left in that team. They're a desperate hockey club. They're fighting for their lives and they're going to do whatever it takes to win. We're prepared for their best game [Tuesday night]. It's going to be a fun hockey game to be a part of."
The Bruins hope it will be more fun than last year's efforts to close out a series, but the Canadiens are drawing some inspiration from what the Flyers accomplished last spring.
"I think probably [it's an issue] more for them than for us," Cammalleri said. "Depending on how [Tuesday's] game goes, then hopefully that doubt creeps in their minds. But we know we're playing a very capable team and we're not counting on them not being good. We're counting on us being good."
Even with the Canadiens being the ones facing elimination, Gill sees the Bruins having the pressure on them.
"I've been on the other side where you're trying to close it out and those are the hardest games," Gill said. "We're looking at this as do or die and they're looking at it as you've got to try to finish it. It's hard to put someone down, so hopefully we can jump on them and play our game."
The Bruins aren't shying away from that pressure. They aren't looking at this as the first of two chances to close out the series. They want it end it as soon as possible and not have to worry about a short turnaround with a potential Game 7 scheduled less than 24 hours later back in Boston.
"I you were in our position, I'm sure you guys would want to avoid that, too," Lucic said. "Who wants to play back-to-back in the playoffs? That said, it's not going to be easy at all. The fourth one, no matter who you're playing, is always the toughest one to get."