Bruins Need More From Top Line To Avoid Elimination By Habs In Game 7

David KrejciThe Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens are headed for another dramatic Game 7 climax.

The Canadiens were facing elimination Monday night in Montreal and responded with one of their best performances of the season in a 4-0 victory, sending this second-round Stanley Cup playoff series back to Boston, where the winner will earn a spot in the Eastern Conference finals.

There were many disappointing aspects of Boston’s Game 6 loss, chief among them being the poor performance of the top line. The trio of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla once again was ineffective, totaling 11 shots, six missed shots, zero points and 14 penalty minutes.

Krejci’s play has been both disappointing and surprising for the Bruins. The 28-year-old center led the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs in scoring and has built a reputation as a clutch postseason performer, but he has struggled to generate offense through 11 games this year, tallying just three points without a goal. Krejci’s assist in Game 2 is his only point of this series.

One of the puzzling issues in Krejci’s game is his lack of aggressiveness. He’s entering the attacking zone and the Canadiens defensemen are backing off him because they know he’s looking to pass first. Krejci has registered just eight shots in the last five games combined — way too few for someone with his goal-scoring ability.

Lucic and Iginla have combined for three goals in Round 2, but one of them was an empty- netter in Game 2 and another was on the power play in Game 5. At even strength, these two veterans aren’t producing.

The Bruins’ lack of scoring from the top-six forwards has put way too much pressure on the third line (Matt Fraser, Loui Eriksson, Carl Soderberg) to score goals in key spots. To its credit, the Soderberg line has been Boston’s best trio in the series and was responsible for the winning in Game 4. But at some point, Krejci, Lucic and Iginla will need to capitalize on their scoring chances. Missing open nets is deflating for the entire team.

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Montreal’s top forwards, Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek, struggled mightily through five games, but they responded in Game 6 with three goals and an assist in a dominant effort. The Bruins need a similar performance from their top line to avoid elimination Wednesday night and reach the conference finals for the third in time in the last four years.

Here are some notable news and notes from Game 6.

– Montreal goaltender Carey Price earned his fourth career playoff shutout.

– The Bruins and Canadiens will play the ninth Game 7 in the history of their epic rivalry. No two teams in any North American sport have played in more Game 7s. Montreal is 5-3 all time against Boston in Game 7s, with wins in two of the last three (won in 2004 and 2008; lost in 2011). Six of the last nine playoff series between these rivals have ended in a Game 7.

– Monday night’s loss marked the first time Boston has been shut out in the playoffs since Game 5 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final against the Vancouver Canucks.

– Tuukka Rask is 1-1 with a 3.87 goals against average and a .885 save percentage in two career Game 7s. The Bruins goaltender has given up three goals in four of the six games against the Canadiens.

– After scoring two power-play goals in Game 5, the Bruins were 0-for-3 with the man advantage in Game 6. The Canadiens were 1-for-3.

– Montreal out-hit (39-34), out-shot (28-26) and won more faceoffs (32-29) than Boston in Game 6.

GIF via Twitter/@PeteBlackburn