By Brian Willwerth
Game five of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens could be summed up in two words:
In a game that featured tremendous action and spectacular goaltending, Nathan Horton scored 9:03 into double-overtime, as the Bruins defeated the Habs at TD Garden, 2-1. Boston leads the series, 3-2, and has a change to close it out Tuesday night in Montreal. This was also the first game won by the home team in the series.
The first period was all about the goaltending, a trend that would continue for nearly four hours. It featured back and forth action the whole way, with point-blank opportunities for both teams, but no player was able to put one home. Montreal goalie Carey Price stopped all 12 shots he faced. The Canadiens had 10 shots on goal. Tim Thomas saved nine of them. The other save, and perhaps the best one, was made by Michael Ryder. With Thomas out of position, the overtime hero of Game Four robbed Tomas Plekanec, who was all alone in the front of the net. The game was scoreless after one – the first time that’s happened in the series.
Both goaltenders stayed on top of their game in the second. The Bruins outshot the Habs, 9-6. There was plenty of up-and-down action, although a bit less than what the first 20 minutes of play featured. Boston held a 21-16 advantage in shots on goal through two periods.
The start of the third period featured more spectacular scoring chances. But once again, Price and Thomas were up to the task, especially Price. Then with 4:33 gone by, Brad Marchand came out from behind the net, took a return feed from Patrice Bergeron, and put it in an open net to give Boston a 1-0 lead. It was Marchand’s first career playoff goal.
It would then be up to Thomas to hold off the Canadiens’ surge the rest of the way. But he couldn’t do it. With 6:04 to play, Jeff Halpern took a centering pass from Mathieu Darche and beat the Boston netminder to tie the game at one. The Canadiens outshot the Bruins 14-11 in the third period, though Boston held a 32-30 advantage at the end of regulation.
The scoring chances didn’t stop in overtime. The period featured end-to-end action reminiscent of the first 20 minutes, with Thomas and Price both staying on top of their games. The Canadiens seemed to have the more glittering opportunities for much of the period. The Bruins did get a power play in OT when Brent Sopel was sent to the box for tripping Bergeron. But Boston’s woeful power play (0-15 in the series) could not capitalize. Shortly after the penalty expired, David Krejci walked in alone on Price, but Price denied him. Through 80 minutes of hockey, the Bruins outshot the Canadiens, 44-39.
In the second extra period, the opportunities didn’t slow down. Thomas and Price made one save after another. Thomas, who made 44 saves, made a spectacular stop on Brian Gionta, just to mention one.
Then the stage was set the stage for the game-winner. Price (49 saves) stopped Andrew Ference’s shot from the point, but couldn’t contain the rebound. Horton was in the right place at the right time, and knocked it home for this second goal of the playoffs.
You can’t help but tip your hat to both goaltenders. They faced a total of 96 shots between them. Only three of them found the back of the net.
Game six is Tuesday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal.