A team that must work hard for its chances because of its mediocre offense got back to business Friday, barely 12 hours after an impressive 5-1 victory over the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference.
That allowed the Bruins to come home for a sixth game Saturday night in the best-of-seven series rather than clean out its lockers.
The arena will be loud. The Bruins plan to keep their emotions under control and not worry about those pre-series predictions.
“I don’t think we get caught up too much in a lot of things because we know every night we have to grind it out,” coach Claude Julien said. “It doesn’t matter what’s being said out there. Let’s just believe in ourselves.”
Since being outplayed in a 4-1 opening loss, the Bruins have been a tough opponent. The next three games were decided by one goal, two of them in overtime, before Boston broke a 1-1 tie on Glen Metropolit’s goal at 3:31 of the third period when rookie goalie Carey Price made a rare mistake Thursday.
He made a save, then dropped the pick to his right where two Bruins were waiting. Boston’s Petteri Nokelainen collected it and his shot deflected off the stick of Glen Metropolit and past Price.
Sure, a young goalie made a mistake. But “we also had two guys there to pounce on it,” Julien said.
In a 1-0 loss in Game 4 on Tuesday, the Bruins had plenty of opportunities but couldn’t score.
“We’ve been in every game and we thought maybe the luck was on their side a little bit and finally the hard work paid off,” Metropolit said after breaking a 33-game goal-scoring drought. “We’ve just got to stick to the same game plan, get the pucks in deep and get some chances in front of Carey.”
After Tuesday’s shutout, the Bruins put goal-scorer Phil Kessel back in the lineup after benching him for three games because of defensive deficiencies.
He responded with a power-play goal at 7:45 of the second period that tied the game after Alex Kovalev scored for Montreal midway through the first.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that we saw Phil Kessel determined to get back in the lineup and make a difference,” Julien said. “He couldn’t have had better timing than last night. Was I pleased with his game? Absolutely. Do we need more of that? We certainly do.”
But Montreal is 26-0 in series in which it led 3-1. And the Bruins expect Price to bounce back from his mistake and his poor play in the third period.
They also know they need a better start.
“We played very well in the first period and we could have had a bigger lead, but then we stopped skating,” Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said. “Maybe we thought it would be easy and that Carey would make all the saves. But then they got that goal and the gates opened up.”
Still, the Bruins trail 3-2. To extend it to a seventh game in Montreal on Monday night, they must play disciplined hockey and set aside the joy of their impressive win.
“Like we did when we won our other one, we just have to get rid of it and get ready for the next one,” Bruins center Marc Savard said. “Obviously, it motivates us, but we can’t get too high. … Even if they get the first (goal), we have to stay with the program that we have and go right to the last whistle.”
The Bruins had an optional skate Friday but no one who played Thursday night participated. Defenseman Aaron Ward took part after missing the game with a knee injury. His status for Game 6 will probably be determined just before the game, Julien said.
If Boston wins, Julien would have a chance to repeat his feat from 2003-04 when he led a team back from a 3-1 deficit to win a first-round series. That team was Montreal. The opponent was Boston.
“It’ll only be deja vu if we make it happen,” he said. “Other than that, it’s not.”