Montreal needs better start

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BOSTON (AP)—Another bad start and the Montreal Canadiens could be near the end of their postseason.

In the first period of their opening 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins, they were outshot 23-7 and trailed 2-0 Wednesday night. They’ll have to use their speed to overcome Boston’s size in Friday night’s second game.

“We play our best when we come out and we’re flying and we’re trying to take the play to them,” Montreal defenseman Sheldon Souray said. “I think we sat back a bit.”

The Bruins are preparing for a tougher challenge that could put more pressure on goalie Andrew Raycroft, who stopped 31 shots in his playoff debut.

“I’m sure they’ll change a few things,” Boston center Brian Rolston said. “We just have to concentrate on what we’re doing well.”

That’s being aggressive and playing physically. And, for a change, starting strong and scoring on the power play. Both were problems recently, but the Bruins scored on two of their power plays in the opener.

“It’s huge,” Boston defenseman Sergei Gonchar said of the strong first period, “especially the first game of the series and especially with the rivalry going on between Boston and Montreal.”

They’ve met in 29 playoff series, the most in the NHL, and the Canadiens have won 22.

Gonchar is one of three veterans picked up during the season who sparked Wednesday’s win. He scored the first goal, and the others—defenseman Jiri Slegr and center Michael Nylander—assisted on it.

Then Gonchar assisted on Nylander’s goal late in the first period.

“We have some big bodies and we have to utilize those bodies,” forward Marty Lapointe said. “If we can do that throughout the series, it’s to our advantage.”

But if the Canadiens can protect goalie Jose Theodore better, they’ll have a better chance in the best-of-seven series.

“We can leave with a split,” Souray said. “They caught us sleeping a bit and we didn’t do well with our penalty killing and power-play chances.”

Gonchar was supposed to improve the Bruins’ power play when they obtained him from Washington on March 3. The next day, they got Nylander from the Capitals. Slegr has been with Boston since Jan. 17, when he came from Vancouver.

Boston’s power play actually became less productive after Gonchar arrived. But he scored on a 40-foot wrist shot just 5:12 into the game. Slegr had given the puck to Nylander, who dropped it for Gonchar.

At 19:01, Gonchar returned the favor. Rather than shoot, he sent a hard pass to Nylander stationed to the left of Theodore, and Nylander tipped it in.

“To have the vision and presence of mind to see him and make that play, not a lot of players in the league would have done that,” Boston coach Mike Sullivan said.

Even if the Canadiens stop those three midseason acquisitions, they’ll have to find a way to beat Raycroft, another player in his first playoff season with Boston. Raycroft had plenty of help from his defensemen, too.

Now Montreal’s defense will have another chance to help Theodore.

“We have to be more disciplined,” Canadiens defenseman Stephane Quintal said. “They kept the tempo. They put a lot of pressure on us.”

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Three Stars

  Game Winning Goal
S. Gonchar S. Gonchar
Boston Bruins
Scored at 5:12 of 1st


Goalie Team Shot Save
Andrew Raycroft Dal 31 31