MONTREAL – Milan Lucic(notes) ducked out of the dressing room. He stormed down the hallway and into the loading dock of the Bell Centre, cursing but not commenting as he headed toward the team bus, toward Boston, toward a Game 7 against the hated Montreal Canadiens.
There is blood on the ice now, the Bruins are on the brink again and Lucic will be one of many to blame if this team doesn’t even make it out of the first round this time. He has one assist in the series. He took a major for boarding and a game misconduct Tuesday night, slamming Jaroslav Spacek’s(notes) face into the glass in the second period. That helped lead to the Habs’ second 5-on-3 goal of the game. That ended up being the difference in a 2-1 Montreal victory.
And that sets up a winner-take-all Wednesday night that no one wanted in Boston.
Everyone remembers the last time the Bruins played a Game 7. They blew a 3-0 lead in the game and lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round last year – after blowing a 3-0 lead in the series.
But there is also the year before that and the year before that. The Bruins lost a Game 7 to the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round in 2009 and a Game 7 to the Canadiens in the first round in 2008. Both times, they had battled back from two-game deficits, just as they have done in this series.
Then there is the Habs’ history. Twice last year, they fell behind in a series, won Game 6 at home, then won Game 7 on the road. They did it in the first round against the Washington Capitals, the winners of the Presidents’ Trophy as the NHL’s top regular-season team. Then they did it in the second round against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Said Canadiens winger Mike Cammalleri: “Hopefully that doubt creeps in their minds.”
The Bruins are supposed to have the better team, but this series has been tight, a toss-up. Entering Tuesday night, each team had scored the same number of goals (12), and the last two games had been decided in overtime. They were the two least-penalized teams in the playoffs, despite the bad blood in the regular season, when Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara(notes) ran Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty(notes) into a Bell Centre stanchion, giving him a concussion and fractured vertebra.
“It’s the playoffs,” Lucic explained Tuesday morning. “You don’t want to spend too much time in the penalty box where you’re putting your team in jeopardy.”
Funny he should say that. Funny, too, that Lucic also talked about the hit that Raffi Torres(notes) laid on Brent Seabrook(notes) in the Vancouver-Chicago series and how it had woken up the Blackhawks, who rallied from a 3-0 deficit before falling in overtime of Game 7 on Tuesday night. He said a big hit sometimes could work against you. He said he had never been in a situation like that himself.
Wonder what he would say now.
The Bruins can’t blame the referees. They caught a break when a referee blew his whistle before Canadiens captain Brian Gionta(notes) whacked a rebound into the net early in the first period. They gave up a 5-on-3 goal to Cammalleri later in the first, but the first penalty was for having too many men on the ice – after Cammalleri alertly fired the puck toward their bench while they were changing – and the second penalty for slashing on defenseman Dennis Seidenberg(notes), who broke Cammalleri's stick off the ensuing face-off three seconds later.
Then Lucic leveled Spacek. You didn’t have to see the hit. You could hear it. The sound thundered all the way into the rafters. As Spacek was playing the puck, Lucic hit him from behind and drove his face into the glass. Spacek lay right across the ice from where Pacioretty did March 8. A CBC camera caught Pacioretty watching from the press box as Spacek had to be helped off the ice, leaving his helmet and a splatter of blood behind.
Lucic was ejected. The Habs had a five-minute power play. The refs tacked on another penalty afterward, but it was clear as day – delay of game on Patrice Bergeron(notes) for clearing the puck out of play. Gionta whacked another rebound into the net, and this one counted.
No, the Bruins can blame only themselves. Lucic for hitting Spacek and not hitting the net. The Bruins’ top line of Lucic (one assist), David Krejci(notes) (one goal) and Nathan Horton(notes) (two goals) for not generating enough. Others for not cashing in, like Chara, who slid a puck past an open net late in the second, and Brad Marchand(notes), who whacked that same puck into the left post from in close.
“We felt we had them on the run tonight 5-on-5,” Recchi said. But the Bruins’ only goal came when Seidenberg scored 4-on-4 early in the second period, and their power play has been pitiful – 0-for-19 in the series. Defenseman Tomas Kaberle(notes), whom the Bruins acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs to quarterback the power play, has been a huge disappointment.
“Well, let’s put it this way: Our power play is struggling,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “I would have liked to have a 5-on-3. Maybe our power play would have scored as well. But it wasn’t the case, and again, it’s one of those games where we tried, we worked hard, we had our chances and we weren’t able to bury them.”
The Bruins weren’t able to bury yet another opponent, and if they don’t bury the Canadiens on Wednesday night, it won’t matter how they tried or how hard they worked. They will have had their chances, too many chances, only to keep falling short and keep their Stanley Cup drought at 39 years and counting.