There’s a fine line between confidence and reality as the Canadiens prepare to meet the Boston Bruins Monday night at the Bell Centre in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series (7:30 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
It’s an elimination game for the Canadiens, who trail the best-of-seven series 3-2 after dropping a 4-2 decision to the Bruins Saturday night at Boston’s TD Garden.
“We knew what we’re getting into in this series,” captain Brian Gionta said Sunday after the team held an optional workout in Brossard. “They’re a good team. We’re playing at home. For the most part of the series we’ve outplayed them and we feel comfortable.”
“Some of our guys have done this before,” added David Desharnais, who was referring to the last playoff meeting between these teams in 2011, when the Canadiens won Game 6 at home and then lost in overtime in Boston in Game 7. “We’re in front of our fans and we like the way we play at home.”
The confidence in the Canadiens’ dressing room might stem from the fact they never trailed in this series until the loss Saturday gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead. There’s an argument to be made the Canadiens could have swept this series — they had a late two-goal lead in Game 2 and a Boston bounce produced a 1-0 overtime win for the Bruins in Game 4.
But it would be a mistake to say the Canadiens have outplayed the Bruins for most of this series, even though they have held the lead for the majority of it. The Canadiens have Carey Price and the power play to thank for a split of the first four games, but the Bruins have the momentum going into Game 6.
No matter how well Price and the defence play, the Canadiens have to find a way to score on a Boston defence that has played better with each game.
Game 5 saw the Bruins take a page out of the Canadiens’ playbook as they used the power play to take a 3-0 lead. The Bruins and the Canadiens each scored twice on the power play, but the key to the game was when those goals were scored.
Referees Eric Furlatt and Wes McCauley kept the lid on a potentially explosive game — the antics started when Brendan Gallagher and the Bruins’ Brad Marchand started sparring before the opening faceoff — by calling penalties early in the game.
The Canadiens had three power plays in the first period and failed to score. The Bruins also had three power plays and took a 2-0 lead early in the second period when Reilly Smith scored on a power play that spilled over from the first period. Twenty-six seconds after Smith scored, Tomas Plekanec took his third minor penalty of the game and it took only six seconds for Jarome Iginla to give Boston a 3-0 lead.
Gallagher and P.K Subban would score power-play goals later in the game, but the Canadiens left Boston talking about how the Bruins took away their time and space.
It was another frustrating night for Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek. Pacioretty matched Subban with a game-high six shots on goal, but none of Pacioretty’s shots produced a rise in Tuukka Rask’s heartbeat. Vanek had one shot and complained Sunday that the Bruins weren’t giving him any good looks.
“We knew all along that Boston had depth, but so do we,” Vanek said. “This series is about depth. We need to get everyone going and I’m part of that group. We’ve got to raise our game,”
After Sunday’s practice, Therrien ducked a question about his decision to play Brandon Prust in place of Daniel Brière in Game 5. Prust was the only Canadien centre to win more than 50 per cent of his faceoffs — he won four of five — but otherwise he made a minimal contribution and you shouldn’t be surprised if Brière is back in the lineup Monday.
If the Canadiens win Monday, the series returns to Boston for Game 7 Wednesday night.
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