Home-ice advantage: Gone.
Series momentum: Gone.
This was a bitter one for the Canadiens and their fans to swallow.
After playing their best 20 minutes of the playoffs, after getting goals in 55 seconds to take control of the game in the second period, the home team washed away like wet doggie doots down a drainpipe … if it ever gets warm enough for that to happen in Montreal.
When Andrei Kostitsyn (who was good again in Game Four) scored to make it 3-1, the Canadiens had a 29-12 advantage in shots on goal.
With his team reeling, Claude Julien called a timeout.
“I told the guys to relax and keep their focus,” the Boston coach was to mention later. “We still had half the game to play.”
Over the next 34 minutes, Boston outshot the Canadiens 23-12.
Andrew Ference, of all people, scored a goal and was captured on TV elevating his middle finger to the self-styled Greatest Fans in Hockey.
After the game, Ference’s explanation was he was trying to do a fist pump and his finger got stuck.
Julien, who claimed he hadn’t seen the gesture, said he couldn’t believe it had happened because “that’s not Andrew.”
Maybe the Canadiens can use the avian flip as a rallying cry for Game Five at the TD Banknorth Garden.
They need something. In a subdued losing dressing room, Tomas Plekanec, Hal Gill and Jaro Spacek talked about hanging back, taking their foot off the accelerator after all that early pressure making mistakes, watching the Bruins skate through the neutral zone.
My colleague, Patrick V. Hickey, asked Spacek whether the Canadiens felt “too comfortable” coming home after sweeping the first two games in Boston.
“That’s a good question,” Spacek said. He didn’t offer a definitive answer, but Games Three and Four revealed something lacking in the Canadiens’ game, either overconfidence, complacency, an inability to deal with never-say-die character on the part of the Bruins or all of the above.
Contrary to what some of the nonsense during the regular season suggested, Boston is not outsmuscling the Canadiens. They are, however, outworking them.
And while the Canadiens have pretty much neutralized David Krejci, Nathan Horton and big, bad Milan Lucic, they’re being killed by a Boston second line line – and, in Game Four, a third line – that are beating the Canadiens at their own speed-and-skill game.
Patrice Bergeron, centring Mark Recchi and pesky-but-effective Brad Marchand, won 17 of 29 faceoffs, had seven shots on goal and four hits. Scott Gomez could not handle Bergeron, and Jacques Martin gave the assignment to David Desharnais in the third period.
That left Gomez and Brian Gionta, each of whom were minus-3, and Travis Moen (minus-2) matched against Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly and Michael Ryder.
That didn’t turn out well at all.
Ryder, of all people, had two goals, including the winner in overtime. Kelly, playing with a full face shield to protect an eye injury, had a goal and two assists. Peverley had two assists.
Spacek talked about mental mistakes, turnovers, bouncing shots, failure to cover Bruins in front of Carey Price – a litany of screw-ups the Canadiens avoided in Boston.
They saved all the bad mojo for their rabid hometown fans.
More in the morning, after I’ve slept on this mess.