On Friday afternoon, Thomas Vanek was honest in assessing both he and his team’s performance in Montreal’s 4-3, double-overtime victory in Game 1 over the Bruins.
“I think we got away with one (Thursday),” the Austrian winger said. “We all know that.”
The Canadiens were largely outplayed in the series opener, which saw the Bruins outshoot them 51-33 and squander a number of golden opportunities to bury the Habs. Vanek was practically invisible, failing to register a shot on goal at any point in the 84-minute-long contest, and spending a good chunk of time playing on the fourth line.
The demotion lit a fire under the high-scoring forward, who tallied two power-play goals Saturday in Game 2. The only problem for Montreal? This time it was the Bruins who “got away with one.”
After an afternoon of penalty woes, Boston overcame a two-goal deficit in the third period, with Patrice Bergeron knotting things up at three apiece, Reilly Smith burying the go-ahead goal and Milan Lucic icing the comeback with the empty-netter — all in the span of less than five minutes.
“It’s a good team, we know that,” Vanek said. “They don’t quit and they showed that and battled back. For the most part, we played a good, disciplined game. We had a two-goal lead, [Dougie Hamilton] gets the goal and, like I said, it’s a good team. They just keep rolling their lines and they found a way.”
The Habs certainly couldn’t have entered the final frame with many regrets. They scored on two of their first five power-play opportunities, as the Bruins’ lack of discipline repeatedly put them on the PK. Even coach Claude Julien got his team into trouble, as Boston’s head coach was assessed a bench minor after complaining to an official near the end of the second period.
“Game one we didn’t deserve, there’s no pride we deserve,” Vanek said. “But you’ve got to play the full 60 minutes. They never quit, even when it was 3-1 they kept coming and coming. (They got) closer and you know what happens after that.”
This is the second game in a row that Montreal’s surrendered a two-goal lead in the third period. They did so in Game 1, coughing up a 2-0 and 3-2 leads right before the end of regulation.
“We’ve got to find ways, when we have the lead, to finish it off,” Canadiens captain Brian Gionta said. “Come playoff time, that’s a huge key to wins. We’ve got to continue to play and find ways to play 60 minutes.”
While the Habs can give the Bruins the credit they deserve, they recognize that a passive approach to the final 20 minutes played a role in their unraveling.
“We sat back a bit. We let them bring it to us, and you’ve got to counter their push,” Gionta said. “You know they’re going to be going hard, their backs are against the wall there. Down 3-1, they had nothing to lose, so we’ve got to find ways to manage the puck a little better.”
Carey Price, who shined with a 48-save performance in Game 1, finished Saturday afternoon with 30 saves on 34 shots. The Habs netminder said his confidence isn’t shaken after the disastrous end to Game 2.
“No, not at all. It’s time to regroup,” Price said. “Like I said, winners regroup and realize the situation they’re in. I thought we did an excellent job so far. We came and did what we wanted to do: split these two games. Now we’re going to move forward and take it to them on home ice.”
Still, one would imagine the missed opportunity must hit the Habs hard. Lucky or not, Montreal took Game 1 and played more than well enough to win Game 2. Had they been able to buckle down in the final frame, they would’ve headed home with a 2-0 series lead, forcing the Bruins to win four of the next five games.
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien admitted that being in such a position would’ve been ideal, but there’s nothing his club can do now but focus on Game 3 and what’s shaping up to be a long, hard-fought series.
“We got some breaks last game and they got the breaks tonight,” Therrien said. “There is no way to panic and we are going home. We know that it’s going to be a long series. We are ready for that. It would have been nice, honestly. It would have been nice to be in the position to pick up two games here. It would have been a great accomplishment. We have to look at the big picture, winning the first game here. We are going home and we know that if we play our game we will get chances.”