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Boston 4: Montreal 2. The mood was electric at Montreal's first home game of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and it was made even more poignant with Zdeno Chara returning to the line-up after missing Game 2 and suiting up in Montreal for the first time since he injured Max Pacioretty. Unfortunately, the Canadiens came out flat, and were forced to play almost the entire game from behind leading to a defeat on home ice. Nevertheless, the Canadiens showed signs of life after going down 3-0, and surely won't make the same mistake when the series resumes on Thursday.
Unlike the first two games, the Bruins were the first team to get on the scoreboard early in the game, when Patrice Bergeron capitalized on on sloppy turnover by Roman Hamrlik and set up David Krejci for a one-timer. The two teams traded chances and penalties for the rest of the period before Nathan Horton tallied his first NHL playoff goal when he banked off a shot off the back of Carey Price, just getting the puck over the goal-line. A Benoit Pouliot fight re-energized the Bell Centre crowd, but the Canadiens retreated to their dressing room down 2-0, after being outshot 9-8.
The second period didn't start any better for the Canadiens, as a Price mishandling of the puck led to an easy empty net goal for Rich Peverley. 5 minutes later, Andrei Kostitsyn put the Canadiens on the board, after he turned Zdeno Chara inside-out on a great individual effort. Both teams had quality scoring chances, but both Price and Tim Thomas turned away all of them. Buoyed by a 13-10 shot advantage, Montreal seemed to gain momentum near the end of the period, setting the stage for a crucial third period.
The Canadiens came out firing in the third, and a creative goal by Tomas Plekanec fooled Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas to draw the game within one. From then on, the ice appeared tilted in Montreal's favour from, with Montreal outshooting the Bruins 15-6, and coming hairbreadths from tying the score. Despite this relentless onslaught, Tim Thomas turned away chance after quality chance, and the Bruins sealed their victory with an empty net goal from Chris Kelly.
1st Star: Andrei Kostitsyn (1 Goal, +1 Rating, 2 PIM, 5 SOG)
His unnecessary penalty aside, Andrei was the most consistent player for all 3 periods of the game. Although he was only credited for 2 hits in the game, Kostitsyn was a physical presence through the game, and his tenacity opened up the ice for a few teammates. His goal, however fortunate it may have been, was a work of art and remarkable for someone who wasn't even guaranteed to play tonight. His performance is that much more noteworthy if he was playing injured as many suspect.
2nd Star: Mike Cammalleri (2 Assists, -1 Rating, 1 SOG)
Primarily known as a sniper, Cammalleri donned the playmaker cap and ended up with the most points on the night. Seemingly beset by bad luck, Cammalleri wasn't able to get his shots off from his usual areas of the ice, as Boston did a good job of containing him throughout the game. Nonetheless, Cammalleri battled in all areas of the ice, and played a more complete game than for which he is known. In an oddity that isn't likely to be repeated, Cammalleri was held to 1 shot and went 75% on the faceoff dot.
3rd Star: Tomas Plekanec (1 Goal, Even Rating, 5 SOG)
When Montreal went down 3-0, Plekanec was removed from his shutdown duties and given free-rein to generate some offense. It was a sound strategy, as Plekanec's goal brought the Habs within one goal in the 3rd period, and set the stage for a valiant effort for the remaining 20 minutes. Nevertheless, there is some room for improvement, as Plekanec went a dismal 39% on faceoffs (only Scott Gomez was worse with 31%) and the lack of puck possession was detrimental to Montreal's game tonight.
Honourable Mention: James Wisniewski (-1 Rating, 1 SOG, 23:28 TOI)
Although Wisniewski is mostly known for being an offensive defenceman, it was his defensive play that stood out tonight, and his breakup of a 3 on 1 break exemplified that best. "The Wiz" made calm, collected plays all game long, and his first pass out of the zone was tape-to-tape almost every time. The sole criticism concerns Wisniewski's newfound reluctance to shoot, and has led some to believe that he is playing through an injury.