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Somehow it seems only fitting that this series between two arch rivals and two of the most storied NHL franchises goes to game seven.  And it will do just that as the Canadiens beat the Bruins by a score of 5-2 in front of a delirious Bell Centre crowd.


It was a game that featured great saves, great hits and great goals and as has become typical of a game between these two clubs, one that oozed passion and intensity.  For Montreal, it started with their captain, Saku Koivu who, with two points this evening, moved into a tie for the playoff lead in scoring, but who was also in charge of shutting down superstar Joe Thornton.


This game also featured a huge turning point as Mike Komisarek, after the Bruins were gaining momentum as the score was tied at one, absolutely hammered Thornton in the Montreal zone.  It wasn’t the most legal hit, but it took the Bruins leader out of the game – the first in the series that he looked prepared to play. 


Most pleasing for Hab fans is that the team stayed with it, despite getting down early, and despite surrendering a goal while they were up by a score of 3-1 early in the third.  From that point, they could have dropped to a defensive stance and played on their heels the rest of the way, but they managed to continue to battle and make things happen.


And while the score to this one might look somewhat lopsided as if Montreal dominated the play, there could be nothing further from the truth.  This was an evenly played game where only at the end when Andrew Raycroft was pulled did the Canadiens manage to stretch their lead and score two into the gaping cage.


In fact, it was the Bruins who opened the scoring, despite a solid start from the home side.  On a defensive zone faceoff, Sergei Samsonov snapped a loose puck which tricked under the arm of Jose Theodore.  It was another terrible goal surrendered by the supposed star goalie who’s been anything but, and could easily have brought the Habs down hard.


They refused to falter, though, and a little over five minutes later the Canadiens responded after some solid work by the fourth line deep in the Boston zone.  Yanic Perreault won the puck in the slot and his turn-around swipe at the puck was deflected into the net by none other than Darren Langdon.  It was his first goal as a Canadien and is a costly one, as each patron in his bar in Newfoudland received a drink on the house for the effort.


As the play moved into the second, one thing was clear, and that was that Thornton had come to play on this night.  So when Komisarek put the Bruins beast to the ice and the crowd went bananas, it was clear some sort of turning point had been reached.


Within moments the Canadiens capitalized.  After intercepting an attempted clearance along the side boards, Andrei Markov fired a first-time pass hard across the ice and through traffic to Koivu in the slot.  The captain miscued slightly on his shot, but it still managed to slide between Raycroft’s legs to put the Habs up by one.


Later in the period, when the Habs were killing a tripping penalty to Komisarek, they were unlucky not to move two in front.  Joe Juneau stripped Sergei Gonchar of the puck and raced in alone forcing a large save from Raycroft.  Seconds later it was Jim Dowd missing the net from a Steve Begin pass on a two-on-none situation.


They did make it a two goal lead soon thereafter as Michael Ryder, after having dominated a complete shift, sent a deft behind-the-back pass into the right faceoff circle where an oncoming Perreault fired a shot over Raycroft’s shoulder.  While he’s been held largely off the scoresheet, Ryder has still proved himself to be an extremely effective player and continues to make thing happen.


There was a scary moment when Begin, in attempting to finish a check against Patrice Bergeron, face-planted into the boards and remained on the ice pooling blood for some time.  Bergeron had ducked and lost his footing and as Begin his the wall, it was his mouth that took the brunt of the damage.  He lost at least one tooth and needed to take a number of stitches, but returned to the game in the third wearing a full face shield. 


The third was played at a fast and furious pace and numerous chances were turned aside by Theodore and the Montreal defence.  The Habs didn’t sit back, though, and created a few good opportunities themselves, particularly late when Boston started pressing. 


The only blemish for the Habs in the third was the second goal of the night by Samsonov as he took a pass at the Montreal blueline and moved in alone on Theodore.  The Russian beat Theodore high with a pretty forehand-to-backhand play to move Boston to within one.


As time was winding down, Richard Zednik made a strong play on the boards and Alex Kovalev picked up the loose puck and fired a shot at the open net from just outside the blue line.  While he missed the net, Koivu was first to the puck and he centred it to Kovalev who scored.  Soon thereafter it was Jan Bulis who deposited his first of the playoffs after some strong work by Perreault along the boards.


The teams now head back to Boston to play the pivotal, winner-takes-all game seven.  The Bruins are reeling after being out-scored 10-3 in the last two games, and Montreal surely has confidence after dominating much of the series to this point.  It’s up to the two coaches to gather the troops, calm the emotions, then have the teams playing for keeps and the opportunity to move to the second round.


Which in some ways is a shame, because the hockey can’t get much better than this.