Montreal had talked in the build-up to the game of living dangerously in the series-opener, and if they had turned in an appreciably better defensive effort in game two – in which Price again largely out-played opposite number Tuukka Rask – luck was not on their side.
The Canadiens managed to survive a minute-long five-on-three disadvantage – thanks to yeoman work by Josh Gorges and Mike Weaver – but couldn’t deal with successive waves of Boston attacks for much longer.
After some smart neutral zone play forced a Gionta turnover – the theme of the first was the Habs’ inability to move the puck quickly – Carl Soderberg took a puck into the corner and left a diagonal pass back up into the slot for Daniel Paillé.
With Francis Bouillon and Lars Eller caught betwixt and between and Gionta late on the back-check, the uncovered Paillé had plenty of time to pick his spot, a deflection off Bouillon simply ensured that Carey Price would have no chance at stopping a puck that would find the corner, high blocker side.
But if the Bruins had their way in the first, moving the puck easily and peppering the Montreal net with 28 shot attempts, the Habs were intent to show early that the second would be a different story.
After a good neutral zone regroup, Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher broke in on the right side, fired a shot on net, producing a rebound that Tomas Plekanec nearly tipped in; Brandon Prust fanned on the puck as it caromed off the boards, Gallagher’s shot was rebuffed, but in the ensuing scramble Plekanec came out from the behind the net with the puck on his stick.
As Prust got up from being plowed into Rask by a Boston defender, Montreal’s Mike Weaver launched a slapshot that found the net.
With the teams playing more evenly in terms of puck possession, Boston continued to rack up scoring chances, but Price was equal to the task.
When Loui Eriksson found himself all alone in the slot after a Bruin bounce, Price tracked across and managed to make a pad save on his shot.
Moments later, he stoned Jarome Iginla, who then clanged a shot off the right post (it was the second time of the game Price was bailed out by the pipe, Shawn Thornton having sizzled an early slapshot off the crossbar).
Then Price stopped Paillé, shot out a pad to deny Torey Krug, and then made a sparkling left pad save to thwart Milan Lucic at the side of the net; Lucic did get the puck past Price at one point, but did so with his hand.
The large Bruin winger had the decency to look sheepish, the goal was waved off after a video review.
The temperature edged a little closer to the boiling point with just over 16 minutes played in the period
First Lars Eller showered Rask with ice chips when he went hunting for a rebound and slammed on the brakes.
Boston’s Krug took exception, touching off a scrum behind the net; punches were thrown, both players were shown the gate.
Just 16 seconds into the four-on-four, Andrej Meszaros – playing in place of Matt Bartkowski, whose costly overtime penalty in game one led to the Habs’ winning goal – roughed up Tomas Plekanec in the corner and earned a penalty.
Boston very nearly nearly killed off the ensuing four-on-three, but P.K. Subban delivered a pinpoint pass to Thomas Vanek in the slot, and the Austrian tipped it expertly into the top corner.
Vanek hasn’t been especially effective in the postseason – when asked on Friday if he was injured or sick, he said “no, it’s just a matter of not being good” – but demonstrated once again that he’s hard on the Bruins (63 points in 57 games, including 32 goals, 16 on the powerplay).
In the third period, he scored his second of the game – with Dougie Hamilton in the box for interfering with Brendan Gallagher – with a gorgeous tip of a Subban rocket from the point.