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Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas (R) makes a save against Montreal Canadiens left wing Travis Moen during the second period in Game 2 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarter-final hockey game in Boston, Massachusetts April 16, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas (R) makes a save against Montreal Canadiens left wing Travis Moen during the second period in Game 2 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarter-final hockey game in Boston, Massachusetts April 16, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Habs power past slumping Bruins Add to ...

The Boston Bruins chose well.

The original plan was to head for Lake Placid after Game 2 in order to avoid the "distractions" of Montreal. They figured to be winning the series or at least tied - but now they're off to the Adirondacks where people have gone for decades to cure whatever ails them.

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It will, however, take more than crisp mountain air to fix this case of shattered nerves.

Shocked at losing their first game 2-0, including a Montreal Canadiens goal on the first shot of Thursday's game, the Bruins fell 3-1 Saturday night to the Habs - the sole improvement being that, this time, it took two shots to score the first goal.

"Every time we turn the puck over it ends up in our net," said dejected Bruins forward Mark Recchi when it was over.

"We need to back into the series by winning hockey games," said Boston head coach Claude Julien. "It's not very complicated."

This April has not gone as planned. The Bruins were picked by many to be the Eastern Conference's best chance at a Stanley Cup. They had depth, scoring, Zdeno Chara on defence and Tim Thomas in goal.

Saturday night they did not even have Chara, the giant defenceman (6'9" 260 lbs) out after being hospitalized Friday for dehydration. And Thomas, who set a league record during the regular season with a sparkling .938 save percentage, certainly could have used someone with Chara's strength and reach to do some clearing.

There was initially some thought that Chara would play as he skated in the warmup, but the big defenceman simply did not feel he could perform as he would need to.

Julien was outraged that some in the media had questioned Chara's desire to play through his problem.

"He was sweaty," Julien said of Chara when the player finished the warmup. "He was dizzy. There was no way in the world we could have used him tonight."

"We all know how tough he is," said defenceman Andrew Ference. "He doesn't have to prove it to anyone."

The first goal came only 43 seconds into the match, when Montreal defenceman James Wisniewski stole a puck, shot from near the boards and Mike Cammalleri clipped in the rebound after Thomas had made a pad save.

The second and third Montreal goals might also have been prevented by big Chara. The second came less than two minutes later when Cammalleri was able to round the back of the net and slide a perfect pass across Thomas's crease to Mathieu Darche, who slipped the puck into the short side. And the third came toward the end of the second period, when Thomas was once again unable to control his rebounds and Yannick Weber clipped a loose puck in behind him.

"When you lose a player like that," Julien said of the missing Chara, "it leaves a big hole."

Thomas conceded that he gave up a fat rebound on the first goal, but said the second was a ricochet into the net and the third a bad bounce.

"Bad luck," he said. "But there's a lot of energy. If you can grab that energy and focus in a good way it can really help you."

The Bruins needed to win this second game. They are 10-32 in playoff series when losing the first game, whereas Montreal is 57-9 when they win the opener.

Now those odds are far more alarming. The Bruins have been down two games to none 26 previous times in their long history. They have never come back to win such a series.

"It's a best of seven," said Julien. "We lost the first two games. Let's be honest here - our team has not played at all as it can."

David Krejci, Boston's top scorer during the regular season, had all but guaranteed victory when, after Friday's practice, he said, "We want to win. We have to win. And we will win"

But it was not to be. The smaller, quicker Canadiens swarmed about the larger Bruins like spring gnats around a surly bear. The Bruins tried to be physical, but it gained them nothing.

The one Boston goal, in fact, was a thing of beauty, a tic-tac-toe passing play among Mark Recchi, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron that saw Bergeron tic a perfect setup in behind goaltender Carey Price.

Price was again at the top of his game, perfectly controlling his rebounds and, at all points, calm and deliberate in his movements. He stopped both Marchand and Milan Lucic on point-blank chances. While Price blocked 34 of 35 shots, it seemed his defence blocked as many or more.

Lucic, who was called out by some of the local media for his mediocre play in Game 1, did not fare much better this outing. The team's leading goal scorer in the regular season with 30 was, as one writer put it, "completely invisible" on Thursday. Saturday he could be seen, at times crashing hard into smaller Habs, but it was not effective. Lucic has now gone 12 games without scoring.

Concern in Boston was on red alert going into the series, thanks to last year's monumental collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Bruins had gone up three games to none and then were up 3-0 in Game 7 before choking their way out of the playoffs. It is, it would appear, a very good team that is simply not very good when the pressure mounts.

That is not to say they are without faint hope. "On any given night," Marchand, the rookie, said, "anything can change, and maybe next time they'll all go in. Hopefully, that's the case. But you can't let it frustrate you when it's a missed opportunity. It might take five, six, seven chances and finally one will go in. But you'll feel good when it goes in."

Well, one did go in Saturday night - but one was far from enough.

"We need to score more goals," said Julien.

Down two games to one in a series the fans fully expected their beloveds to win, the Bruins will now head off to Lake Placid with far more on their minds than rest and relaxation.

They will need to figure out what it will take to lift those boos that rained down at the end of Game 1 and after every period Saturday night.

And, it should go without saying, they will need to make sure Zdeno Chara pushes fluids.

 

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