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Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price makes a save against the Boston Bruins during the first 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)
Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price makes a save against the Boston Bruins during the first 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)

Sean Gordon

Habs remain wary of Bruins Add to ...

One of the double doors at the back of the Montreal Canadiens' dressing room creaked open, and fleetingly the star goalie appeared, only to hastily retreat and slam it shut.

Seconds later, Carey Price poked his becapped head around the door, flashed a wide, not-today-folks grin at the assembled media, and quietly closed it again.

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If Price's mischievous expression carried a message, it's surely this: no tension in this room.

And why should there be? The Canadiens, rated as underdogs and no-hopers four days ago, are suddenly up 2-0 in their best-of-seven series with the Boston Bruins heading into Monday's third game in the Bell Centre, one of the NHL's more intimidating buildings.

It bears mention that while Montreal had a sterling 24-11-6 home record this year and has won four of five at home against Boston since the 2009-10 season, the Canadiens were 4-4 on home ice in the playoffs last year.

"By no means do we think we've won this series," said forward Ryan White, whose grit and tenacity have typified the effort from the Habs' role players. "They've been close games, and without [Price]it could be a different story."

So as the Bruins try to figure out how to stop the rot amid mounting panic and criticism from their fans and the Boston media, the Habs are all business, focused on the task at hand - grabbing a 3-0 series chokehold.

Some historical perspective: In their 87 years, the Bruins have faced an 0-2 disadvantage 26 times in a best-of-seven format, and have bounced back to win precisely zero of those series.

The Canadiens, however, have managed the feat six times in 25 occasions (most spectacularly in their 1993 Stanley Cup run), which is perhaps why they are mindful of being too pleased with themselves.

History, for what it's worth, also reminds us that since 1996, the Canadiens have twice won both opening games on the road and lost the series (they also went up 2-0 at home against Boston three years ago and were pushed to a seventh game).

So they remain wary, but after winning two road games to open their 33rd series against the Bruins, who have now lost six straight playoff games, the Habs are in the proverbial catbird seat.

If you want to know how the Canadiens are doing it - again - it suffices to look at some patterns from the first two games.

Like scoring early (the Bruins, like the Habs and most NHL teams, don't often win if they trail after the first period), and full-blooded commitment to the defensive effort.

Like role players Mathieu Darche and Yannick Weber contributing goals, and untested rookies like third-line centre Lars Eller playing like old hands.

Like Andrei Kostitsyn, who blocked only 26 shots through 81 regular-season games, stepping in front of a Zdeno Chara slapper early in Game 1 (he was credited with three blocks in the game but also suffered a leg injury and is doubtful for Monday).

Or the undersized Tom Pyatt emerging with the puck from battles in the corner and along the boards against burlier opponents, as he did several times in Game 2.

"That's the kind of sacrifice we need, guys need to do that," Habs captain Brian Gionta said.

Then there's the suffocating defensive system the Habs have deployed to fluster Boston's forwards, keeping the slot tidy and limiting rebound and second-chance opportunities to a frustrating minimum.

No wonder the buzzword is "buy-in."

"Everybody's playing together," said Habs defenceman Brent Sopel, who won the Stanley Cup with Chicago last year and sees parallels on his current team in terms of cohesion and commitment.

Yes, Price has been sharp enough to limit the division-winning Bruins to one goal through six periods, and lucky to have three or four other shots clang off the post. But his team has given him plenty to work with, with strong positional hockey and building early leads.

Quick starts became a Hab hallmark last year en route to surprising the heavily favoured Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Gionta said it flows from the team's playoff mindset, which has been easy to regain for last year's returnees.

"It's just being ready, mentally prepared for the start of the game," he said. "Trying to initiate, not waiting, sitting back to see what's going to unfold. But you have to get bounces too."

On Monday the Habs will play before a fevered crowd dying to celebrate that first goal. If Montreal gets an early bounce, Boston's task may well turn from daunting to impossible.

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