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A significant portion of the crowd at last night's National Hockey League playoff game in Montreal between the Canadiens and Boston Bruins booed during the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner.

The noise faded briefly during the middle of the song, but grew stronger during the final bars sung by Charles Prevost-Linton.

It was the first substantial anthem booing in Montreal since last March, when The Star-Spangled Banner was booed at games about the time of the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

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At that time, Canadiens president Pierre Boivin issued an apology. In games that followed, a scoreboard message from Habs legend Jean Béliveau reminded fans to show respect during the anthem.

There was also booing in Montreal two years ago when the Canadiens faced the Bruins in a first-round playoff series. In that instance, scoreboard messages from Doug Gilmour, then a member of the team, and Stéphane Quintal were aired to quell the negative reaction.

For the most part, both measures worked.

The Canadiens are owned by George Gillett Jr., a Colorado businessman who became the club's first American owner two years ago.

The reaction of the crowd to the U.S. anthem may have had more to do with simple bad taste than political activism. Later, during the second period, fans cheered wildly as play was stopped when Boston's P.J. Axelsson briefly lay motionless on the ice after a hit.

Early in the game, fans booed Patrice Bergeron, a native of Ancienne-Lorette, Que., who scored the game winner for the Bruins in overtime of the second game.

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