From the drop of the puck Thursday night against Montreal at the Garden, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the Boston Bruins’ effort — except maybe that they were trying too hard.
Indeed, if effort — and high-quality scoring chances — were all it took, the Bruins would not have dropped this 4-3 Eastern Conference semifinal series Game 1 decision to the Canadiens on defenseman P.K. Subban’s second goal of the night at 4:17 of the second overtime.
Game 2 is today at 12:30 p.m. at TD Garden.
The Habs took home-ice advantage away from the Bruins despite being outshot 51-33. Add up all the shots — on net, blocked or wide of the cage — and the home team had a 98-58 advantage.
The Bruins came up empty on many great chances against goalie Carey Price & Co. The B’s also know they let one slip away they should have had — even if the Canadiens held a 2-0 lead after two periods.
The B’s finally got their game in sync both in the third period — scoring twice to tie the score and a third goal to even the score again — and in the first overtime, playing with tremendous energy and funneling a ton of rubber toward Price. But not in the net.
“It’s always disappointing losing any game in OT,” said Bruins winger Jarome Iginla, one of many B’s who had a slew of near-misses. “I thought we dominated the game. Even when they got out to the lead we had chance after chance. They were just a little tough on going in.
“Some nights that happens. Tip your hat, the goalies were very good. On other nights, (the pucks) go in.
“It (stinks) not winning that one, but we played well. I thought we controlled that game. If we play that way, we’ll get good results. We hit some posts, (Price) made some great saves, sometimes we didn’t get the puck up. But we had good zone time and good looks.
“For the most part, I thought we really carried the play and did a lot of things we want to do.”
But for all their frenzied compete-level, the B’s weren’t getting a whole lot accomplished in the first two periods, as Montreal claimed a two-goal lead and the B’s looked sloppy.
The patient Canadians seemed quite capable of protecting the puck well, covering the Bruins tightly and running out the clock with their two-goal lead. It was working because the B’s let so many good scoring chances fizzle. A sample:
•With 3:05 left in the first, Bruins winger Milan Lucic set up trailing defenseman Torey Krug in mid-slot. It appeared Krug had an open net, if he pullled the trigger immediately, but he hesitated and the opportunity was gone.
•A minute into the second, a great Krug pass sent Bruins center David Krejci in alone, but he pushed his backhander wide — and slammed his stick on the ice in exasperation.
With just over a minute left in the second, Iginla’s pass found Lucic for an open bid from mid-slot — but he missed the net.
•Midway in the third a neat little Krug pass by the blue line cleared the way for Lucic to walk in from left point. But he fumbled the puck.
It was a frustrating night for the home team and its fans — both seeming close to death after two periods. But then, a bolt from out of the blue changed everything and turned a rather uninteresting contest into a great playoff game.
Reilly Smith’s goal from the right circle launched the comeback 6:32 into the third — and the B’s suddenly had their game in order. Krug scored with a slapper from the left circle to make it 2-2. Montreal reclaimed the lead, but with 1:58 left in regulation, defenseman Johnny Boychuk’s bomb from the high slot sent the game into overtime.
“I think we had a lot of opportunities before I scored,” said Smith. “It’s tough when they’re not going in. But then in the third period, we did a better job of getting in front of (Price). That led to some of our chances and goals.
“They have a good goaltender on the other side. We really have to focus on making life a little more difficult for him. Our effort was really good. We got a lot of opportunities. We’ve just got to focus on putting them in the back of the net.”