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Canadiens clearly ‘mean’ business

Long before they took exception to Milan Lucic [1] passing to a wide open Phil Kessel [2] for an empty net goal, Kessel’s second of the night, the No. 8 seed Montreal Canadiens [3] showed they were not going to be a pushover in this opening round best-of-7 series, despite losing 4-2 to the Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden [4].

“That’s the playoffs,” said Marc Savard [5], who set-up Zdeno Chara’s go-ahead strike midway through the third. “There’s going to be some bad blood. Obviously, throughout the game, we tried to get away from that. There’s some bad blood but that’s the way playoffs are. We’re going to have to be ready Saturday night.”

Saturday night at 8 o’clock there figures to be more tension when the two rivals take the ice for Game 2 at the Garden.

“Obviously, Looch makes a great play like he does and then he’ s unselfish and decides to go to Kess like that, maybe there’s a little animosity on the other side,” Savard said.

The animosity, and hard-hitting, began early in the first period when Montreal enforcer Georges Laraque drilled Zdeno Chara [6] along the corner boards in the Boston defensive zone followed up by a neutral zone hit on Milan Lucic. But it was the one against Chara that made the most noise.

“I want to play hard minutes,” Laraque said. “That’s what you do with every shift. You have to do this for the first couple of games and eventually it will turn around and make it easier for our skilled guys to play against him.”

Those two hits were no mistake. The Canadiens were clearly targeting the two toughest and biggest Bruins in an effort to show that they are not intimidated by the top-seeded Bruins, even on their home ice.

The hard hitting continued in the second period when the Canadiens managed to wipe out what was once a two-goal Boston lead when Alex Kovalev scored. The goal with 2:23 remaining in the middle frame reinforced to the Bruins that these Canadiens, even without Andrei Markhov and a limited Mathieu Schneider, mean business.

“They put up a great effort,” said Bruins goalie Tim Thomas [7]. “They’re not going to roll over for us. I think they showed that in the second period and we did a good job of bouncing back to it in the third period.”

“I thought there were a lot of body checks tonight, and our team looked like they got stronger or enjoyed it more as the game went along,” added Montreal coach Bob Gainey [8]. “For a stretch of minutes, maybe late in the second and early in the third, I thought we were able to use physical contact to our advantage.”

But that advantage came to an end when Josh Georges took a cross-checking penalty in full view of the referee. The Bruins capitalized 63 seconds later when Zdeno Chara fired a rocket past Carey Price [9] for a 3-2 Bruins lead.

“They have some physical guys, too,” said Savard [10], who fed Chara from the low left circle for the game-winner. “They have some great players. We knew this series is not going to be easy. When we came in here 2-2 after two (periods), we weren’t panicking or anything because we knew it was going to be a tight series anyway. They’re a good hockey club and so we stuck with it and that’s why we prevailed, and obviously the veteran leadership in the room.”

And it was Chara who provided the best perspective of all on this series-opening win.

“They compete hard and they play hard,” Chara said [11]. “We know what we have to do. We’re just happy to win the first game and it’s just the one game. To win a series, you have to win four games so it’s just the one game.”