Montreal leaves Boston in ruins

Canadiens rally from 3-1 series deficit to beat Bruins in Game 7

Posted: Tuesday, April 20, 2004

BOSTON - Alex Kovalev and the Montreal Canadiens salvaged their season and brought a shocking end to Boston's.

Kovalev set up Richard Zednik's tiebreaking goal midway through the third period and the Canadiens capped a comeback unprecedented in their rich history, beating the Bruins 2-0 Monday night to win the first-round series in seven games.

"When we lost the first game and were down 3-1 in the series, we never gave up," Kovalev said.

For the second time in three years, the Bruins were upset by the Canadiens in the first round.

"We had our chances," Boston defenseman Nick Boynton said. "We blew it."

The Canadiens won a playoff series for the first time after trailing 3-1, capturing two of the final three games in Boston. Seventh-seeded Montreal will take on the Eastern Conference's top team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, in the second round.

Jose Theodore, who helped eighth-seeded Montreal eliminate top-seeded Boston in the first round in 2002, got the first playoff shutout of his career, stopping 32 shots with the help of a swarming defense.

"Teams are successful because of goaltending in this league," Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. "He was at his best when it really counted."

Zednik clinched the victory with an empty-net goal with 7.8 seconds remaining. Kovalev and Saku Koivu assisted on both goals.

Kovalev leads the NHL with five playoff goals this season but allowed Glen Murray to go in by himself for the winning overtime goal in Game 4. That followed Kovalev's disappointing season with the New York Rangers and Montreal. In 12 regular-season games with the Canadiens he had one goal and two assists.

"The most important thing was to save it for the playoffs," he said.

Bruins captain Joe Thornton played all seven games in pain, caused by a rib injury sustained with two games left in the regular season. He went scoreless in the series, and when it was over coach Mike Sullivan revealed the nature of the "upper body" injury.

"Most players in the league wouldn't have played," Sullivan said.

But Thornton was determined.

"It's something you have to do in the playoffs," he said. "It's devastating (that) we lost the game. It's unacceptable."

Sullivan said his team played a "terrific" game. But a goal that Boston goalie Andrew Raycroft could do little about was costly.

Kovalev skated behind the Bruins goal and shot the puck from the goal line to Raycroft's right. It hit the side of the net and bounced in front, where Zednik was unguarded. He scored with 9:08 left.

"On the shift before the goal, I told Zednik to get in front of the net and, with the choppy ice, I'd try to get it in front," Kovalev said.

Boston, which had never lost a series it led 3-1, had its six-game winning streak in Game 7s snapped. Montreal has won four of the six Game 7s between the Original Six teams. It was Montreal's 24th playoff series victory out of 30 meetings with Boston.

The Canadiens were 0-12 in seven-game series they trailed 3-1. They got as close as 3-3 just one other time, in 1954. The Bruins were 17-0 when ahead 3-1.

The last time the Bruins lost a Game 7 was April 25, 1982, against Quebec. Montreal's last Game 7 victory was May 1, 1992, when the Canadiens eliminated Hartford. Quebec's team has since moved to Colorado and Hartford's team moved to Carolina.

The Bruins fell short despite the midseason acquisitions of veterans Michael Nylander, Sergei Gonchar and Jiri Slegr and the emergence of rookie Raycroft.

Flames 3, Canucks 2, OT

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Martin Gelinas scored a power-play goal 1:25 into overtime and the Calgary Flames won a playoff series for the first time since 1989 by beating the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7.

Matt Cooke's second goal tied it for Vancouver with 5.7 seconds left in regulation, but the Canucks started the overtime down a man because of Ed Jovanovski's high-sticking penalty with 27 seconds remaining.

Alex Auld made two good stops in close on the power play, but Gelinas knocked the second rebound over the fallen goaltender from the right side of the net.

Jarome Iginla scored twice and Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 26 shots as the Flames captured a series for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup 15 years ago. Craig Conroy had two assists for Calgary, which won three of four games on the road.

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