The Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins both said they were going to focus on the game at hand, and not allow past issues between the two clubs get to them. The Bruins accomplished that to the tee. As for the Canadiens? Well, they didn't really take their frustrations out on Mark Recchi or Zdeno Chara, but they were completely unfocused in a 7-0 beating at the hands of their long time rivals.
The visitors did have some good news, heading into the game, as Tomas Pleakanec, Jeff Halpern and Brent Sopel all returned from injuries.
The Canadiens couldn't seem to get anything going, at any level and were outshot 18-9 in the first period, and had just one scoring chance to Boston's nine.
The Bruins converted of those nine opportunities, scoring three times in the period on Carey Price.
Johnny Boychuk got the scoring started early, just 61 seconds into the game, when he rifled a point shot past the screened Canadiens goaltender. Gregory Campbell made it 2-0, on a tip in at 13:43, where the puck had bobbled under Price's pads and he accidentally kicked it into his own net.
From there it just got worse.
Later in the period, Plekanec was given a four-minute high sticking minor, after a collsion on the ice with Nathan Horton.
Horton managed to stay in the game, after a brief touch up, and capitalized on the power play with his 22nd goal of the season. He got a bit of luck on the goal as Price anticipated a cross ice pass, only to have his own teammate block it right back to the Bruins forward and an open net.
Horton later told TSN, during the second intermission, that he figured he needed eight stitches to fix the cut. Personally I think he embellished that a bit, as I only think a cut like that needs three or four. Sorry, must have been reading Recchi's medical journal there.
The Canadiens just couldn't rally back from that deficit, playing a relatively listless second period and managing just six shots on goal. Price managed to keep his team within reach, but they couldn't respond.
Paul Mara's beating on Campbell, late in the period, wasn't even enough put life into his teammates, as they headed into the third period.
The final period was no better for the Habs, and even their goaltender had run out of tricks. Horton bagged his second of the night on a perfect shot over the glove of Price. Twenty-six seconds later, an Adam McQuaid point shot deflected off the stick of Habs rookie Lars Eller and through the five-hole. The expression on Price's face on the replay said it all, "What else can go wrong?"
Price wouldn't get that answer, as Alex Auld would take over and have no better luck, as the Bruins just kept coming.
After conceding a goal to Tomas Kaberle (he actually can shoot), Montreal finally had a power play opportunity to break Tim Thomas' shutout bid. That too failed when Campbell rushed in on a breakaway for his second goal of the night.
The Bruins nearly bagged an eighth goal but fortunately time ran out.
Much like his Buffalo Sabres counterpart Ryan Miller, Thomas had an easy night in picking up his eight shutout of the season. It was the first time in four years that the Canadiens have been shutout in consecutive games.
The Habs now find themselves five points back of the division leaders, with the Bruins holding a pair of games in hand. If the playoffs started tomorrow, these two teams would meet in the first round and the team with home ice would have a huge amount of confidence going in.
Outscored 15-6 in the last two meetings, at the TD Banknorth Garden, the Canadiens would need to bring their A game to that series and hope Price has some more games to steal in Boston. Playing four ome games in Montreal would clearly be a better scenario, but it's safe to say we won't be seeing that.
We saw that happen last season, when the underdog Canadiens beat the Washington Capitals, whom they meet this Saturday at the Bell Centre.
More on the game from the gloaters at Stanley Cup of Chowder