Top Boston Sports Stories of 2014, No. 5: Bruins bounced by Canadiens in Eastern Conference semifinals

December 29, 2014 - 5:26 am
Over the final days of the year, WEEI.com will count down the top stories of 2014 in Boston sports. This is No. 5: Bruins bounced by Canadiens in Eastern Conference semifinals. To see the previous entries, click here. The only thing that could possibly sting more than the Bruins' Game 6 loss to the Blackhawks in the 2013 Stanley Cup finals would be a Game 7 loss to Montreal in the playoffs. Unfortunately for Bruins fans, that's exactly what happened in 2014. The B's and Habs met in the playoffs for the 34th time in their history in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and the series was as heated, exciting and back-and-forth as one would expected from two longtime rivals. So it was only right for this series to come down to the ninth Game 7 between the teams. The problem was only one team showed up for the start of the May 14 meeting. Dale Weise scored 2:18 into the first period and the Canadiens rolled to a 3-1 win at TD Garden to eliminate the top-seeded Bruins and advance to the Eastern Conference finals. For all the hype and drama leading up to a Game 7 at home against their bitter rivals, the Bruins played an uninspired first period in which they looked slow against the Canadiens' speed and hesitant with the puck, resulting in Weise's early goal. They committed three penalties and turned the puck over seven times in the period. "That's why we lost," Milan Lucic said after the game. Montreal went up 2-0 when Max Pacioretty scored on a one-timer midway through the second period. The Bruins finally beat Habs goaltender Carey Price, who made 29 saves, with 2:02 left in the second on a power-play goal by Jarome Iginla. Daniel Briere finished the B's off with a power-play goal with under three minutes to play to put Montreal up 3-1 late. "We definitely didn't play our best," Patrice Bergeron said. "It's the team that plays the best at this time that goes forward, and it wasn't us. We definitely could have been -- should have been -- a lot better." Things got more heated after the game when Lucic allegedly threatened Weise in the handshake line. Weise revealed this information to the media after the game, much to the displeasure of Lucic. "That's said on the ice, so it'll stay on the ice," Lucic said. "So if he wants to be a baby about it, he can make it public." The loss to the hated Canadiens was a disappointing end to what was once a promising season for the Bruins, one in which a return to the Stanley Cup finals seemed like the only logical destination. The B's cruised through the regular season with a 54-19-9 record (117 points) to win the President's Trophy. The Bruins were among the best in the league in goals and goals against, and ran with the Atlantic Division thanks an impressive 12-game winning streak in March. The B's dispatched the Red Wings in five games in the opening round of the playoffs despite dropping the series opener, capped off by a 4-2 Game 5 victory at TD Garden April 26. All seemed well for the Bruins, even without defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury in December. But Seidenberg's absence was felt in seven games against the Canadiens, as Matt Bartkowski and midseason acquisition Andrej Meszaros both proved to be liabilities against Montreal's speedy forwards. Bartkowski was the goat in Game 1 when he took a holding penalty 4:10 into double overtime, giving the Canadiens a power play that P.K. Subban capitalized on seven seconds in to give the Habs a 4-3 win at TD Garden. Trailing 2-0 after two periods, the Bruins outscored Montreal 3-1 in the third to force the extra period. The B's outshot the Habs 51-33 for the game, but Price led the way with 48 saves. The Bruins found themselves behind in the third period once again in Game 2, but this time completed the comeback to tie the series at 1-1. Thomas Vanek scored 6:30 into the third period to give the Habs a 3-1 lead. The B's answered with four unanswered goals to win 5-3. Reilly Smith scored the game-winner at 16:28, and Lucic added the empty-netter at 18:54 to seal the win. The Canadiens regained control as the series moved to Montreal for Game 3. The Habs scored twice in the first period on goals by Tomas Plekanec and Subban, and took a 3-0 lead 13:52 into the second period on a goal by Weise. Bergeron scored late in the second and Iginla scored late in the third to cut the deficit to 3-2, but Lars Eller halted the comeback with an empty-netter with three seconds left in regulation to give the Canadiens a 4-2 win and 2-1 series lead. The Bruins needed an unlikely hero to tie the series at 2-2 at Bell Centre in Game 4. The game was a scoreless struggle in regulation, but the B's broke through 1:19 into overtime when Matt Fraser, who was called up from Providence the day before, slipped a rebound past Price to allow Boston to escape with a 1-0 win. "It's something I dreamed about many times on the outdoor rinks growing up," the 23-year-old Fraser said after the game. "It's every kid's dream to score in overtime. ... Words can't even describe that feeling. I just watched the replay of it and I don't even want to begin to try to explain that because it's something I wish that every kid could feel." Tuukka Rask made 33 saves in the shutout. The Bruins appeared as if they had found their game back in what was their most impressive win of the series, although it would ultimately be their last. The B's scored two power-play goals and Carl Soderberg notched a goal and two assists to give the Bruins a 4-2 win in Game 5 at TD Garden to take a 3-2 series lead. Soderberg scored 13:20 into the first period to put the B's up 1-0. Smith and Iginla each scored on the power play less than two minutes into the second to extend the lead to 3-0. Brendan Gallagher and Subban each scored power-play goals for the Habs. Loui Eriksson added a goal 14:12 into the third. Like many Bruins-Canadiens games, the biggest story from Game 5 had nothing to do with goals or saves. Shawn Thornton was fined for squirting water into Subban's visor, which left the Habs defenseman upset after the game. "I don't know if it's part of the game, but I'm sure if that was me who did it, it would be a different story," Subban said. "It'd probably be on the news for three days." Combine that with Lucic taunting the Canadiens by flexing from the bench, and it left the Habs sensing "disrespect" on behalf of the Bruins. The Habs used that disrespect as ammunition in Game 6 when they thrashed the Bruins 4-0 at Bell Centre. Eller scored 2:11 into the first period and the Habs never looked back. The B's dominated the first half of the second period but couldn't convert despite an open opportunity in front by Lucic. The Habs made the Bruins pay when Pacioretty and Vanek scored in the final minutes of the period to take a 3-0 lead into the third. Vanek scored again 16:04 into the third. The beatdown set up the forgettable Game 7 effort by the Bruins. "We let our fans down," Lucic said. "We had a great opportunity with a team like this and it's a tough one to swallow." Said Rask: "We had a decent first series, but this just shows that winning the regular season doesn't mean anything." The Canadiens were eliminated by the Rangers in six games in the Eastern Conference finals.