BOSTON – Carey Price saw the puck much better Thursday night than he did a year ago from the Montreal bench.

Price posted his third postseason shutout after starting just one of his team’s 19 playoff games last season, Brian Gionta scored twice and Montreal opened the series with a 2-0 victory over the Boston Bruins.

“If we were able to write down on paper how we would have wanted to start the series, this would have been it,” Price said.

Price stopped 31 shots, few of them challenging and most with no Bruins in the slot to block his view.

“You need to take away his vision,” Boston Coach Claude Julien said. “We were all around the net but we weren’t in front.”

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Saturday night in Boston.

Price was a spectator for most of last year’s playoffs, watching Jaroslav Halak carry the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference finals where they lost to the Philadelphia Flyers.

But Halak was traded to the St. Louis Blues in June and Price regained the starting job he had lost at midseason last year. This season, he started 70 games.

“He was our most valuable player in the regular season and he gave us a chance to win every night,” Montreal Coach Jacques Martin said.

Price finished third in the NHL with eight shutouts, seventh with a .923 save percentage and 10th with a 2.35 goals-against average. His eight shutouts ranked third, but Bruins goalie Tim Thomas was the best in the league with a 2.00 goals-against average, a .938 save percentage and a .718 winning percentage.

Thomas couldn’t do much to stop Gionta’s goal at 2:44 of the first period on a pass from Scott Gomez from the left boards. Gionta and Mathieu Darche both got behind the Bruins’ defense, with Darche directly in front of Thomas and Gionta on the right side of the crease. Darche let the puck go by and Gionta put it in between Thomas’ left side and the post.

“I didn’t know there was a guy at the back door,” Thomas said. “I was playing the guy in front and it looked like he was the one that was going to pick it off, and by the time I realized that it got through him and over to Gionta he made a quick shot.

“If he holds it a half-second more I can get over there.”

Gomez also assisted on Gionta’s other goal at 16:42 of the third period.

“Anytime in the playoffs you can take one on the road and it’s the first one, that’s big,” Gomez said.

The game was played cleanly between the teams that had several physical confrontations in the regular season.

In Boston’s 8-6 win at home on Feb. 9 there were 45 penalties for 182 minutes. On March 8 in Montreal, the Canadiens won 4-1, a victory overshadowed by Zdeno Chara’s hard hit that drove Max Pacioretty into a stanchion between the team’s benches. Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion and a cracked vertebra.

The Bruins dominated play for most of the last two periods, but it was a disappointing playoff start after a disastrous end to their postseason last year. They won the first three games over the Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, but Philadelphia forced a seventh game and rallied from a 3-0 deficit to a 4-3 victory.

 


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