Montreal tries to put late-game mistake behind it

Updated: April 21, 2004, 2:37 PM ET
Associated Press

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens had a team dinner Wednesday night, hoping to soften some hard feelings from a double-overtime loss to the Boston Bruins.

The defeat, in which the Canadiens blew a 3-1 lead and lost 4-3 Tuesday night because of a major blunder by forward Alexei Kovalev, left them down three games to one in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. Montreal faces elimination in Game 5 on Thursday night in Boston.

Earlier Wednesday, defenseman Sheldon Souray and coach Claude Julien backed off criticism of Kovalev for abandoning the puck after he was slashed on the hand in the second overtime. That left Boston's Glen Murray free to get the game-winning goal on a breakaway at 9:27.

"It's a long year, and sometimes you're going to have distractions," captain Saku Koivu said. "You have to clear the table and then forget the whole thing. That's what we're going to do.

"I don't think there will be a problem, but if there is, we'll talk about it."

Kovalev was flapping his hand in pain after being hit on the glove by Travis Green and collided with pursuing Souray, preventing him from reaching the puck. Murray did the rest, sending the Bruins back to Boston with a chance to end the series quickly.

After the game, Souray said that even if a player is hurt, he shouldn't "quit on the play." On Wednesday, his tone was softer.

"I wasn't blaming anyone," he said. "I was just disappointed in the way we lost.

"Alex was probably our best player in the game. It was just an unfortunate play that ended up costing us the game. But whatever happened, it's in the past."

Julien also backed off from his postgame comments.

"I don't think I said 'he,' I said 'we' can't stop playing until the ref blows the whistle," Julien said. "But as far as that's concerned, we said what we had to say. Right now, we want to focus on the game."

Kovalev tried to be understanding of the criticism.

"If they made those comments, that's what they think," he explained. "I can't control that."

Kovalev scored two goals in Montreal's 3-2 win in Game 3 on Sunday and added another in Game 4 before the mistake in overtime.

"A lot of the guys came to me and said it's not my fault, which was great to see," he said. "But sometimes, you can't let it go. You still feel responsible for the loss. With the way we played, we should have won that game."

The Canadiens were less than a minute from winning in regulation when Mike Knuble beat Jose Theodore with a backhander.

The referees disallowed the goal, but the call was reversed after video replays showed the puck crossed the line.

The Bruins are expecting the Canadiens to bounce back from their emotional letdown.

"We have to give them respect," Martin Lapointe said. "They've been playing pretty well so far, so we can't take anything for granted."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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