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Bruins' star rookie makes 31 saves

4/8/2004

BOSTON (AP) -- Boston goalie Andrew Raycroft felt good before his
playoff debut and even better once it was over.

The rookie stopped 31 shots, and the Bruins -- with Joe Thornton
back from an injury -- won their playoff opener 3-0 over the
lackluster Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.

"You're going to have some butterflies" in the playoffs
regardless of a player's experience, Raycroft said. "You can only
get so nervous, and I was pretty close to where I like to be. It
keeps you focused."

The Bruins expected Raycroft to play well after watching him all
season. What they couldn't have counted on was taking an early lead and
scoring two power-play goals. Boston had the worst power play among
the eight Eastern Conference playoff teams, scoring on 16.6 percent
of its chances.

Boston led 2-0 after one period on goals by Sergei Gonchar and
Michael Nylander, both obtained from Washington early last month.
The Bruins made it 3-0 on Mike Knuble's goal late in the second.
Gonchar and Knuble scored on power plays.

"The power plays were the difference," Knuble said.

The return of Thornton, who missed the last two regular-season
games with an upper body injury, didn't hurt. He played 14 minutes,
53 seconds -- below his season average -- but he wasn't needed late
in the game.

"It responded pretty good," Thornton said of the injury.
"It's going to be a big day [Thursday] to see how it reacts."

The second-seeded Bruins can take a 2-0 lead in the
best-of-seven series against the seventh-seeded Canadiens at home
on Friday night.

"We have to do a lot of things better to win the next game,"
Montreal's Saku Koivu said.

The Canadiens can start by playing harder from the beginning.
They were outshot 23-9 in the first period and gave up Gonchar's
goal 5:12 in.

"That might have been the best period we played all year,"
Bruins coach Mike Sullivan said.

It may have been among the Canadiens' worst.

"We need to be more disciplined," Montreal coach Claude Julien
said. "Our thinking caps were not on as well as they should have
been. When we are not capable of making two passes in a row, we are
in for a tough night."

Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore faced 39 shots behind a sometimes
porous defense. Two years ago, Theodore was outstanding when
eighth-seeded Montreal eliminated top-seeded Boston in the first
round.

Raycroft, who shared playing time with Felix Potvin for most of
the first 25 games of the season, started the next 11. He excelled
as the first-stringer the rest of the way, finishing with a 2.05
goals-against average and three shutouts.

With 11:08 gone in the second period, he stopped Jan Bulis on a point-blank shot after Bulis rushed up ice. At 14:14, he saved Sheldon Souray's power-play shot from the right point and held on to the puck.

"Plain and simple," Souray said of his team's effort. "We
didn't show up."

Gonchar scored the first goal at 5:12 of the opening period on a
40-foot wrist shot after taking a drop pass from Nylander.

The Bruins obtained Gonchar on March 3 to help their power play,
but the unit became less effective. The next day, they traded for
Nylander, who had one goal and 11 assists in 15 games for them.

The pair combined for the second goal at 19:01 of the first
period when Gonchar passed the puck from 45 feet in the center of
the offensive zone to Nylander, who tipped it in from the right
corner of the crease.

Knuble made it 3-0 at 18:24 of the second when he tipped in a
shot that 18-year-old rookie Patrice Bergeron put into the crease
from a few feet to the left of Theodore.

Game notes
Montreal won 22 of the previous 29 playoff series against
Boston. ... The Bruins won just two of their last 11 playoff series
and none in the last four seasons. ... Boston was 3-0-1-2 against
Montreal in the regular season but outscored the Canadiens only
9-7. ... Montreal was 1-3-0-1 in its last five regular-season
games, while Boston went 3-1-1.