Montreal comes back from 3-1 down to bury Boston 5-3Posted: Tuesday April 23, 2002 10:10 PM
Updated: Wednesday April 24, 2002 3:12 AM
MONTREAL (AP) -- Only a few months ago, Saku Koivu was weak from chemotherapy and in the midst of a fight with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"It's a great feeling to come back like that and win in the first playoff game in Montreal in four years," said Koivu, 27, the Canadiens captain whose health struggle was a source of concern and inspiration for his team all season.
"It was special tonight," Koivu said. "I don't know what I thought when the puck went in because it all happened so fast. But it was great to score a winning goal in a game like this. The last time I scored here was more than a year ago."
The Canadiens lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series 2-1, with Game 4 set for Thursday at the Molson Centre.
"They just kept coming at us," Boston defenseman Kyle McLaren said. "Right now, I can't really say what happened."
"When you go into the third up 3-1, you should be able to hold on and win," McLaren said. "I can't describe how they came at us. It's hard to swallow, but it's a seven-game series and the next game is huge for us. We don't want to go home down 3-1."
It was the 38-year-old Gilmour who stood up in the dressing room after the second period and gave a speech to his teammates
And coach Michel Therrien helped by moving Koivu back to his natural position at center, bumping the ineffective Perreault to a checking line.
Koivu, who fell ill just before the start of training camp and endured eight chemotherapy treatments, started the Montreal comeback by setting up Audette for a goal 7:04 into the third.
Gilmour tied it 53 seconds later, and Koivu took a pass from Audette, shifted to his backhand and beat Byron Dafoe at 11:59 to make it 4-3.
That had the capacity crowd of 21,273 on its feet with a deafening ovation for a Canadiens team that looked beaten in the middle period.
"He's got such great hands and he can draw the puck from side to side and put it in like that," Gilmour said of Koivu. "That's something we all wish we could do.
"They [the Bruins] aren't letting up on him. They're taking runs at him, and he's stood up well and that's great to see."
Jose Theodore had little chance as Guerin one-timed Joe Thornton's pass into an open side 7:54 into the second, but the goaltender was frozen as Boynton's weak shot found its way through a crowd in front and went into the far corner 1:10 later.
The two quick goals moved Therrien to call a timeout. The Canadiens regrouped, but didn't strike back until the third period.
Back at center, Koivu won a faceoff from Jozef Stumpel to Audette for a goal. Gilmour flew into a pile in front of Dafoe to score at 7:57.
The Bruins were caught with all their skaters on one side of the ice as Andrei Markov slipped a pass to Audette, who fed it in front for Koivu to lift over Dafoe.
Koivu, whose blond hair has grown back and who looks stronger with each game, has two goals and three assists in three playoff games.
"The story can get a lot bigger in the next couple of weeks," Koivu said of the Canadiens late-season charge to the playoffs and early success against the Bruins. "It can become huge.
"We're doing a lot of good things, but if we lose the next three games, the story is nothing. If we win the next two, it's a big story."
The crowd was in full roar before the game even started and quieted only briefly as a moment of silence was held for the four Canadian soldiers killed in a "friendly fire" mishap in Afghanistan.
A few boos were heard as the U.S. national anthem began, but the majority kept quiet and it quickly died away.
Most stuck to their "Go Habs Go" chant, and the team's attempt to break with tradition by passing out white towels to the first 15,000 fans was a dud, as more than half refused to wave them.
Notes: About 90 minutes before the game, Theodore warmed up by playing lacrosse with defenseman Stephane Robidas outside the Montreal dressing room. ... The Molson Centre was picketed by locked-out Radio-Canada employees, including those who normally announce the Canadiens' French-language broadcasts. The game was televised in French with no commentary.