- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

MONTREAL (AP) - Michael Ryder scored late in the second period and Tim Thomas made 23 saves to lead the Boston Bruins to a 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night and a commanding lead in their first-round playoff series.

Phil Kessel, Shawn Thornton, Chuck Kobasew also scored for Boston, which increased its lead in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal to 3-0 despite the absence of left wing Milan Lucic, who sat out a one-game league suspension.

Ryder, a healthy scratch for all but four of Montreal’s 12 playoffs games last season, put Boston ahead 17:21 into the second period. The former Canadiens left wing jumped on a rebound of Dennis Wideman’s shot from the right point and beat Carey Price with a shot into an open left side.

Kobasew scored into an empty net with 37 seconds remaining.

Chris Higgins and Yannick Weber scored for Montreal, which has lost seven in a row, including its last four games of the regular season.

Price, pulled Saturday after allowing five goals through the first two periods, made 26 saves in his third straight start.

The Bruins, who haven’t won a playoff series since 1999, are poised to beat the Canadiens for only the eighth time in 32 playoff matchups between the longtime rivals.

Game 4 is Wednesday night at the Bell Centre.

Lucic was suspended Monday by league disciplinarian Colin Campbell after he was assessed a match penalty for cross-checking Montreal’s Maxim Lapierre late in Saturday’s 5-1 win in Boston.

Left wing Alex Tanguay and defenseman Mathieu Schneider were both injured and unable to play for Montreal. The Canadiens, already without injured top defenseman Andrei Markov, announced moments after the opening faceoff that both key players were sidelined by upper-body injuries.

Weber, who made his playoff debut Saturday, remained in the lineup and collected two points, including an assist as Higgins gave the Canadiens’ their first lead of the series when he opened the scoring with his second goal 11:52 in.

Buoyed by a sold-out Bell Centre crowd of 21,273, Montreal pressed hard in the opening period, creating a number of scoring chances that drew the fans out of their seats.

Montreal’s 1-0 advantage lasted all of 6:43, though, erased when Kessel scored his third goal at 18:35, allowing the Bruins to head off to their dressing room with a 1-1 draw through the first 20 minutes.

Thornton, who scored six goals in 79 games during the regular season, gave Boston a 2-1 lead when he scored 3:36 into the second.

Thornton recorded his first point in 25 playoff games overall when he beat Price from the left side of the slot with a shot inside the left post after taking a setup pass from behind the net by Byron Bitz, who took Lucic’s spot in the lineup and made his playoff debut.

Weber tied it at 2 with his first playoff goal at 5:16.

Notes:@ Thornton won a Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007, playing 15 games without recording a point for the Ducks. He has appeared in 10 playoff games with the Bruins. … Canadiens D Ryan O’Byrne dressed for the first time in the series, and LW Gregory Stewart made his playoff debut. … Weber had one assist in three regular-season games.

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