In the end, the result was inevitable. The Boston Bruins have not won a playoff contest in the Montreal Forum in a long time, and the Canadiens continued their winning habit with a tightly contested 4-2 victory last night in the first game of the NHL semifinals.
Bench-sitter Pierre Larouche netted the winner with 7:43 left in regulation when he capped a two-on-one break by rapping Doug Risebrough's set-up past Bruin goalie Gerry Cheevers' gloveside. Doug Jarvis added an empty-net goal.
The New York Rangers also jumped out to a 1-0 lead in their semifinal series by stunning the host New York Islanders, 4-1, at the Nassau Coliseum.
Trailing 2-1 after two periods, the Habs had evened the score at 3:44 of the third on a fluke goal by (who else?) Guy Lafleur, who banked a centering pass off Bruin defenseman Mike Milbury and between Cheevers' legs.
The Canadiens came out hitting after the opening face-off, and some aggressive forechecking by Bob Gainey paid off at 13:52. After Gainey kept the puck in the zone, Lafleur slipped the puck to linemate Jacques Lemaire for an easy tip-in.
When the tempo slowed up a bit in the second period, Boston struck back for two goals in 57 seconds. First, Jean Ratelle knocked in Rick Middleton's rebound, then Don Marcotte wristed a pass from Terry O'Reilly past Ken Dryden to make it 2-1 Boston at 5:34. But the one-goal lead could not hold up.
In New York, Don Murdoch, Eddie Johnstone, Ron Duguay and Bobby Sheehan, who was called up from New Haven for the playoffs, tallied for the Rangers after Bryan Trottier had given the Islanders a shortlived 1-0 advantage.