Chara return boosts Bruins to win over Habs

MONTREAL (Reuters) - The Boston Bruins clawed their way back into the NHL first-round playoff series against Montreal with a 4-2 road win over the Canadiens Monday.

The Bruins lost the first two games of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series but cut the deficit to 2-1 with Monday's win and can tie the series with a Game Four victory in Montreal Thursday.

Boston raced to a 3-0 lead on goals from David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley, but the Canadiens stormed back to make it 3-2, Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec netting for the Habs.

With the Canadiens pushing for an equaliser, Chris Kelly clinched the win with an empty-net goal in the final minute.

Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, who led the NHL in goals against average and save percentage in the regular season, made 34 saves and got a boost from captain Zdeno Chara's return to the ice after the hulking defenseman missed Game Two with dehydration.

"He makes a huge difference," Thomas said. "He's one of the most important players if not the most important player on this team, and he's one of, if not the best, defensemen in the league."

It was Chara's first time back in Montreal since his hit on Max Pacioretty ended the Canadiens winger's season with a concussion and broken vertebrae.

Krejci and Horton scored in the first period to get the Bruins off to a strong start and Peverley made it 3-0 two minutes into the second.

Kostitsyn pulled one back for Montreal five minutes later and Plekanec gave the Habs hope with his goal four minutes into the third but the sixth-seeded Canadiens could not find another goal. Carey Price made 21 stops for Montreal.

(Reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles, Editing by Peter Rutherford)