If moral victories counted for anything, the Canadiens would be leading their playoff series with Boston two-and-a-half games to one, but all the rationalization in the world doesn't mask the fundamental reality that the Habs let the Bruins off the mat last night.
Coach Jacques Martin says he felt at the morning practice that his players weren't ready for Game 3, and his sense of impending disaster proved unhappily accurate when the Canadiens joined 21,273 other spectators in watching the Bruins jump out to a 3-0 lead. Montreal dominated the second half of the game to the point where the Bruins needed a heroic third period performance from goaltender Tim Thomas and an empty net goal in the dying seconds to short-circuit a furious Canadiens comeback bid.
The refusal to fold in the face of a three goal deficit is being touted as a momentum-builder for the Habs for Game 4 Thursday, but that's a pretty weak song-and-dance for taking their foot off the pedal after winning the first two games on the road, and with an opportunity to all but bury the Bruins in Game 3.
If the Canadiens weren't ready last night, as their coach suggests, that's not his fault. At this time of the year, circumstances alone should provide the required motivation. The Habs allowed themselves to get as giddy as the rest of the city over a series that was only half-won, and they paid for it. Whether they learned from it will only become apparent Thursday night.