Boston, MA – As the season’s first significant snowfall touched down in the Boston area, so too did the Montreal Canadiens. Neither snow nor Carey Price (29 saves) would be able to stop the Boston Bruins from plowing ahead to victory. The Canadiens had a 1-0 lead after two periods (6-1-2 when doing so) but three goals by the Bruins in the third extended the club’s home point streak to 15 games (11-0-4). The Bruins have yet to lose in regulation at TD Garden this season.
The “Original Six” rivals have played twice this season, both in Montreal, this is the first of two in Boston. Previously the teams had split with the Bruins having won last Tuesday 8-1 and the Canadiens 5-4 in early November. The Canadiens came into the game riding a seven game winless streak, grabbing three points from ties over that span. While the Bruins come in winners of their last six and in the midst of a 10-game point streak.
The Canadiens wasted little time getting on the scoreboard. An errant Zdeno Chara pass behind the Bruins goal line went straight to Montreal’s Joel Armia. The 26-year-old Finn walked out from behind the Boston net and backhanded the puck over the shoulder of Tuukka Rask (27 saves) for the 1-0 Montreal lead. The unassisted goal was the 10th of the season for Armia and third in his last three games.
The Bruins responded with pressure but Price was turning in a stellar performance after his dismal one last Tuesday. A save on a Branden Carlo slap-shot from the blue line, followed by a save on Charlie Coyle down low and it was shaping up to be Price’s night.
The Canadiens defense had a few solid body checks throughout the game. The first came when Nate Thompson crushed Joakim Nordstrom at the Montreal goal line.
Montreal had the period’s only power play when Charlie McAvoy was whistled for High-Sticking in the Bruins zone at 14:38. Jeff Petry had a blast from the blue line turned away by Rask, then Armia had a wrist shot from the slot that his countryman saved.
For the period the visitors from Montreal controlled the face-off dot 10-7 and outshot the Bruins 11-10.
The middle frame was rather uneventful. Sean Kuraly, Anders Bjork, Chris Wagner, Matt Grzelcyk, and Connor Clifton had a solid shift controlling play in the Canadiens zone early but Price was up to the task. About halfway through the period Danton Heinon set up Wagner when he floated a pass from the boards that Wagner one-timed in the slot but again Price made the stop.
Things got chippy shortly before the period ended. David Pastrnak and Brendan Gallagher exchanged words as they lined up for a face-off in the Bruins zone. After the puck was dropped Pastrnak drew a Tripping call on defenseman Shea Weber at 17:13 and all ten players on the ice had to be separated by the officials. The Bruins Jake DeBrusk and Montreal’s Gallagher were sent off with matching Roughing calls while Weber served his penalty.
The NHL’s top ranked power play was humming but could not solve Price. Pastrnak had a slap-shot turned away by Price. Grzelcyk had an end to end rush just after the power play expired, Price made the save blocker side against the post. The Bruins defenseman poked at the lose puck and sent it across the crease along the goal line but no one was there to bang it home. The Bruins were outshooting the Canadiens 20-19 after two, while Montreal won 52% of the draws.
Boston came out guns blazing in the third. Grzelcyk had a blast from the blue line early that Price knocked away. Then Torey Krug had one from the same spot. Gallagher had a breakaway from the Bruins blue line that Rask got a piece of to steer the puck wide. Back at the other end Price had a nice save on a David Backes shot from the slot.
The Bruins got on the board at 6:16 when Carlo chipped the puck out of the Bruins zone to Bjork who banked it off the boards to Pastrnak at the Montreal blue line. The hottest player in the NHL unloaded and absolute rocket past Price far side, top corner on a slap-shot from the top of the right circle. With the score now tied 1-1 the TD Garden crowd was back into the game. The goal was Pastrnak’s 25th of the season.
A Holding penalty on Montreal’s Nick Cousins at 8:38 gave the Bruins another crack at the power play. Grzelcyk had a shot from the slot that was only stopped by the knob of Price’s goalie stick. With just nine seconds remaining on the man advantage David Krejci dished from below the goal line out to Backes in the slot. The 35-year-old Backes notched his first goal of the season at 10:29 when he beat Price blocker side. Backes had missed the previous 15 games with an upper body injury. His power play goal would prove to be the game winner.
DeBrusk and the Bruins added an insurance goal at 13:27. As he began to make his way around the Canadiens goal Coyle passed the puck through Weber’s legs to DeBrusk out front. DeBrusk roofed the puck into the Montreal goal for his sixth of the year.
Pastrnak took a big hit at the Montreal blue line as he carried the puck into the zone. Defenseman Ben Chiarot planted the Bruins winger on the ice.
The Bruins carried play as the period, and the game, wound down. Backes had a breakaway bid that Chiarot helped steer high on Price. The Bruins even had a Too Many Men On the Ice call go against the Canadiens at 18:09. Brad Marchand had breakaway bid snuffed out by Petry and Armia on the back-check. the Bruins outshot the Canadiens 34-29, while the visitors won the face-off battle by winning 59% of the draws. Boston outhit Montreal 32-28 and blocked 16 shots to Montreal’s 12.
“We know how to win,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy when asked about his team’s resiliency. “Our guys have proven that. We’re still trying to get to our game for a full sixty minutes but I don’t think we’re ever out of games. Goaltending has a lot to do with that, our experience in big moments, our leadership group has a lot to do with that. I think we play the right way typically, sometimes when we aren’t playing our best we’re still trying to stay in the game, play the right way so it doesn’t get out of hand. So I think all of those things go into it. We’re a competitive group.”
“That penalty behind the net is what changed the outcome of the game,” said Canadiens coach Claude Julien about the call on Cousins that led to the Backes game-winner. “It’s unfortunate. It was a bad call. His stick, [Torey] Krug’s stick, is stuck under his own player. And as a referee in a 1-1 hockey game, you’ve got to make sure when you make those calls. I’m pissed off at the way that was handled. Not in a good position to see it, and he makes that call, ends up giving them the go-ahead goal and takes away an opportunity from us to win a hockey game, For 45, 46, 47 minutes, we were playing solid hockey. We needed that win desperately, and now we’ve got to go home and find a way to win the next one.”
“We’re pros here. You don’t sit in there and feel sorry for yourself, because we all know you can’t get out of it that way,” added Julien. “We need to just buckle down here and keep pushing, maybe next time the break goes our way, and if it goes our way, we win a hockey game.”
Montreal returns home to host the New York Islanders on Tuesday at the Bell Center. Puck drop is at 7:00 pm. While the Bruins host the Carolina Hurricanes at TD Garden, also Tuesday night at 7:00 pm.