MONTREAL – So much for the Montreal Canadiens serving as a bad matchup for a Bruins team that can do no wrong.
The Black and Gold did very little wrong in serving a 4-1 beating to the hated Habs on their home ice at the Bell Centre that ended a five-game losing streak against their Original Six arch-rivals. It didn’t always look that way as the Canadiens actually carried the play in the scoreless first period while outshooting the Bruins by a 13-6 margin, and setting Boston off-balance with their speed.
But the Bruins came out looking much more like their strong selves in the second period, and started attacking a group of Montreal defenseman missing their warrior shot-blocker, Josh Gorges. Young blueliner Jarred Tinordi botched a puck retrieval attempt off a defensive zone face-off and gave Carl Soderberg a free shot at the Montreal net and goaltender Peter Budaj.
Soderberg easily beat Budaj for his 12th goal of the season at the 1:33 mark, and Boston was off and running. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron followed with a nice two-man play that left Tinordi once again flailing as the last line of defense, and Bergeron firing his 19th goal into the open net.
The real back-breaking play occurred at the end of the second period. Thomas Vanek and Tomas Plekanec had the B’s defensemen pair of Johnny Boychuk and Matt Bartkowski hemmed into their own zone. The B’s managed to clear the puck, and Milan Lucic scorched a blast past Budaj to make it a three-goal advantage over Montreal.
Zdeno Chara tacked on another goal minutes into the third period, and David Desharnais finished off the scoring with the sole Habs strike that ruined Tuukka Rask’s bid (33 saves) for a shutout.
GOLD STAR: Tuukka Rask made 35 saves and captured only his third career win against the Montreal Canadiens in 15 contests with a needed effort against the Habs headed into the final month of the season. Rask was at his best in the first period stopping 14 shots, including some Grade A scoring chances from the Canadiens. It appeared that Rask had some trouble gloving clean shots from the outside from Andrei Markov and Thomas Vanek in that period, but he also stoned Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk on big breakaway attempts during that time as well. Rask settled in and did allow the David Desharnais goal in the third period when the refs were slow to freeze the puck, but he was brilliant at the Bell Centre.
BLACK EYE: Jarred Tinordi was exposed a bit by the Bruins as the Montreal defenseman situation is in flux while Josh Gorges is out for the next month with a broken hand. Tinordi had an unforced turnover off a defensive zone face-off that led to an easy goal for Carl Soderberg, and then was hung out to dry when Andrei Markov fell down on the Brad Marchand-to-Patrice Bergeron odd man rush. He finished a minus-2 in 14:14 with a giveaway, and probably isn’t ready for prime time against a team like the Bruins in a big game. The Habs just inserted the ageless Frances Bouillon into the lineup, and had to force-feed him 24:03 against the Bruins on Wednesday night.
TURNING POINT: Some could easily point to the 14 saves by Rask in the first period, but the big turning point arrived at the end of the second period with the Bruins already holding a 2-0 lead. The fourth line plus Matt Bartkowski and Johnny Boychuk were hemmed into the defensive zone by Tomas Plekanec and Thomas Vanek, but the Habs couldn’t score despite four or five good shots at the net. The B’s fourth-liners finally cleared the puck, and that a quick line change turned into a Milan Lucic bomb from the right face-off circle that pushed Boston to a three-goal lead. The Habs were cooked at that point.
HONORABLE MENTION: Milan Lucic had the big goal at the end of the second period on a powerful shot, and was a physical presence from his very first shift when he slammed Alexei Emelin against the boards. Lucic finished with four shots on net and five registered hits, and physically pounded the Canadiens in 16:37 of ice time for the Black and Gold. The B’s left-winger seemed to understand, as well as anybody on the Bruins roster, that Boston needed to have some success against the Habs prior to a potential date in the playoffs. Then he went out and physically dominated Montreal with his body-checking and his offensive skill.
BY THE NUMBERS: 23:24 – the team-high ice time for B's defenseman Matt Bartkowski, who blocked five shots along with three registered hits and certainly looked playoff ready to this pair of eyes.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “That's what we are here for. We try to be one of the best third lines in the NHL and help our team win every night.” –Carl Soderberg, who has been on fire with seven points (3 goals, 4 assists) in the past eight games, including the first goal against the Canadiens.