MONTREAL – Five times the Bruins and Canadiens have met with first place on the line the past two seasons, and the B’s have lost four out of those five.
The Bruins endured a scary-looking back injury to Johnny Boychuk early in the first period, and then couldn’t survive a poor second period en route to a 2-1 loss at the hands of the Habs at the Bell Centre. The victory gives Montreal eight wins in its past nine games, and gives them sole ownership of first place in the Northeast Division.
The loss drops B’s goaltender Tuukka Rask to 2-9-2 vs. Montreal in a career where he’s dominated so many other opponents.
The Bruins had opened things up with a nifty play started by Dennis Seidenberg literally kicking the puck up to Milan Lucic in the neutral zone, and Lucic drawing defenders toward him before dishing to Gregory Campbell for the score.
The B’s went into the first intermission up by a 1-0 score, but then got outshot by a 17-7 margin in the second period as Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty each potted goals for Les Habitants. The Plekanec score arrived on a slick cross-ice pass from Josh Gorges to Plekanec, and the Montreal roofed a shot to the glove side from a tough angle.
Pacioretty cleaned up a rebound in front after a Raphael Diaz drive to the net had caused all kinds of chaos directly in front of the Boston net.
GOLD STAR: Carey Price has been one of the NHL’s best goaltenders the first two months of the season, and he came to play against the Bruins with 32 saves. Half of those came while he was protecting a lead in the third period. There were plenty of excellent saves among the group over the final period, but the Montreal goalie was simply on point all night long. The only shot that beat him was when he vacated the net to cover Milan Lucic roaring down the middle of the ice, and couldn’t recover to stop Gregory Campbell’s shot from the wing. Price improved to 17-8-3 against the Bruins in his career.
BLACK EYE: Tuukka Rask has been great many, many times for the Bruins this season, but he wasn’t good in the middle 20 minutes against the Canadiens. Clearly nobody in a Bruins uniform was as they were outshot, 18-7. Rask let up a soft goal to Tomas Plekanec from a weird angle when he gave the Habs center too much net to shoot at. Rask also chided himself after the game for giving up a couple of rebounds in the second period that gave life to the Canadiens, and got the momentum rolling that ultimately led to a pair of goals.
TURNING POINT: The Bruins got off to a good start, weathered the scary Johnny Boychuk injury and then actually went into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead feeling good about themselves. Then it all turned in the second period as the B’s were outshot by an 18-7 margin, gave up a couple of goals and really seemed to get a little intimidated by their Bell Centre surroundings while totally losing momentum. The Bruins came back strong in the third period, but it was too late by then trying to get a puck past a red-hot Price. Claude Julien called the second period “atrocious”, “embarrassing” and “unacceptable”, and he was completely correct in a divisional game for first place.
HONORABLE MENTION: Max Pacioretty continued his strong play of late with the game-winning goal in the second period, as he crashed toward the net while becoming the right guy in the right place. The complete chaos in front left a puck in the slot that Pacioretty was able to step into. Rask never had a shot to stop it. It was Pacioretty’s fourth goal in the past three games, and gives him 11 on the season while helping to power the current hot streak Montreal is enjoying. He also played 21:34 of ice time and was an unfortunate physical presence when he gave a forearm to the back of Boychuk that resulted in an awkward, dangerous hit.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2-9-2 – the career record for Rask against the Canadiens, while Carey price is 17-8-3 against the Bruins. Finland, we have a problem.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I obviously feel terrible. I’ve been in that situation before, and I had no intent to injure anybody. I thought I was just playing hard. I hope everything’s going to be all right for him.” –Max Pacioretty, on the boarding hit against Johnny Boychuk that sent the Bruins defenseman to the hospital.