After getting a break over the past week, the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins began stretches where they will both play five games over and eight-day period, with last night being the first of three meetings between the two in that stretch.
The teams showed few signs of rust out of the gate, with the Bruins pulling off a series of passes that created an open lane for a shot, while Brendan Gallagher and Paul Byron had two separate rushes, with each attempting to pick out the other on two offensive forays but just failing to click on both.
The first play to achieve success came off the stick of Victor Mete, who was inserted back into the lineup for his first game since returning from the World Juniors. The rookie defenceman walked along the blue line to create a lane to the net, creating a rebound for Max Pacioretty to knock in to open the scoring.
Mete and defence partner David Schlemko were helping to keep the play in the Bruins’ end with some aggressive pinches to keep the cycle going. It was an element the Habs have been missing at various points throughout the year, and it allowed Montreal to keep the pressure on for long stretches.
One of those high-intensity shifts led to a power-play chance for the Canadiens when Andrew Shaw was taken down away from the puck behind he net. The Habs were unable to gain the zone during the two-minute advantage they had earned, putting a damper on their momentum once the game returned to full strength.
Despite the lull in action, Mete was able to set up another great chance, banking a pass off the boards to Alex Galchenyuk in the neutral zone. Galchenyuk raced into the zone before sending a backhand pass to Charles Hudon. Hudon got all of the shot, but also all of the post to keep it at a one-goal game.
The Habs were quite a bit more generous at giving up the blue line when the Bruins got their first power play of the night. Both defencemen moved over to cover the puck-carrier, and Byron didn’t realize his check, Brad Marchand, was rushing into the open space in front of the net. Marchand accepted a pass and had lots of time to beat Carey Price and tie the game.
Three minutes into the second, another lapse in coverage erased the lead the Habs had worked hard to generate. The Canadiens attempted a change despite the puck never leaving the neutral zone, and Jake DeBrusk slipped by an entire contingent of Habs to get a breakaway from the blue line. He flipped the puck to the top of the net to give the Bruins a one-goal advantage.
It didn’t take the Habs long to get it back however, as a breakdown from the Bruins allowed Nicolas Deslauriers to speed right down the middle of the Boston zone and rip a shot behind Tuukka Rask. It was Deslauriers’ fifth goal of the season.
With the Canadiens on a power play a few minutes later, they were able to regain the lead once again. Off a faceoff win, Galchenyuk slid over to his typical spot, accepted a pass from Jonathan Drouin, and put his team ahead with an explosive wrist shot.
The Habs enjoyed their lead for several minutes, but the game got knotted at three before the second period could come to a close. Jakub Jerabek knocked down an attempt on goal but wasn’t able to clear the bouncing puck. David Krejci got ahold of it and knocked it in behind Price from close range.
The Bruins pressed for another equalizer, with the puck coming to Zdeno Chara at the point. His slapshot of a bouncing pass led to a rising shot, hitting Phillip Danault in the head. Danault immediately fell to the ice, and stayed down for several minutes while trainers assessed his situation.
Despite attempting to get up on his own, the Canadiens took no chances with a potential head or neck injury, taking care to get him on a stretcher and off the ice. The centreman was transported to hospital, where he stayed overnight for evaluations.
The injury brought on the second intermission with more than a minute remaining, as the referees decided to play the remaining time after the players had a break to settle down after the situation on the ice.
After the energy and pace of the first two periods, the teams were understandably more reserved when they returned. In front of a subdued crowd, the opening minutes of action were fairly uneventful as players no doubt still had their minds on Danault’s status.
The pace gradually returned throughout the period, though neither side was able to get the goal needed to claim a victory.
The overtime three-on-three period saw the energy ramp up to its highest level, with both teams determined to get the win. For the Canadiens, their best chances came with either Jerabek or Mete on the ice, with their dynamic play styles benefitting from the open ice presented to them.
The greatest chance to score from either team was denied when both Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec batted at the puck in the crease, but they were denied by the stick of Torey Krug.
With nothing resolved, the game went to a shootout. Paul Byron and DeBrusk scored on the first shots, but it took until the fourth round for a winner to be determined. Galchenyuk was unable to convert his shot, and Brad Marchand won the game on the next one by beating Price to secure the 4-3 victory.
The Canadiens won’t wait long to get their shot at revenge, as they travel to TD Garden to take on the Bruins on Wednesday night. Before that, they will welcome John Tavares and the New York Islanders into town for a match on Monday night.