A 4-1 drubbing in Dallas put a damper on a strong week out west where the Canadiens won back-to-back games in Arizona and Vegas, so the Montreal Canadiens were in search of a rebound performance on Tuesday night against their long-time rivals, the Boston Bruins.
The Habs had their hands full. The Bruins mounted a furious comeback in Monday’s win over the Pittsburgh Penguins as Brad Marchand totaled five points in the game. The team as a whole is flying high in Boston, and Tuukka Rask was tasked with stopping a hungry Canadiens side.
To no one’s surprise, Carey Price was in net for Montreal, but Claude Julien had shuffled the defensive pairs a bit, slotting Ben Chiarot next to Shea Weber, and bumping Victor Mete to a pairing with Jeff Petry. Also making his season debut was Ryan Poehling after he was recalled from the Laval Rocket to replace the injured Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
The lineup shuffle paid off almost instantly as the Canadiens jumped out to a lead in a little over a minute. Petry collected a pass from Max Domi and cut to the net, flinging a pass that banked off of Joel Armia’s skate and right to Mete. Mete wired his shot by Rask and put his side in front with his second goal of the season.
The Bruins ratcheted up the physicality, and jumped right back into the game with Jake DeBrusk ringing a shot off the post after catching the Canadiens flatfooted. A lazy icing from the visitors gave Julien a chance to put his top line on the ice against a tired group, and both Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar created chances, but were denied by Rask.
One of the biggest keys for Montreal as the game wore on was to stay out of the box or risk facing the NHL’s best power play. Mete, however, was called for hooking with a little over five minutes left to play in the opening frame, and it took all of six seconds for David Pastrnak to blister a shot by Price to tie the game up.
The goal against did nothing but wake up Montreal’s offence for the remainder of the period, leaving Rask shell-shocked in his net. Tatar skillfully collected a pass from Brendan Gallagher while leaving Zdeno Chara in his dust. His shot was partially gloved by Rask, but it trickled off the netminder and into the net to put Montreal back on top.
Thirty seconds later, Artturi Lehkonen attacked Brandon Carlo, who appeared to have done enough to chip the puck out of the Bruins zone. A timely save by Paul Byron kept it in, and the speedy winger took off in full flight, flinging a change-up through Rask’s five hole, increasing the Montreal lead to two goals as the teams headed to intermission.
Two early power plays handed Montreal all the opportunity in the world to truly bury the Bruins to start the second period. They were unable to convert on either, keeping their lead at an uncomfortable two goals.
Things got a bit ugly from there. On the same play Petry caught his leg and seemed to twist his knee underneath him, Poehling took a shot off the side of his head. Both players left for the room, but thankfully returned shortly thereafter.
Unfortunately, their returns didn’t come before Connor Clifton walked around Mikey Reilly and Cale Fleury to cut the Canadiens’ lead to just one.
While Montreal was content to dump the puck out and keep the Bruins at bay for as long as possible to end the second period, their passive play ended up costing them. Poor positioning by Weber and Chiarot allowed Anders Bjork to sneak one under Price’s pad to tie the game up.
As they did in the first period, the Canadiens battled back instantly, using the Bruins’ own poor decision-making against them. Nate Thompson moved toward the front of the net and Zdeno Chara had the idea to shove him into his own goalie, wiping out Rask. With the goalie down and out, Mete stepped in and fired home his second of the game, putting Montreal back in the lead just 42 seconds after Bjork’s goal.
Early-period woes struck Montreal again as Weber was sent off for a penalty on Brad Marchand. While the Canadiens managed to fend off the dangerous man advantage, they were not able to clear the puck far enough out of their zone, and Sean Kuraly outworked Mete to poke one by Price to tie the game up at four apiece.
It appeared that the Bruins had taken their first lead moments later, but a gutsy challenge by Julien saved his side from that fate. Charlie Coyle was offside by the slimmest of margins, and with that the game stayed tied.
The Canadiens seemed inspired by the reversal, and not long after the call they took the lead back again. Weber walked along the blue line then passed off to Chiarot, who advanced to the faceoff circle and ripped a shot in on Rask that again hit his glove, and slowly waffled in behind him.
The Canadiens then did everything they could to hold on through the final moments as the Bruins poured on the pressure. An errant icing by Max Domi only made the final minute or so more stressful as Rask left his net for the extra attacker, but some big last-second saves sealed the victory, and snapped Boston’s winning streak, handing them just their second regulation loss of the season.