Last night saw the greatest rivalry in hockey Boston vs Montreal add another chapter in it’s long storied history. The Bruins needed a win to put a little distance between themselves and a surging Tampa team for first in the division. On the other side Montreal needed a win just to keep pace in the race for a wild card spot. Montreal did receive some good news before the game that Shea Weber would be back in a little over a month. Early reports feared his latest injury could be career threatening, but that was confirmed to not in fact be the case. Let’s get to the action in what was a classic original six battle.
The Bruins were ready for this game and came out early looking to show why they are the best team in the NHL. The third line with Heinen back to his usual spot was buzzing early, possessing the puck and creating a number of quality chances. Not to be outdone the top line, specifically Pastrnak, was active early. Pasta forced turnovers and drove hard to the net, even making contact with Price on one scoring chance. Just under seven minutes into the game the Bruins top line forced a turnover at center ice allowing Marchand and Pastrnak to enter the offensive zone with speed. Marchand showed off his puck possession skills, taking on three Montreal defenders before sliding a pass to Pastrnak who buried the puck in the open net to make it 1-0 Bruins. Montreal would try to answer back, but Rask would make some big saves. The best save was on a wrist shot from Nick Cousins, where Rask has to move from post to post to deny the scoring opportunity. After a successful kill of the Bruins first power play Montreal got their legs going, really controlling the second half of the first period. Once again Rask was up to every challenge and continued to turn away dangerous scoring chances. As the game became more physical emotions ran high. This resulted in a bit of a wrestling match between Marchand and Petry, giving Montreal a power play in the final minute of the first period. The Bruins penalty kill would do its job and the first period came to an end with the score 1-0 Bruins.
The Bruins killed off the remaining penalty time and would go to work to try and add to their lead. Just over four minutes into the period the Bruins and Pastrnak would make it a 2-0 game. The play started in the Bruins defensive zone when Pastrnak was able to knock the puck of Petry’s stick and Kuraly jumped on it with speed. The Bruins had a 2 on 1 break, Kuraly fed Pastrnak, who went left to right in front of Price, catching him out of position and giving Pasta his 40th goal of the season and second of the game. However, Montreal would not be down two for long. Just over thirty seconds after the Bruins went up 2-0 a shot from the point would bounce off Nick Suzuki and into the net bringing Montreal back within one. With the goal, Montreal began trying to go after the Bruins with Gallagher being the main instigator targeting Chara. This resulted in a cross check from Chara to the much shorter Gallagher’s face, and both received minor penalties. The undisciplined play would continue from Montreal as two roughing penalties about a minute apart would give the Bruins a 4 on 3 power play. Just 30 seconds into the 4 on 3 the Bruins would add to their lead. Krug from the point would feed Marchand at the right circle for a one timer which was saved by Price, but the rebound would find its way to Pastrnak and he would not be denied. The goal put the Bruins up 3-1, giving Pastrnak his fourth hat trick of the season, and making him the NHL leader in goals with 41. The Bruins did have a slight scare as Kuraly and McAvoy would collide on the ice which sent Kuraly to the bench immediately in obvious discomfort, but he would later return to the game. The second period came to a close with the Bruins 3 and Montreal 1.
The third period continued with the undisciplined play as the Bruins would take a penalty just five minutes into the period. The P.K. and Rask would do their jobs once again, and with two seconds left on Montreal’s power play Gallagher would take yet another penalty putting the Bruins on the power play. With the game increasing in its chippy play the Bruins were content to hold their lead playing a more conservative style. The Bruins would create chances here and there but there were no long stretches of dominance like the first two periods. Montreal’s best chance to get back in the game came with under five minutes to play as a failed defensive zone clear by the Bruins led to numbers for Montreal. If not for a great pass block by Krug Montreal might have been back within one. With some momentum and time left it could have been a very different ending. Fortunately Krug made a great play and the Bruins would ice the victory on an empty net goal from Bergeron with under a minute to go. The final score the Bruins 4 and Montreal 1.
Final Thoughts/ Three Stars
The Bruins showed they were the superior team last night controlling much of the game and outshooting Montreal in every period. Montreal was clearly frustrated by the Bruins defense as well as Rask, who was outstanding once again. Rask extends his home regulation unbeaten streak to 19 games, going 13-0-6 since the start of the season. The first star of the game has to go to Pastrnak. Not only did he have the hat trick, but he made numerous defensive plays some that led to his goals. The second star goes to Rask, who stopped 28 of 29 shots picking up his 21st victory of the season. Finally the third star of the game goes to Big Z. Chara blocked a team high three shots and was a big part of the Bruins defense frustrating Montreal’s offense. Chara was also not drawn into taking any more penalties despite Gallagher’s constant targeting of him after their first matching penalties. The Bruins now are off till this weekend with yet another back to back starting with a revenge game against Detroit on Saturday. As always, make sure to check out all of the team pages to stay up to date on all things Boston sports.
Featured image courtesy of Francois Lacasse/NHLI and Getty Images