Canadiens snap Bruins win streak, take season series
There is a reason why the Bruins and their fans should not want to see the Canadiens this postseason. With Montreal’s 2-1 shootout win (Alex Galchenyuk had the only goal) over Boston on Monday at TD Garden, the Canadiens (40-26-7) closed the season series with a 3-1 advantage over Boston (49-17-6). Unlike any other team in the Eastern Conference, Montreal has some sort of mind control over Boston which makes them a very dangerous opponent any time that they meet. The Bruins’ 12-game win streak was snapped by their Original Six rival, but they still own a 13-game point streak which is their longest since Nov. 1-Dec. 5 (14-0-1).
“It’s always a huge game (against Montreal),” said Bruins center Patrice Bergeron. “And it’s fun to be a part of. They have so much speed and they try to get under your skin. Unfortunately, we played into their hands a little bit.”
Playing their third game in four nights and coming off a five-hour flight on Sunday that covered three time zones, it took the Bruins a period or so to find their skating legs. For a while, it looked like Alexei Emelin’s power-play goal (which deflected in off Chris Kelly) less than seven minutes into the game would stand up as the game-winner. Peter Budaj (28 saves) was the surprise starter for Montreal and he played as well as Carey Price would on his best night.
After going 0-for-5 on the power play (including three in the first half of the third period), Boston finally found the back of the net as Dougie Hamilton’s wrist shot from the point was tipped in by Bergeron with 5:26 left in regulation. Perhaps the most exciting game of the season for the B’s went to overtime, but neither team scored, thus the shootout.
“If we have a weakness, it is shootouts (2-4),” admitted Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “I don’t worry about that though since they won’t be in the postseason when it really matters.”
It promises to be another playoff-like atmosphere on Thursday (7 p.m., NESN) as the Bruins host the Blackhawks (41-16-15) in Chicago’s first appearance in Boston since Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.
What they’ll be saying: It doesn’t matter when they play because Bruins-Canadiens almost always delivers the goods. For whatever reason, Montreal knows exactly how provoke Boston: witness Johnny Boychuk’s retaliation vs. P.K. Subban. The Bruins play a physical brand of hockey against everyone but the Canadiens are the one team that can consistently make them lose their focus.
Tuukka Rask (21 saves) was not the issue on Monday, but he could have used another win against Montreal after winning, 4-1, up North on March 12. In his career, Rask’s record dropped to 3-10-3 in 17 games against the Canadiens. That is just another layer of this rivalry for B’s fans to fret about until he can consistently beat them.
Kevan Miller dropped the gloves with Travis Moen in the first period and left Montreal’s winger out for the rest of the game with an undisclosed injury.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate