On Sunday night at TD Garden, the Bruins and Canadiens played a game worthy of the current two top teams in the Eastern Conference that was fittingly broadcast to a national audience on NBC Sports Network. Montreal (14-4-4) ended up with a 4-3 win over Boston (14-3-2), snapping the Bruins’ six-game win streak in the process and taking over first place, not only in the Northeast Division, but also the conference.
The season series is now tied at one after Boston had won, 2-1, at Montreal on Feb. 6. Don’t worry, there will be two more meetings in the regular season and a playoff series seems quite likely in the spring.
The B’s actually led, 3-2, heading into the third period but losing captain Zdeno Chara to 17 minutes of penalties (for misconduct, fighting and instigator) in the second and third was predictably costly as the Canadiens rallied for two goals with him in the dressing room. A majority of damage for both teams was done by one line: Patrice Bergeron (1 goal, 2 assists) led the B’s while Brad Marchand had a career-high three assists and Tyler Seguin added a goal and an assist. David Desharnais had two goals for Montreal while Max Pacioretty (1 goal, 1 assist) and Brendan Gallagher (2 assists) also notched two points.
Tuukka Rask’s (11-2-2; 22 saves) career high eight-game point streak was ended with Montreal backup goaltender Peter Budaj (3-1-1; 31 saves) serving as the unlikely hero for the Canadiens. Fans were treated to a back and forth contest that fittingly started with three goals in a span of 1:06 during the first period. Tomas Plekanec scored a power play goal for Montreal before Seguin answered less than a minute later. Desharnais was credited with a goal after his pass banked off Johnny Boychuk’s stick 13 seconds after that.
Boston owned the second period, scoring a pair of goals to take the temporary 3-2 advantage. Bergeron finished a 2-on-1 chance with Seguin then rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton scored his second NHL goal after batting a bouncing puck off a rebound from Budaj. Tempers boiled over late in the period as Milan Lucic fought Brandon Prust for the third time in his career then Chara went after Alexei Emelin who he felt took a cheap shot on Seguin (breaking a stick in his midsection). The crowd loved it and the Bruins supported Chara’s choice but it ultimately burned them in the end.
Pacioretty tied it in the third with a shot from the point through a screen then Desharnais was rewarded with another goal by crashing the net. Boston outshot Montreal 10-4 in the third and pulled Rask but they couldn’t find the equalizer. Montreal is only the second team (joining Buffalo) to beat Boston in regulation this season. The Bruins will try to bounce back on Tuesday night (7 p.m., NESN) in DC against the underachieving Capitals (8-11-1).
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter @RichSlate