Johnny Boychuk is taken off the ice in Thursday night's game in Montreal against the Canadiens after going into the boards. Credit: Getty Images
Playing its third game in four nights, Montreal (18-9-3) fought through physical fatigue to pick up a gritty, 2-1, win over Boston (18-8-2) at the Bell Centre Thursday night.
The Canadiens are the hottest team in the NHL as they are 8-0-1 in their last 10 games and they were rewarded with first place in the Atlantic Division thanks to these two points. The Bruins have to be disappointed with the result, especially since they're off until Sunday, but losing defenseman Johnny Boychuk 4:28 into the game had to take its toll mentally on everyone in Black and Gold.
Max Pacioretty was called for a boarding penalty when he awkwardly hit Boychuk into the boards. The rugged defenseman was shaken up and initially leaned on his gloved fists. Soon, the Bruins’ medical staff and EMTs brought out a backboard and he was transported to an ambulance on a stretcher that went to a local hospital. The good news is that it was later reported that Boychuk had movement in all of his extremities. Regardless, it was a very scary moment that teammates and fans won’t soon forget.
The lengthy delay took some of the juice out of the first Bruins-Canadiens game of the season. Don’t worry, there are three more meetings starting with Jan. 30 in Boston. Gregory Campbell had the lone goal for the Bruins, a result of a 2-on-1 with Milan Lucic late in the first period. Montreal scored both of its goals in a dominant second period (where it outshot Boston, 18-7). Tomas Plekanec beat Tuukka Rask (25 saves) from a tough angle and Pacioretty backhanded a rebound through traffic.
The Canadiens played in New Jersey Wednesday night and it showed in the third period as the Bruins outshot them, 16-6, but that’s when Carey Price (32 saves) bailed them out. This was the start of a very tough stretch for the B's: they are off Friday but host Pittsburgh (20-9-1) on Saturday (7 p.m., NESN) then go to Toronto (15-11-3) on Sunday (7, NESN).
What they'll be saying: On many levels, this was a bitter loss for the Bruins. They were the much fresher team than the Canadiens which showed in the first and third period (where they outshot them 26-9). A poor second period was all it took for Montreal to escape with the victory. Obviously the loss of Boychuk for an extended period of time would prove to be extremely costly too. Kevan Miller was recalled the other day and a healthy scratch tonight but he’s not Boychuk. Adam McQuaid didn’t even make the trip to Montreal as his hip injury flared up again. Boston’s forwards have been relatively healthy this season other than Loui Eriksson’s concussion but numerous injuries to the defensemen are tough to overcome. It’ll be interesting to see if Rask gets both starts this weekend. Chad Johnson played on Saturday vs. Columbus so it's likely that Bruins head coach Claude Julien will let his star goaltender play vs. the Penguins and Maple Leafs. Boston probably values the Toronto game a little more since it is an Atlantic Division contest but Pittsburgh is perhaps the B's biggest threat in the Eastern Conference. It is tough to explain how Montreal had 12 more hits (30-18) and won nine more faceoffs (41-32) than Boston. It is a given that the Canadiens will always have more power plays at home than their opposition but Boston was able to successfully kill all four penalties.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter:@RichSlate