The Bruins finally played well against the Canadiens, winning 4-1 Wednesday night at Bell Centre to snap a five-game losing streak against Montreal (35-25-7) dating back to last season.
Boston (43-17-5) broke open a scoreless game with three goals in the second period and once they went up 4-0 in the third, there was no way that the Canadiens would rally with the way Tuukka Rask (35 saves, including three breakaways) was on top of nearly every shot. Boston has won a season-high six games in a row to pull within one point of Pittsburgh at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Boston got off to a slow start in the finale of their three-game road trip but Rask was able to keep it scoreless in the first period despite a 13-6 shots advantage for Montreal. After a lively bounce off the back boards, Carl Soderberg made it 1-0 Bruins just 1:33 into the second. Boston doubled Montreal’s deficit on a beautiful give-and-go between Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron that the latter finished past backup goaltender Peter Budaj (28 saves). Milan Lucic’s goal with 1:28 left in the second was backbreaking for two reasons: 1. It was a shot that Montreal starter Carey Price would have make in his sleep had he been in there and 2. It gave the B’s an insurmountable lead with the way Montreal hasn't been able to score this season.
The Canadiens had a chance to regroup in the dressing room but that didn’t seem to help as Zdeno Chara followed his own rebound and scored 23 seconds into the final frame. David Desharnais’ goal for Montreal only prevented Rask from recording another shutout. The Canadiens’ power play was one for its last 18 heading into Wednesday and they went 0-for-3 in the latest loss.
Boston improved to 8-0-3 in its last 11 road games, their best stretch since 2004. The reward is another back-to-back, this time at TD Garden as they host Phoenix (31-24-11) Thursday (7 p.m., NESN).
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What they'll be saying: This was certainly a good start but the Bruins would be well served to beat the Canadiens on Monday, March 24 - their final meeting of the regular season. It feels like these teams will meet in the postseason this spring so Boston needs to have confidence against Montreal should they see them again when it really matters.
For the second straight game, Dougie Hamilton was a healthy scratch and Andrej Meszaros took his place pairing with fellow Slovakian Zdeno Chara on the top line. Meszaros was plus-2 with two shots on goal, two blocked shots and one bogus interference penalty in 17:28 of ice time. Head coach Claude Julien claims to be happy with Hamilton’s play but that doesn’t mesh with a guy that’s sat the last two games with the playoffs a month away. Daniel Paille is out with a concussion so Jordan Caron took his place on the fourth line. Paille could return soon.
Brad Marchand had two assists and Milan Lucic scored his 20th goal (third time in his career that he’s done that) and Bergeron notched his 19th goal. Even Chara (15) and Soderberg (12) are well into double digits as Boston has scored 208 goals (most in the Eastern Conference and tied for 3rd in the NHL).
Chad Johnson figures to get the start vs. Phoenix, especially since they are a Western Conference team and Boston plays Carolina on Saturday afternoon. Kevan Miller had another quality bout, this time against Montreal’s main tough guy Brandon Prust. In many ways, he has made fans forget about Adam McQuaid.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate