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Thursday, December 10, 2015

For A Change, the Bruins Decide to Play Well In Montreal & Actually Beat the Canadiens (3-1)

In recent seasons, the NHL's undisputed best rivalry-Bruins vs. Canadiens-had been downgraded since frankly it became extremely one-sided. That's what made tonight so sweet: Boston (15-9-3) went into the Bell Centre and knocked off Montreal (19-7-3) 3-1. The Canadiens still lead the season series 2-1 with two more games left to play (both in 2016) but at least for once, the B's didn't get psyched out by the Habs.

If it felt like it had been a while since Boston beat Montreal, you were correct. This win for the Bruins snapped a seven-game losing streak (0-6-1) to the Habs. The best element of this for them was that goaltender Tuukka Rask (32 saves) was great as he earned the No. 1 star of the game.

It was a very slow start for Boston as they gave up a stupid fluke goal at 8:49 of the first period. Defenseman Paul Byron threw the puck in front of Rask and it deflected in the net off of Zach Trotman. After the goal initially went to Tomas Plekanec, Byron was correctly credited with his fourth goal of the season and Plekanec (a noted Bruins killer) picked up the lone assist.

Montreal outshot Boston 14-7 in the first period and 12-7 in the second period but Rask kept them in it. Also, it helped that they weren't suckered into dumb penalties like usual when they face the Canadiens (hi Milan Lucic). Brad Marchand and P.K. Subban got matching slashing penalties late in the first while Montreal had two penalties in the second (interference on Tomas Fleischmann and roughing on Christian Thomas) and Trotman was called for hooking but none of the power plays cashed in.

Belmont Hill alum and Needham native Mike Condon (20 saves) is Montreal's No. 1 goaltender for a while with Carey Price on the shelf (lower-body injury). He has been fine although this turned out to be their third loss in a row. In fact, Boston is only eight points behind Montreal in the Atlantic Division now with two games in hand. Haha I know, I know. Just saying. To call the Bruins' third period comeback unexpected is quite an understatement.

The B's tied it at 7:53 on a beautiful shorthanded goal by Loui Eriksson (to quote Rounders: "Pay the man his money"). Zdeno Chara started the play by batting the puck out of mid-air right to a streaking (easy ladies) Eriksson who fought off a check to finish with a nice shot down low on Condon. It was Eriksson's 11th goal of the season. Just 42 seconds later, cult hero Landon Ferraro (with his dad Ray faithfully in the stands) scored the go-ahead goal. He roofed it blocker side on a screened Condon after a nifty backhand assist by Ryan Spooner. Torey Krug had the second assist on Ferraro's third goal in a Bruins uniform (talk about a timely waiver wire pickup by GM Don Sweeney a few weeks ago).

It was only fitting that Patrice Bergeron put it on ice with a pretty insurance tally at 13:42 from who else but Brad Marchand. Matt Beleskey had the second assist on Bergy's ninth goal of the season where he received the puck close to Condon and was able to deke around him to tuck it in.

This is one game basically a third of the way through the 2015-16 campaign but it was a most vital victory for the B's. They had to prove to themselves and the world at large that they could still beat the Canadiens every once in a while. The timing couldn't have worked out better with the Winter Classic only a few weeks away at Gillette Stadium. Boston can go into that confident and without that long losing streak hanging over their collective heads.

The Bruins' next game is on Saturday afternoon (1, NESN) against the Panthers (13-11-4). That contest will be important in a different fashion since Boston is only up three points on Florida (with a game in hand) in the Atlantic Division. Nevertheless, the B's are playing some quality hockey (7-1-2 in last 10 games) while Florida has dropped its last two games heading into Thursday's meeting with red-hot Washington (19-5-2).

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