Wednesday night’s game had so many moving pieces, and that was even before the first puck was dropped. Earlier in the day it had been announced that this would be the final season for Rene Rancourt who would be retiring as the anthem singer. It was the return of former head coach Claude Julien—who was bench boss for the Stanley Cup-winning Bruins team in 2011. And the Boston Bruins were honoring Willie O’Ree and the 60th anniversary of his first NHL game, when he broke the color barrier in hockey. Not surprisingly O’Ree was on hand for a ceremonial puck drop.
And while that was a lot of emotion for any game, it was also the second meeting of the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens in four days. On Saturday, in the shootout, the Bruins had come away with the two points at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Tuukka Rask and Carey Price would again be in their respective nets, and the game was being televised on NBCSN as one of their Wednesday Night Rivalries. Certainly it is one of the biggest rivalries in the NHL, especially given how long the two teams have been playing against each other.
The Canadiens came off the first puck drop with spirit, and just 31 seconds into the game they were already celebrating their first goal of the game. The goal scorer, Jakub Jerabek, playing in his 19th game of the season, got his first NHL career goal. An important milestone for any player.
“Yeah, even though they scored first early, they got a bit of a break going to the net,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game. “It wasn’t like it was this huge breakdown or we lacked passion or energy.”
In fact, while the Canadiens scored the first goal of the game, it would also be the last goal they scored in the game. The Bruins, who were riding a 13-game point streak, were not fazed by that goal. They responded a little more than six minutes later, as Brad Marchand—from his knees—got a pass off to Patrice Bergeron, who saucered it over to David Pastrnak. Pastrnak put it in a wide-open back door, and the Bruins never looked back.
“Yeah, especially that early in the game it’s not that big of a deal being down by a goal, but yeah, we have a lot of character in here,” Marchand said after the game. “We’ve shown that plenty of times throughout the year. We saw almost 60 minutes left in the game. We can battle back and we did.”
Battle back indeed. The team limited the Canadiens to six shots on net in the first period. Perhaps more impressive was how they held Montreal to just seven shots in the second period, especially considering that Charlie McAvoy got whistled for holding and 1:11 later Brandon Carlo took an ill-advised slashing penalty. This offered the Canadiens 1:09 of five-on-three time, and yet the Bruins—with the return of Adam McQuaid—stood tall, denying the Canadiens a lane to shoot for a good portion of that time.
“Yeah, it’s nice to be in those situations—you don’t want to be—to be put in that situation. I think guys thrive off of wanting to kill that and be in those situations,” McQuaid shared about being down two men. “Even though I was a little winded at the end of it, it was a good feeling for sure.”
He also complimented his defensive partner on making his return after an extended time on the sidelines from injury so easy.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect, just went with the first shift and then the second and just went down from there,” McQuaid shared. “I wanted to try to keep things really simple, [Matt Grzelcyk] made life pretty easy to play with—he played really well. All the guys did so it was nice to be back; be a part of the win. I’m happy to be back.”
By the time of that extended power play time for Montreal, the Bruins were already leading 2-1, as Ryan Spooner had given Boston what would ultimately become the game-winning goal at 2:37 of that middle frame.
Marchand got the Bruins a power play goal 3:40 into the third with assists from Bergeron and Torey Krug, and then David Krejci would seal things up with the emptynetter, just 19 seconds after Price had vacated the goal.
Marchand talked of character, but certainly the Bruins are also feeling confident.
“We feel so good about our game that we know over the course of 60 minutes that we’ll get our chances if we’re working hard and stick to our layers and stick to our defensive posture that will turn into offense for us,” Krug offered. “It’s just confidence in our system and the way that we’re rolling right now and guys are stepping up. We’re getting contributions from everyone and that’s a big part of it.”
The Boston Bruins have little time to enjoy the victory, as they hopped a plane heading to Brooklyn after the game, where they will take on the New York Islanders on Thursday night in the second of three games in four nights. The third game? That will be back in Montreal for what could be quite a third game against the Canadiens.
“We feel so good about our game…” — Torey Krug