When the season ends in a couple of months, many will look back at just how important Sunday night's game would turn out to be.
The Montreal Canadiens came into Boston to take on the Bruins in a game that would determine who would take over sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference. As if there was not enough to fuel this rivalry, the stakes were higher. Something special always seems to happen when these two teams get together.
For this contest, former Bruin Michael Ryder made his return to the TD Garden for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup with Boston. He went on to have a good career in Dallas, but he was traded to the Canadiens a number of weeks back for Erik Cole. Playing on both sides of this rivalry is an interesting position to be in, just like his current teammate Tomas Kaberle.
Tuukka Rask was back in goal for the Bruins. Instead of opposing Carey Price, he faced Peter Budaj due to the Habs coming off of a Saturday night loss with Price in net. Shawn Thornton was also back in the lineup for Boston after being a healthy scratch against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Also, Chris Bourque was a scratch for this game as predicted.
In the first period, both teams used their speed and exchanged good scoring chances that included ringing some posts. We know that Montreal has had some skill on previous teams, but this particular team can also play physical. Even though the B's outhit the Habs 15-8 in the opening 20 minutes, their tough play made things difficult for Boston in the neutral zone.
Montreal recorded two goals in the opening period, goals that Rask would like to have had back. Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais netted the goals for the Habs. Tyler Seguin scored his fifth goal of the year sandwiched between the two Montreal tallies.
The first period as a whole was sloppy for the Bruins. However, they definitely turned things around in the second period. Patrice Bergeron and Dougie Hamilton each had a goal to give the Bruins the lead. The goals became an afterthought as we witnessed 20 minutes of heated hockey only two rivals can duplicate. Milan Lucic and Brandon Prust had a decent fight that stemmed from an altercation between Adam McQuaid and Lars Eller. Also, Zdeno Chara responded and took liberties on Alexei Emelin after he crossed-checked Seguin right in the ribs. Sure, the captain took 17 minutes worth of penalties on the play, but it was completely justified.
All of the action led to an interesting third period. The Bruins got the benefit of some non-calls, yet they could not take advantage. The Canadiens scored two unanswered goals in the third period and they withstood the late onslaught by the B's. Montreal takes this round by a final score of 4-3.
Boston will take on the Washington Capitals in their next game on Tuesday night.
Gold Star: Patrice Bergeron (1 goal, 2 assists, plus-3 rating, 68.4% face-offs won)...This was his best game of the season and he showed it in all three zones.
Black Star: Dennis Seidenberg...He had several turnovers and he was not positioned well in the defensive zone. He should be able to rebound quickly.