The New Year brought new life to the Habs as they played one of their best games in quite some time at the Winter Classic as they beat the hometown Bruins 5-1 in front of over 67,000 fans at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.
Montreal made a few lineup changes from their previous game in Florida. In goal, Mike Condon got the start as expected (a hometown game for the rookie) while on the blueline, Alexei Emelin replaced Greg Pateryn. The most exciting change, however, was up front as Brendan Gallagher made his long-awaited return after missing 17 games. He was in his old spot on the top line and was in the starting lineup.
The game couldn’t have gotten off to any better of a start for the Habs as just over a minute in, David Desharnais opened up the scoring, batting the puck out of mid-air and watched it bounce past Tuukka Rask. Montreal kept pushing, controlling the play throughout the period but unfortunately for them were unable to add to their lead. The shots on goal were 14-3 for the road team (Boston went 15 minutes between shots at one point) while the shot attempts were even more lopsided at 27-4.
Montreal had the wind advantage in the first period so it was going to be interesting to see if Boston was going to use that to their benefit in the second. That didn’t happen.
The Habs came out flying once again and although it took a bit longer to score than they did in the first, they still got an early one as Paul Byron stuffed one past Rask at the two minute mark after Brian Flynn batted a Mark Barberio point shot out of mid-air to make the pass to Byron. (There’s a theme here.)
The Bruins picked up their play as the period progressed; their first power play didn’t result in any goals but seemed to wake their offence up. However, Condon kept them at bay, allowing the Canadiens to add to their goal total by the end of the period. With less than three minutes to go, Emelin sent it down to Max Pacioretty who batted a pass in mid-air to Gallagher who batted it out of the air past Rask.
Tomas Plekanec took a late delay of game penalty which gave Boston a late power play but it was Condon who stepped up as he absolutely robbed Ryan Spooner with a highlight reel glove save mere tenths of a second before the end of the frame. The home side had the edge in shots this time by a 14-11 count.
Unfortunately, the second period wasn’t full of just good things for the Habs as Dale Weise left the game early in the period after taking a hit from Boston’s Kevan Miller. The team is calling it an upper body injury at this time. He was seen leaving the rink with his right thumb wrapped.
The Bruins save their best for last for the third period as they came out as strong as Montreal did in the first two periods and they were rewarded for their efforts as Matt Beleskey broke Condon’s shutout bid on a play that saw the puck change directions off of Alex Galchenyuk’s stick. Boston kept coming after that, coming close to making it a one goal game on a few occasions but were unable to solve Condon again.
Just before the midway mark of the period, Pacioretty and Gallagher hooked up on a 2-on-1 with the captain scoring his second in as many games. Byron picked up his second of the game with less than two minutes to go to cap off the scoring.
Condon made 27 saves in the win while Rask, who was shaken up briefly after taking a Plekanec shot to the throat in the third, made 25 stops. Neither team was able to score on the man advantage with Montreal going 0/4 while the Bruins, ranked #1 in the NHL on the power play, were 0/3.
HW Habs’ 3 Stars of the Afternoon
1st Star: Brendan Gallagher – Given the way Montreal played, you could almost give this to him merely for the boost he seemed to give the team. That wouldn’t do it justice though as he certainly made a major on-ice impact as well with a key goal and strong play throughout. That top line looked a whole lot better with him there.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +1 rating, 3 shots (7 attempts), 18:12 TOI
2nd Star: Mike Condon – He wasn’t busy early (far from it, really) but as the game progressed, he had to step up and make some big stops, especially in the third with Boston pushing. Think back to three months ago, Condon was just trying to make the team. Now, he’s the winning goalie in one of the NHL’s prestige games of the year and he got to do it in his hometown. That’s pretty cool.
Stats: 27 saves on 28 shots, 1.00 GAA, .964 SV%
3rd Star: Paul Byron – It seems whenever frustration around him starts to hit its peak, he steps up with a big game. It happened again here as he wound up with a pair of goals including the game winner. Despite his very small stature, he was crashing the net all game long and it’s no fluke that both of his tallies came as a result of doing just that.
Stats: 2 goals, +2 rating, 2 shots, 11:25 TOI
Honourable Mention: Max Pacioretty – I could have went a few ways here (Mark Barberio deserves a mention as well, so too does David Desharnais) but the captain looked like he had a lot more confidence compared to recent games. His goal was a big one as it pretty much killed any last hopes of a Boston comeback. Maybe that shootout tally vs Tampa really will be the thing that gets him going?
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +2 rating, 3 shots (6 attempts), 19:09 TOI
Stat of the Afternoon: The Montreal Canadiens are the only team in NHL history to have 3,000 all-time regular season wins. Boston came into today looking to change that as they have 2,999 all-time but the Habs will make them wait to hit that milestone another day.