As the Habs returned to the ice on Monday, they were facing the Boston Bruins for the fourth time this season. The Bruins were ahead 2-1 in the season series, as the Habs won the first meeting 3-0 on a dominant performance by Carey Price. The Bruins fired back by winning the two latest matches 3-2 and 4-0. The 3-2 contest was a game where the Habs’ sloppy first period was one they never recovered from. The 4-0 game was a total no-show from the Habs, so fans expected a good bounce-back effort against the team’s most important rival.
Price was facing Tuukka Rask in this important match, while Julien opted to keep Saturday’s lineup intact for the contest. This was a wise decision as this game felt like it was the playoffs from the opening faceoff. Every loose puck was contended for and both teams played fast and physical. Also, both goaltenders were at times dominant. In the end, this game rightfully reached overtime despite the Bruins doubling the Habs in shots. This did not matter as 15 seconds into the extra frame, Jeff Petry scored the key goal to allow the Habs to escape Beantown with a 3-2 win.
One thing that was evident from the opening faceoff is that both teams saw this as an important game as they were skating and hitting early. The Bruins came out with more energy than the Habs as Julien strangely opted to start his fourth line, allowing Boston to counter with the Patrice Bergeron line and the results were not good.
Play settled after this first shift as both teams were content to fire the puck deep and lay the body on the opposition defenders. Near the five-minute mark, Boston really started to take over as the Habs couldn’t get the puck out of the zone and the Bruins were sending traffic in front of Price hoping for a deflection. Just after the twelve-minute mark, Mike Reilly was guilty of the first penalty of the game as he tripped Brad Marchand. Despite an excellent first minute of penalty killing, the Bruins eventually knocked on the door as they set up and got a few shots that Price turned aside to keep the game scoreless.
The second half of the period began with a breakaway for Brad Marchand after Bergeron caused three consecutive turnovers by Joel Armia, Victor Mete, and Shea Weber in the neutral zone. Price came up with a big save.
Shortly after that, a strong forechecking shift by Jesperi Kotkaniemi led to a Zdeno Chara interference minor while Kotkaniemi tripped a Bruin on his way down. The outcome was a full two minutes of 4-on-4 action. As is usually the case for the Habs in this scenario, Bergeron found Marchand who rifled a shot next to Price’s ear for a 1-0 Boston lead.
With the penalties expired and less than four minutes to play in the period, Nicolas Deslauriers dropped the mitts with Kevan Miller in a spirited fight that brought a smile to even Claude Julien’s face. If Julien was happy, it wasn’t just due to the Habs coming out ahead in the exchange of players being sent off, it was also Deslauriers’ first real fight since his facial injury.
The bout got the momentum in Montreal’s favour as Weber delivered a shot and Tomas Tatar’s presence on the rebound forced Rask to make his first big save of the period. With 90 seconds to play in the period, Phillip Danault won an offensive zone faceoff; the ensuing Jeff Petry shot was deflected by Brendan Gallagher past Rask and tied the score heading to the second despite an 11-6 shot advantage for the Bruins.
Carey Price started the second in style as he started a breakout for his team with a “between the legs” pass to fool the Boston forechecker. The result of this was some time in the Bruins’ zone as Rask came up big early. The Bruins were quick to respond as David Krejci danced around Reilly and Petry before Price came up with three awesome saves to keep the game tied.
As play settled to a back-and-forth pace, one thing this game was not was boring despite the lack of scoring chances. Both teams battled with intensity and meaning for every single loose puck making this a highly entertaining game.
Price once again saved the day as the period reached its second half, notably stopping the Bergeron line repeatedly. The Habs would fire back as Jonathan Drouin handled the puck in the offensive zone before putting it on net and allowing Gallagher to make the occasion look far more dangerous than it should have been.
With 3:44 left in the period and Weber stuck in the offensive zone on a pinch, Victor Mete was called for holding the stick as the Habs played with fire for a second time. With a minute expired in the penalty, Paul Byron pulled a Paul Byron as he chipped a puck by Bergeron and escaped on a breakaway, beating Rask with a brilliantly placed backhand as the Habs would start the third up 2-1.
Before the period could expire though, Jake DeBrusk and Brandon Carlo ganged up on Domi who did not back down when he dropped his gloves and went after DeBrusk. Both teams ended up with minor penalties (how, I don’t really know) to end the period at 4-on-4. 25-18 were the shots after two periods favouring the Bruins after a fairly even period on that front.
The first shift of the third was signed by Victor Mete as he grabbed the puck and drove the net, forcing Rask to make an important save early to keep his team in the game. David Pastrnak responded quickly as he undressed Jordie Benn before Price saved his teammate. Play continued with the same intensity and effort by both teams as they continued playing with breathtaking speed. Both teams came close to scoring as DeBrusk and Domi were once again partners, but this time it was in being stopped by the opposition netminder.
The second half of the period continued the playoff-style matchup as even the officiating was playoff-esque in putting away their whistles. The Habs’ Petry got away with an important borderline play when he was clearly beat through the middle by Danton Heinen.
Once the ten-minute mark arrived, the ice was tilted in favour of Boston as they worked to tie the game. The Habs were content to clear the zone but could also be credited for being near impeccable defensively up to this point. An example of this was the Bruins breaking in 2-on-1 with three minutes to play, but Mete played it perfectly and forced a low percentage pass that ended up sailing through the low-slot untouched.
With exactly 2:05 to play, Michael Chaput cleared the puck from the defensive zone into the stands. In case the refs hadn’t seen the infraction, Chaput immediately reacted proving his guilt and placing his team in a tough position. The Bruins opted to pull Rask with 90 seconds to play, but the shorthanded Habs (6-on-4) were able to ice the puck, but this wasn’t enough. With 37 seconds to play, David Krejci fired a puck through a crowd that Price never saw to tie the game and send it to overtime.
15 seconds into overtime, Domi beat DeBrusk one last time as he broke into the centre of the ice and fired the puck. Rask made the initial stop but Petry was on the doorstep to bat home the winner out of midair for his second OT winner in barely two weeks.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Carey Price
Boy, anyone watching this game that didn’t place Price as the team’s first star in this game needs to find a new team to cheer for. Love him or hate him, Price has been on top of his game of late, perhaps delivering his best effort of the season in this one. The saves were difficult, the scoring chances were dangerous, the players getting the chances were elite, and Price made it look easy.
Stats: 41 saves, 43 shots, .953 SV %, 2.00 G.A.A., 60:15 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Brendan Gallagher
It’s no longer a surprise that Gallagher plays his best hockey when the stakes are at their highest. With the implications in the standings and the long-standing rivalry with the Bruins, one could expect such a game from him. That doesn’t make it any less impressive as he goes on full throttle against much bigger and stronger players, often coming out with the body position, such as he did when he outduelled Chara to tip home the Habs’ first goal of the night.
Stats: 1 goal, 0 (+/-), 3 shots, 3 hits, 15:32 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Jeff Petry
Petry has really taken his game to another level since the return of Shea Weber. Defensively, he’s physical and wins puck battles, though I do wish he’d be a bit more aggressive in getting rid of opponents in front of Price. His first pass is excellent, though when he misses it, it’s usually a brutal giveaway that has some fans still questioning him. Through all of that, offensively is where he shines and he was at it again; just look at the stat sheet. Oh yeah, he also batted the game-winner out of midair, not bad.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +2, 1 shot, 4 hits, 25:00 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Paul Byron
I really hesitated to place Byron in the stars and then even including him here. He was every bit as good as Petry, yet the team was playing so well that many candidates were possible (Mete, Armia, and Domi come to mind). Byron was having a relatively quiet game, but that play for the shorthanded goal was simply awesome and opportunistic. Then he was awesome in the third. That speed is what makes Byron a special player for the Habs, and that was a great play against one of the league’s best in Bergeron. It’s been Byron’s calling card since arriving in Montreal, wait for your chances and pounce on them when they show up. He did.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +2, 2 shots, 1 hit, 16:03 T.O.I.