Another chapter in the continuing Bruins vs. Habs rivalry was punctuated by one of the flukiest goals you're likely to see, and a singleminded need for fisticuffs between P.K. Subban and Brad Marchand.
When you ask a Boston fan about the Canadiens, or a Montreal fan about the Bruins, "hate" will be used as a descriptor, an adjective, a verb, and a comma. In their 712th meeting, despite something of a slow start, it became clear that the mutual dislike between these two original six teams is alive and well.
Despite a slow start -- one that could be considered rather sluggish, really, despite Boston playing with a fair bit of rest and failing to capitalize on the Habs potential fatigue after beating the Flyers the previous evening -- the Bruins would get a break when Petteri Nokelainen got wrapped up with Shawn Thornton behind the Montreal net and took an interference call.
On the ensuing power play faceoff, Tomas Plekanec would win the faceoff against Patrice Bergeron, breaking Bergeron's stick, and send the puck quickly back to Carey Price, expecting his netminder to redirect the puck up and out of the zone. Instead, Price mistimed the puck and lifted his stick just past it as it slid through his legs and into the net unmolested by a single Bruin.
Bergeron was given credit for the goal (unassisted, of course), and the Bruins would get a temporary boost, but soon the Habs were looking like the team on two days' rest as they pressured the Bruins' defense. Only a couple of impressive saves from Tim Thomas (and one badly mangled pass between Plekanec and Max Pacioretty on a 2 on 1) kept the Bruins on their slim lead through the first period.
In some ways, the period was entirely ordinary -- almost sedate -- with a marked lack of the normal snarl that characterized these meetings.
This would change rapidly as the teams came out for the second period. Montreal would find themselves on a brief 5-on-3 power play after both Gregory Campbell and Dennis Seidenberg committed tripping and slashing calls early in the period. The Habs would not convert, and Pacioretty would follow late in the second powerplay for a trip on Zdeno Chara.
As board battles got a bit more aggressive and the Habs began using their speed, it seems odd that the catalyst for the next phase of the game would be another Montreal penalty, but the game arguably turned on Erik Cole slashing Seidenberg just before the midway point. The Montreal PK, led by Carey Price, repulsed every Boston attempt, then moved the puck up ice as Cole left the box and joined the play. Jaroslav Spacek unloaded a shot from above the left faceoff circle that Cole would redirect from the high slot just past Thomas' leg pads as the goalie shifted to try and respond to the play.
Not long after the tying goal, P.K. Subban and Brad Marchand would get tied up in the neutral zone, jawing and clearly interested in a scrap, but linesmen Scott Driscoll and Matt MacPherson would get involved quickly. The two would continue to escalate their verbal engagement from within the boxes, and as soon as both were released from the box they would tussle again, this time receiving a "delay of game" minor apiece.
Two minutes later, with neither side able to capitalize on the second consecutive 4-on-4 sequence, the time for foreplay had come to an end. Dropping the gloves and doffing their helms as each left the box, Subban would attempt to taunt Marchand into the first move, but ended up taking the first swing (and nearly overbalancing himself flat onto his face) before Marchand engaged, and the two ended up in what is already being referred to as a "Boston Marathon" of a fight.
With both sides finally getting their blood up, the Habs would end the second period with a tie game after doubling up the Bruins on the shot clock, 18-9, and the stage was set for dramatic third period.
Surprisingly, neither side would surrender a power play opportunity. And there was no shortage of hits, with 10 "officially" registered in the first 8 minutes, and another five or six unofficial collisions that apparently were not worthy of notice.
Just past the midway point of the period, Josh Gorges would exploit a turnover from Gregory Campbell, poking the puck up to Canadiens captain Brian Gionta at the offensive blue line. Dishing the puck to Plekanec, the Czech pivot would take one shot, see the rebound from Adam McQuaid's blocking attempt fly right back to his stick, and unload a second shot as he came down across the faceoff dot, beating Thomas top shelf.
Despite Boston unleashing a flurry of shots at Carey Price in the dying minutes, the goal would hold up to give the Habs their second win in as many nights. The Bruins simply ran out of time as they attempted to find a tying goal, improving Montreal to 3-5-2 on the season and 343-259-103 for the series.
Both goaltenders made some impressive stops for their clubs, but give the edge to Price not only in his 101st win, but a generally stronger outing. While Thomas was beat fairly cleanly on both goals, Price seemed to only lose track of the puck in the bizarre opening goal.
But for that case of temporary brain death, Price seemed to have total control of the game, managing his rebounds and making saves with his typical athletic aggression, while Boston never seemed to push the tempo, allowing Jacques Martin and his squad to play at the tempo that best suited their road weary squad.
For more on the game from the Boston perspective, check with SB Nation Boston and Bruins blog Stanley Cup of Chowder. For more from the Montreal perspective, check in with Canadiens blog Habs Eyes On The Prize.