Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bruins fall in Montreal, lose division lead to Habs

Thornton attempted to turn the momentum in the second period by dropping gloves with the Habs' Prust
Playing their third game in four nights - and against their oldest and most hated rival, no less - The Montreal Canadiens had almost nothing left in their proverbial gas tank in the third period.

Almost.

When the Canadiens play the Boston Bruins, there's always a reserve tank - on both sides, as the rivalry demands it - so when the game reached it's midway point and the Habs found themselves trailing the visiting Bruins, they reached down and flipped the toggle to the spare...

...scoring twice to take the lead, then riding the hot hand of goaltender Carey Price, surviving a Bruins final frame barrage and stopping  32 of 33 shots overall as the Canadiens took over first place in the Atlantic Division with a 2-1 win over Boston at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Thursday night.

In winning their eighth game in nine tries - an overtime loss in Washington last week the lone blemish - Montreal overtook the Bruins for the division lead by one point and trail the Pittsburgh Penguins by two points for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Ironically, the Bruins could help the Habs make up that deficit as their next opponent just happens to be the Penguins in Boston on Saturday night.

Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty each scored second period goals, but before Pacioretty scored the eventual game winner he was involved in a more far reaching loss for the Bruins as he was on the delivering end of a crushing crosscheck to the back of Johnny Boychuk that sent the strapping defenseman to the ice and eventually into an ambulance that took him to a Montreal area hospital.

With four and a half minutes expired in the opening period, Boychuk disengaged from in front of the Montreal goal to chase a puck down low, when Pacioretty slammed him into the dashers in a prone position, Boychuk reacting immediately in pain - the six year veteran remained on the ice for more than ten minutes as emergency personnel stabilized him on a back board and wheeled him from the ice.

While the only update from the Bruins was that Boychuk was able to move all of his extremities, his brothers tweeted that he had called his mother and told her that he was ok and was dealing with back spasms - which turned out to be the case as Boychuk was cleared by doctors to fly home with the team.

When play resumed, the Bruins used the injury as a rallying cry, battering Price with scoring chances until Milan Lucic found Gregory Campbell on a beautiful dump pass across the low slot with two and a half minutes left in the period and Campbell potted it for a 1-0 lead.

The second period, however, belonged to the Canadiens.

After putting just three shots on Boston netminder Tuukka Rask in the opening frame, the Habs set their offense on rapid fire in the second, pelting Rask mercilessly with 18 shots - two of them finding twine - in a period that Bruins' coach Claude Julien called "Atrocious and embarrassing" after the game...

Plekanec firing a laser over Rask's shoulder from the tough angle at the bottom of the right circle midway through the period for the equalizer, then Pacioretty flipping a casual backhander top shelf that Rask - who was out of the crease and on the ice after giving up the big rebound off of defenseman Raphael Diaz' slapshot - had no chance at getting to.

Just after Plekanec scored and Montreal had all of the momentum, Bruins' defenseman Shawn Thornton attempted to gain some it back by dropping gloves with Habs' tough guy Brandon Prust - a lot of posturing and not many scoring blows later, both were taking five and Montreal continued their barrage.

The second period assault on Rask left the Canadiens gasping, and the fresh Bruins peppered Price with 16 shots on goal, but he stoned all attempts and Montreal skated off with the 2-1 win.

After hosting the Penguins on Saturday night, the Bruins embark on an ambitious six day tour of Canada that will find them in Toronto on Sunday, Calgary on Tuesday, Edmonton on Thursday and winding up the roadie against their old friends the Vancouver Canucks.

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