It was a historic night at Bell Centre Sunday night as the Montréal Canadiens and their fans honored the life and memory of the late Guy Lafleur with a tribute and a 10-minute standing ovation before the Patrice Bergeron and Erik Haula each scored a pair of goals in a, 5-3, win for the Boston Bruins.
Bergeron surpassed Montréal native, Ray Bourque, for sole possession of the fourth-most goals in Bruins franchise history, while Haula scored the second penalty shot goal of the season in an unconventional fashion.
Meanwhile, Charlie McAvoy’s late second period goal held up to be the game-winner for Boston as goaltender, Jeremy Swayman (23-13-3, 2.37 goals-against average, .915 save percentage in 40 games played), made 23 saves on 26 shots agaisnt in the win.
Canadiens netminder, Sam Montembeault (7-18-6, 3.79 goals-against average, .892 save percentage in 37 games played), turned aside 37 out of 41 shots faced in the loss.
The Bruins improved to 49-25-5 (103 points) overall and remain in command of 4th place in the Atlantic Division as well as the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Montréal fell to 20-49-11 (51 points) on the season and stuck in 8th place in the Atlantic Division as Habs fans await the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery on May 10th.
For the first time since the 2017-18 season, Boston swept Montréal in their regular season series, 4-0-0. The B’s also went 4-0-0 against the Habs in 2017-18, and did not face the Canadiens last season due to the temporarily realigned divisions and condensed 56-game schedule.
Boston went 3-1-0 against Montréal in 2019-20.
The Bruins were without Jakub Zboril (right ACL) and Jesper Frödén (lower body) on Sunday, while David Pastrnak and Hampus Lindholm joined Josh Brown and Anton Blidh on the list of healthy scratches against the Canadiens as expected.
Bruce Cassidy promoted Tomáš Nosek from his usual fourth line center duties to that of the second line right wing role, while Curtis Lazar slid over on the fourth line to Nosek’s regular spot with Marc McLaughlin re-entering the lineup.
On defense, Matt Grzelcyk was paired with McAvoy, while Mike Reilly and Brandon Carlo rounded out the top-four defenders.
Linus Ullmark served as Swayman’s backup, while Pastrnak, Lindholm and Ullmark were all expected to be given the night off as Cassidy told reporters ahead of the game that he’d manage playing time with the playoffs in mind.
A pair of milestones unrelated to performance were met on Sunday as Carlo suited up in his 400th career NHL game, while Charlie Coyle took part in his 700th career game.
Joel Edmundson tripped Connor Clifton at 6:23 of the first period, but Boston wasn’t able to convert on the resulting power play– their first and only skater advantage of the night.
The Bruins matched their longest streak of games without a power play goal (10) for the first time since their inaugural season (1924-25).
Midway through the opening frame, Josh Anderson and Derek Forbort each cut a rut to their respective sin bins for roughing at 10:55.
After two minutes of 4-on-4 action, the two teams resumed 5-on-5 play without issue.
Late in the period, Bergeron (21) gathered a loose puck on the doorstep and buried it into the open twine as Montembeault was caught behind the play after Jake DeBrusk fired the initial shot on net.
DeBrusk (16) and Brad Marchand (44) tabbed the assists on Bergeron’s goal and the Bruins took a, 1-0, lead at 15:03 of the first period.
Bergeron’s first goal of the game put him in sole possession of the fourth-most goals in club history for the B’s, surpassing Bourque in the process as Bergeron collected his 396th career goal (all with Boston).
The goal also marked Boston’s 2,000th goal against Montréal in franchise history.
A few minutes later, Mike Hoffman slashed Haula’s stick while skating alongside No. 56 in black and gold yielding– for some reason– a penalty shot for Haula at 18:03 as the on-ice officials determined that Hoffman’s infraction was enough to negate a scoring chance on a breakaway, apparently.
Haula (16) skated past the puck on his initial entry on the penalty shot, but as he never touched the rubber biscuit with his blade– and therefore did not move it forward before going back to retrieve it– he kept his composure, collected the puck, approached Montembeault and wired a shot under the glove side to give Boston a two-goal lead, 2-0.
For just the fourth time in franchise history, Haula joined Tim Taylor (April 15, 1998), Leo Boivin (Jan. 4, 1964) and Woody Dumart (Jan. 14, 1940) as the only Bruins to score a penalty-shot goal against the Canadiens.
Less than a minute later, Marchand retaliated against Jeff Petry for a clean hit that Petry made on Bergeron.
As a result, Marchand was sent to the box with a roughing infraction at 18:52 of the first period.
The B’s would be down two skaters after the first intermission when Trent Frederic picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct minor at 20:00 of the first period after he tried to engage Petry after the opening frame came to an end.
After one period of action, the Bruins led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and led in shots on goal, 17-8, as well as in blocked shots (4-2) and hits (14-11).
The Canadiens held the advantage in giveaways (7-5), while both teams had two takeaways each and split faceoff win percentage, 50-50.
Montréal and Boston were also 0-for-1 on the power play heading into the middle period.
The B’s survived Marchand’s minor, but couldn’t survive Frederic’s infraction as the Canadiens continued to pressure in the attacking zone before Petry forged a pass via Brendan Gallagher to Anderson (19) for a power-play goal on a shot with eyes past Swayman.
Gallagher (16) and Petry (19) had the assists on Anderson’s goal and the Habs trailed, 2-1, at 1:51 of the second period.
Boston responded less than a few minutes later as Clifton sent a pass up to Nosek on a rush before Nosek setup Haula (17) with a tape-to-tape pass for the catch and release goal at 4:04 of the second period.
Nosek (14) and Clifton (8) notched the assists and the Bruins went ahead by two goals once more, 3-1.
About a minute later, Haula headed off to the box for interference– taking Jake Evans with him, though, as Evans was assessed an embellishment infraction to present some more 4-on-4 action at 5:16.
Less than a minute later, however, Grzelcyk tripped Anderson and yielded an abbreviated 4-on-3 power play to the Canadiens at 5:47.
Montréal could not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
Moments later, Laurent Dauphin checked Taylor Hall along the boards leaving Hall out of breath, but the Bruins forward managed to skate off on his own after a stoppage and never went down the tunnel.
Cassidy informed reporters that Hall must have simply “had the wind knocked out of him” and indicated that he didn’t expect the Boston forward to miss any time.
Marchand and Anderson exchanged pleasantries late in the period yielding slashing and cross checking minors, respectively, at 16:12 and resulting in more 4-on-4 action for the two squads.
On an attacking zone faceoff, the Bruins won the puck back to the point where McAvoy (10) snapped a shot past Montembeault’s blocker side to give Boston a three-goal lead.
Bergeron (37) had the only assist on the goal as McAvoy made it, 4-1, at 18:09 of the second period.
Through 40 minutes of action Sunday night, the Bruins led, 4-1, on the scoreboard and held a, 31-16, advantage in shots on goal– including a, 14-8, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.
Boston also led in hits (23-22), while Montréal led in takeaways (4-3), giveaways (13-9) and faceoff win% (51-49) after two periods.
Both teams had eight blocked shots aside, while the Canadiens were 1-for-3 and the Bruins were 0-for-1 on the skater advantage.
McLaughlin lifted the puck over the glass for an automatic delay of game infraction at 3:10 of the third period and the Habs didn’t take long to capitalize on the ensuing advantage.
Montréal won a faceoff back to the point where Petry slid a pass across the ice to Hoffman (13) for a one-timer blast off the iron and in– bringing the Canadiens to within two goals at 3:13.
Petry (20) and Christian Dvorak (19) had the assists on Hoffman’s power-play goal and the Habs trailed, 4-2.
Almost midway through the final frame, Nick Suzuki (21) caught a pass and released a shot from the slot past Swayman after the Bruins failed to clear their own zone.
Mathieu Perreault (4) and Michael Pezzetta (4) had the assists on Suzuki’s goal and the Canadiens trailed, 4-3, at 7:19 of the third period.
With 2:20 remaining in the action, Montréal’s interim head coach, Martin St. Louis, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker.
After Forbort’s shot attempt was knocked down by a high stick in Boston’s attacking zone, however, Montembeault had to return to the crease otherwise the Canadiens would’ve allowed a surefire empty net goal.
With 51.8 seconds remaining, Montembeault vacated the net once more.
After a stoppage with 26.2 seconds left, St. Louis used his timeout to rally his skaters for one last chance, but the Bruins wound up getting another rush in the dying seconds of the game after Nosek and Marchand won a battle along the boards.
Marchand fed an indirect pass off the boards across the width of the ice for Bergeron (22) to retrieve and skate into the attacking zone mostly unguarded before burying the puck in the empty net for his second goal of the game and another two-goal advantage for Boston.
Marchand (45) had the only assist on Bergeron’s empty net goal and the Bruins led, 5-3, at 19:53 of the third period.
As a result of the goal, Bergeron now trails Rick Middleton by five goals for the third-most in franchise history, while Marchand is nine points away from reaching the 800-point plateau in his career.
He’s also two points away (791) from tying Wayne Cashman (793) for the seventh-most points in Bruins franchise history.
At the final horn, Boston had won, 5-3, and left Bell Centre leading in shots on goal, 42-26, including an, 11-10, advantage in the third period alone.
The Bruins also finished the night leading in giveaways (19-16) and hits (36-28), while the Canadiens exited their own ice with the advantage in blocked shots (17-10) and faceoff win% (52-48).
Montréal went 2-for-4 on the power play on Sunday, while Boston went 0-for-1.
Meanwhile, Swayman picked up his 23rd win of the season and moved into sole possession of the fourth-most wins by a rookie goaltender in B’s franchise history, trailing Frank Brimsek (33), Andrew Raycroft (29) and Tiny Thompson (26) as a result.
Tuukka Rask, Marco Baron and Jack Gelineau are now tied for the fifth-most with 22.
The Habs are now on a nine-game losing streak (all in regulation) and fell to 6-38-8 (3-21-3 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 4-32-8 (2-16-3 at home) when trailing after one period and 3-40-6 (1-22-2 at home) when losing after two periods in 2021-22.
Boston improved to 36-9-2 (19-4-1 on the road) when scoring first, 28-5-1 (14-2-1 on the road) when leading after the first period and 31-1-3 (17-0-2 on the road) when leading after the second period this season.
The B’s have three games remaining in the regular season, while the Toronto Maple Leafs have two games and the Tampa Bay Lightning have three games left in their schedules.
Toronto is 2nd in the Atlantic Division and can clinch home ice in the First Round with at least one point in their remaining games, while Tampa would need to win out their final three games and hope for the Maple Leafs to lose their last two games in regulation.
Boston cannot finish higher than 3rd in the Atlantic and is not destined to have home ice in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs unless they meet another wild card in the later rounds.
Entering Monday, the B’s would face the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2022 First Round, though if Boston falls behind the Washington Capitals (100 points) in the wild card standings, there’s always a chance they’ll face the Florida Panthers.
In any case, Toronto would face Tampa if Boston is a wild card team.
Otherwise, we could be looking at another Bruins vs. Leafs First Round series if Boston is able to overcome the Lightning in the division standings.
The Bruins host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday and Buffalo Sabres on Thursday before closing out the 2021-22 regular season Friday night on the road against the Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena.