David Backes scored the game-winning goal in his first game back from injury since Nov. 2nd as the Boston Bruins rallied in the third period to a, 3-1, comeback win over the Montreal Canadiens Sunday night at TD Garden.
Tuukka Rask (13-2-2 record, 2.04 goals against average, .933 save percentage in 17 games played) made 28 saves on 29 shots against for a .966 SV% in the win for Boston.
Montreal netminder, Carey Price (10-9-3, 3.18 GAA, .898 SV% in 22 GP) stopped 31 out of 34 shots faced for a .912 SV% in the loss.
The B’s improved to 19-3-5 (43 points) on the season and maintained their lead on the Atlantic Division, as well as the entire league– having played one fewer game than the Washington Capitals.
The Habs fell to 11-10-6 (28 points) and remained in command of 5th place in the Atlantic Division while also falling to 0-5-3 in their last eight games.
Prior to Sunday night, Montreal hadn’t lost eight-straight games since the 1939-40 season (in which the Canadiens lost nine-straight games at one point).
Meanwhile, Boston is on an 11-game point streak, including their current seven-game winning streak and improved to 11-0-4 on home ice this season.
Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), Zach Senyshyn (lower body), Patrice Bergeron (lower body) and Brett Ritchie (upper body) were all out of commission for the Bruins on Sunday against Montreal.
Moore, however, was assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) ahead of Providence’s matinee matchup with the Charlotte Checkers at Bojangles’ Coliseum as part of a long-term injured conditioning stint (meaning he’s likely to be back up in Boston and rejoining the B’s lineup in the near future).
Jack Studnicka was also reassigned to Providence after playing in two NHL games with Boston while multiple forwards were injured.
Studnicka recorded one assist in that span.
Backes returned to full practice on Saturday and returned to the lineup Sunday night against the Canadiens after missing the last 13 games since being hurt on Nov. 2nd against the Ottawa Senators.
With Backes available, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, switched up his lines from Friday afternoon’s, 3-2, overtime victory over the New York Rangers.
Cassidy kept his first line the same with Brad Marchand at left wing, David Krejci at center and David Pastrnak on the right wing.
On the second line, Cassidy moved Charlie Coyle back to his usual spot at center with Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen on his left and right sides, respectively.
Sean Kuraly centered the third line with Anders Bjork at left wing and Chris Wagner at right wing.
Finally, Par Lindholm centered Joakim Nordstrom in his usual role as the fourth line left wing and Backes on the right wing.
Connor Clifton went back in the lineup on the third defensive pairing alongside Matt Grzelcyk, while Steven Kampfer joined Brendan Gaunce in the press box as Boston’s only healthy scratches.
The Bruins wore their new alternate sweater for the second-straight game since debuting them on the ice against the Rangers in the 2019 NHL Thanksgiving Showdown.
Joel Armia (10) stole the puck right in front of the Boston goal and sent a backhand shot off the crossbar and in over Rask’s glove side on fluke soft goal to kick things off at 1:58 of the first period.
Armia’s goal was unassisted and gave Montreal a, 1-0, lead in what was just the 9th instance of the Bruins giving up the game’s first goal on home ice this season– and the 4th consecutive home game in doing so.
Late in the period, Charlie McAvoy caught Charles Hudon with a high stick and was assessed a minor infraction at 14:38.
The Canadiens did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.
Entering the first intermission, the Habs led the B’s, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 11-10, in shots on goal.
Montreal also held the advantage in takeaways (11-1) and faceoff win percentage (59-41), while Boston led in blocked shots (4-1).
Both teams had three giveaways aside and 12 hits each, meanwhile the Canadiens were 0/1 on the power play heading into the second period.
The Bruins had yet to see any time on the skater advantage after the first 20 minutes of action Sunday night.
Boston turned their burners on as the second period was nearing a close, but not before the two teams got into a bit of a scrum at center ice that resulted in the first power play opportunity of the night for the Bruins.
Shea Weber was called for interference against Pastrnak at 17:13 of the second period, but was joined in the penalty box by his teammate, Brendan Gallagher, after Gallagher got into a wrestling match with DeBrusk– who also cut a rut to the sin bin, but for the B’s.
As a result, the Bruins went on a 5-on-4 skater advantage and couldn’t muster a power play goal in the vulnerable minutes before the middle frame came to a close.
The score remained unchanged after 40 minutes of action with the Canadiens leading the Bruins, 1-0, but Boston jumped ahead of Montreal in the shot department– leading, 20-19, in shots on goal after two periods thanks to their, 10-8, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.
The B’s led in blocked shots (10-6) and hits (25-20) entering the second intermission, while the Habs led in takeaways (12-6), giveaways (4-3) and faceoff win% (52-48).
Both teams were 0/1 on the power play heading into the final frame of regulation.
Early in the final frame, Bjork worked an indirect pass up the boards to Pastrnak that led Pastrnak into the attacking zone.
The league’s leading goal scorer, Pastrnak (25), blasted a rocket from the hashmarks off the far post and in on Price’s blocker side– tying the game, 1-1, in the process at 6:16 of the third period.
Bjork (3) and Brandon Carlo (8) tallied the assists on Pastrnak’s goal as No. 88 in black-and-gold became the 11th player in league history to score 25 or more goals in a season through games played on Dec. 1st, as well as the first player to do so since Mario Lemieux scored 29 goals through Dec. 1st in the 1992-93 season with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
About a couple minutes later, Nick Cousins received a holding infraction for tying up Torey Krug in Montreal’s offensive zone.
Boston went on the power play for the second time of the night at 8:38 of the third and made sure to capitalize on the skater advantage in the dying seconds of the power play opportunity.
Grzelcyk worked the puck from the point to Krejci as the Bruins center brought the puck down low.
Krejci then sent a pass to Backes (1) in the slot where the veteran NHLer was acting as a bumper and one-timed a shot into the twine to give Boston their first lead of the night, 2-1.
The Bruins didn’t score in the first 40 minutes of the game Sunday night, but they fired off two goals in a span of 4:13 in the third period to turn the game on its head.
Krejci (15) and Grzelcyk (6) had the assists on Backes’ goal at 10:29 and the B’s had momentum on their side.
In a similar manner, but from the reverse angle, Heinen broke into the zone with possession and briefly lost the puck before DeBrusk scooped it up and gave it to Coyle.
The Weymouth, Massachusetts native brought the rubber biscuit behind the net, then tossed a pass to DeBrusk (6) that the Bruins winger one-timed over Price’s glove from point blank while being knocked to the ice– giving Boston a two-goal lead, 3-1.
Coyle (10) had the only assist on DeBrusk’s goal at 13:27 and the Bruins completed their three unanswered goal comeback over Montreal in a 7:11 span in the third period.
The goal was DeBrusk’s 6th point in his last five games.
With 2:33 remaining in regulation, Canadiens head coach, Claude Julien, pulled Price for an extra attacker.
After icing the puck and mishandling a breakout, the Habs ended up with too many skaters on the ice at 18:09 and sent Cousins to the box to serve their bench minor.
Though Boston did not score on their third power play of the game, they did walk away with the most important thing– the win– at the final horn.
The Bruins finished off the Canadiens, 3-1, and ended the night with the advantage in shots on goal (34-29), blocked shots (16-12) and hits (32-28).
Montreal, meanwhile, left TD Garden with the advantage in giveaways (7-4) and faceoff win% (59-41) on Sunday.
The Habs finished the night 0/1 on the power play, while the B’s went 1/3 on the skater advantage.
The Bruins are now 7-1-2 when allowing the game’s first goal at home this season and 4-2-2 when trailing after two periods.
Boston continues their current five-game home stand (2-0-0) on Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes before hosting the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday and finishing up their homestand on Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche. The B’s then begin a four-game road trip thereafter.