Bruins run Montreal into a figurative wall
The beating the Bruins laid on the Canadiens last night before 17,565 at TD Garden wasn’t the type that leaves blood on hands and shiners on faces.
No, the 7-0 bludgeoning the Bruins delivered was the kind that short-circuits scoreboards and leaves a battering on an opponent’s psyche. Those are blemishes that don’t fade as promptly or kindly as bruises.
In perhaps their most complete game of the season, the Bruins got contributions up and down their lineup to lay the worst kind of smackdown on their most hated rival.
They set the tempo with a Johnny Boychuk goal 61 seconds into the night. They found the back of the net two more times in the first. In the third, they turned a three-goal game into a humiliation with four more strikes.
“It was important for us to win this hockey game, play it right, and to do it our way,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “That’s what we did tonight.’’
Appropriately, the Bruins’ best players flaunted their skills. No. 1 right wing Nathan Horton tucked two pucks behind Carey Price, including a third-period laser that went high glove and smashed into the goalie’s water bottle.
Fellow first-liners David Krejci and Milan Lucic each recorded three helpers. Zdeno Chara, still under investigation by Montreal’s finest, added three assists. Tim Thomas stopped all 24 Montreal shots to notch his eighth shutout of the season and 25th of his career.
But what made the win just as sweet were the contributions from the Black-and-Gold plumbers. In the first period, when the Canadiens were down just one and threatening on the power play, Chris Kelly rushed the Montreal net and forced defenseman Roman Hamrlik to take a momentum-killing holding penalty.
The No. 2 power-play unit — Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, and Mark Recchi up front — got multiple sniffs on Price in the first two periods. Their only fault was that they didn’t tuck in the glittering chances they had.
None stood taller, both on the ice and in his teammates’ view, than Gregory Campbell. In the first, Campbell got a piece of a Chara shot and beat Price to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead.
Late in the third, with Horton (holding) and Marchand (roughing) in the box, Campbell scored a three-on-five shorthanded goal. Campbell picked off a Brian Gionta pass, raced past James Wisniewski and Tomas Plekanec, and snapped a high-blocker riser on relief netminder Alex Auld to give the Bruins their seventh and final goal.
But what made Campbell’s teammates proudest was how he stood up for his alternate captain. Late in the second, after losing his stick, Belmont native Paul Mara took several jabs at Recchi in front of the net. After the whistle, Recchi gave it right back. Mara was tagged with a roughing double minor, while Recchi served a cross-checking penalty.
Campbell took notice.
“He had a good battle with Rex in front of the net there,’’ Campbell said. “He was doing his job. It was a power play and he was just battling in front of the net. Rex is a leader and one of the better players on our team. It’s important for us to have each other’s backs.’’
With 17 ticks remaining in the second, Campbell locked in on Mara. The two dropped their gloves and tangled at center ice. Mara is 6 feet 4 inches and 211 pounds. Campbell is 4 inches shorter and 14 pounds lighter.
Both got in their licks. But Campbell sent the clearer message: Nobody can take liberties with the future Hall of Famer and not answer for his actions.
“I can’t say enough about that guy,’’ said Shawn Thornton, who usually addresses such situations. “Never mind the two goals. They were two huge goals for us.
“He stepped up and took on a guy that’s a lot bigger than him to try and make sure nobody pushes us around in our building. He’s a character guy.
“I love having him as my centerman. I’ve had him all year. I’m very fortunate. I think he’s one of the more underrated guys in the league, to tell you the truth.’’
Predictably, the Canadiens, who are without a heavyweight, didn’t pursue Chara as retribution for his March 8 hit on Max Pacioretty. What was surprising to witness was how the Canadiens wilted and didn’t have any kind of on-ice pushback against the Bruins’ assault.
Montreal had no answer to any of Boston’s seven goals. Price was uncomfortable early but stood tall amid a second-period barrage, keeping the Bruins off the scoreboard.
But in the third, after Horton and Adam McQuaid found the back of the net, Price found himself making the slow, awkward skate to the bench. As Price was mercifully pulled by coach Jacques Martin and replaced by Auld, the Garden crowd showered the goalie with the heckling that accompanies a yanking.
“We pressed, but not the right way,’’ said Montreal defenseman Hal Gill. “We didn’t do many things right. That’s one of the things you have to deal with. That’s one of the lumps you have to take.’’
The third-place Bruins are now 5 points ahead of the Canadiens. Montreal is still in sixth, 2 points ahead of the seventh-place Rangers.
Boston and Montreal have completed their six-game regular-season set — the Bruins finish with a 2-3-1 mark — but there remains a good chance they aren’t finished with each other. If a postseason showdown takes place, the Bruins need only look back at last night.
“That’s the way we wish we could play every night,’’ said Thomas. “It should be a big confidence booster for us going forward. It’s the blueprint of the type of game we want to play.’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.