Bruins send Canadiens packing en route to fifth straight victory
No sideshows. No drama. No diving, biting, fighting, facewashing, or bellyaching. No mention of words you never heard in the Bible.
The Bruins and Canadiens met again last night at the Garden, and though it may have been all prim and proper when compared with the lovely mayhem that often transpires between the teams, it ended the way it usually does for Boston these days - with the Bruins finishing on top, 3-2, for their fifth straight victory.
“We’re showing up, going to work,’’ said Bruins netminder Tim Thomas, who pocketed his 16th win on the strength of 33 saves. “We’re doing our business.’’
Win No. 22 for the Bruins was, for the most part, a matter-of-fact affair, other than the significant fact that Boston’s top left winger, Milan Lucic, spent the night in the press box, serving a one-game suspension for his hit Saturday afternoon on Philly’s Zac Rinaldo. Coach Claude Julien plopped Danny Paille into Lucic’s spot to start the night, then switched Zach Hamill to the No. 1 line and shifted Paille to the checking line with old pals Greg Campbell and Shawn Thornton.
Last week, the Bruins had to play two games without Zdeno Chara, their captain sidelined with a knee injury. They won those games. Campbell, their best checking center, also was out with a cracked foot for three games last week. All wins. The parts change slightly, but the points keep coming, and last night it was ex-Hab Benoit Pouliot who gave the Black-and-Gold cannonball express its initial push down the track, connecting for the 1-0 lead with 12:13 gone in the first. The key to the strike was Rich Peverley beating ex-Bruin Petteri Nokelainen on a draw in the right circle, then centering immediately for Pouliot at the top of the crease, where he slid a quick forehander into the open left side.
“Winning games like this is unbelieveable,’’ said the smiling Pouliot, who connected for the first goal in Saturday’s 6-0 win at Philly. “I’ve never been on a team like this.’’
The Bruins, the defending Cup champs, have lost only twice in regulation since the end of October. For the last seven weeks, they have gone 19-2-1, collecting 39 of a possible 44 points, for an astounding 88.6 percent success rate. They are the hottest team in hockey and it looks like nothing, or no one, will cool them off.
“To be honest, I don’t know what streak we are on anymore,’’ said Tyler Seguin, who made a pretty feed late in the third for a Brad Marchand goal that made it 3-1, effectively icing the Habs. “We just want to stay consistent.’’
The only wrinkle or worry came late in the second period when the Bruins were working with a 2-1 lead thanks to a goal earlier in the period by David Krejci. A Louis Leblanc high stick left center Patrice Bergeron with a gash on his chin, and the Bruins with a four-minute power play at 16:23. It was a perfect opportunity to put the Habs away, but the power play, which struck for three goals Saturday, came up flat. The Habs don’t have a lot this year - in part why they canned coach Jacques Martin Saturday - but they have enough to erase a one-goal lead with 19-plus minutes to go in the third.
“I didn’t like the thought that we had only a one-goal lead,’’ said Julien.
Not to worry. With 5:46 to go in the third period, Bergeron made a key play high in Boston’s offensive zone, getting the puck over to Seguin with a move that prevented the Habs from breaking out of the zone. Seguin then made a sweet saucer relay to Marchand, who cradled the puck, protected it from a Carey Price pokecheck, then slid a nifty backhander in for his 12th goal this season. A nice display of touch by the Little Ball of Hate. Two-goal lead.
“Sometimes you get nice goals,’’ he said. “And sometimes you get dirty ones. Either way, you take them.’’
The Habs still made it slightly uncomfortable, cutting the lead to 3-2 with 1:14 to play in the moments after Nathan Horton coughed up the puck in his own zone. Eric Cole nailed in his 13th, leaving the Habs 74 seconds to tie it, perhaps salvage at least their first point under new coach Randy Cunneyworth. But Bergeron twice made key clearing plays over that final stretch, and the keep-on-winning-like-another-Cup-is-waiting Bruins salted away the 2 points.
“We’ve learned to look at ourselves as a team,’’ said Julien, noting how this was the second opponent in a row, including the Kings last week, to come to the Garden with a new coach behind its bench, “and do what we have to do to win hockey games. That’s what’s served us the best so far.’’