Bruins trip up Canadiens
Reeling Montreal takes another hit
The wheels have fallen off the Canadiens.
Midgame last night, a day after railing about his team’s loser identity, Mike Cammalleri was pulled from the game and traded to Calgary in a package for Rene Bourque.
Captain Brian Gionta is gone, most likely for the year, following biceps surgery. Coach Jacques Martin and assistant Perry Pearn were sacked earlier this season. Interim coach Randy Cunneyworth, whose primary flaw is his inability to speak French, is a lame-duck bench boss, seemingly, because of his linguistic shortcomings.
Yet the Canadiens still managed, as always, to give the Bruins headaches.
In a watered-down effort featuring too many mistakes for their coach’s liking, the Bruins recorded a 2-1 win over Montreal before 17,565 at TD Garden last night. Two bad bounces led to the Bruins’ goals.
“They’ve got a lot going on right now,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “Their situation is a little bit different.
“It takes two teams to engage, right? Right now, I think they’ve got other things on their minds. I haven’t felt the same energy. But yet the results of the games are very similar. When we do beat them, we don’t beat them by very much, and vice versa.’’
In the first period, Johnny Boychuk stepped over the red line and hummed the puck into the offensive zone. Montreal goalie Carey Price, anticipating that the puck would rim around the boards, left his crease and skated behind the net.
But Boychuk’s blast deflected off a divider between two glass panes and came out to the slot. With Price caught in no-man’s land, Jordan Caron approached the puck and tapped in the easiest goal of his NHL career at 1:23.
In the third period, the Bruins grabbed a 2-0 lead. Milan Lucic chipped a puck into the offensive zone that David Krejci tracked down. Krejci raced past P.K. Subban to corral the puck, then whipped a pass around the boards to Nathan Horton.
As Horton tried to connect with Lucic in front, the puck bounced off a skate. Lucic settled the puck and threw a backhander toward Price. The puck appeared to be going wide, but it bounced off defenseman Josh Gorges and slipped behind Price at 3:43 of the third.
“Both goals were ugly goals,’’ Lucic said. “But we’ll take them.’’
However, there wasn’t much else to the Bruins’ liking, save for their goaltender’s bail-’em-out first period. The Bruins turned pucks over. They gave the Canadiens repeated looks around the net.
Thomas (33 saves, including 16 in the first) turned them all back.
“They had some decent chances in the first,’’ Thomas said. “They were buzzing around. It was important to stop that flurry and not give them any confidence going into the rest of the game for the second and third. Just waited for us to take over.’’
At 12:15 of the first, Mike Blunden had a point-blank chance from the high slot. Thomas burst out of his crease to get in front of Blunden’s bid.
At 16:27, Thomas cut down the angle to stop Max Pacioretty’s partial breakaway. From behind the goal line, Pacioretty tracked down his own rebound and saw Erik Cole open in the slot. Thomas scurried to reposition himself, then made himself big to stop Cole’s followup bid.
The sequence proved, to both Thomas and the Canadiens, that the All-Star puck-stopper had his good stuff.
“I was trying to be aware of everything and be ready for everything,’’ Thomas said. “That’s what I try to do every game. Tonight, my brain is working in that manner, so that was a good thing. I wasn’t surprised by just about anything that happened out there today.’’
Thomas closed out the first with another sparkler, on Andrei Kostitsyn. The Montreal wing got his chance after Dennis Seidenberg made a rare defensive-zone turnover. As Kostitsyn closed in, Thomas booted out his shot at 17:28 to keep the Canadiens off the scoreboard.
The only time Thomas was beaten was when he never saw the puck coming. In the third period, after Andrew Ference was tagged with a roughing double minor, the Canadiens scored a power-play goal at 12:46.
Yannick Weber snapped a shot from the right point that sailed through a screen and beat Thomas, making it a 2-1 game.
A penalty at 18:48 of the third on Tomas Plekanec (holding the stick) prevented the Canadiens from applying enough pressure at the end.
Since November, there haven’t been many instances when Thomas had to stand tall for his shrinking teammates. Last night was one of those rare occasions.
“He bailed us out,’’ Julien said. “He’s done that in the past. It’s something we’ve gotten used to, but it’s not that we want to play that way too often. Tonight, he came up big and bailed us out in those sloppy moments.
“You can’t just be happy with wins. You’ve got to be happy with the way you play. Sometimes you lose and you play hard, you can come up here and say, ‘You know what? We gave it a good effort, the other team played a little better, they were good.’
“Tonight, I’d have to say we didn’t play well. Not well enough.’’