FOXBOROUGH — Montreal captain Max Pacioretty was hoping that the “big stage” of the Winter Classic would be the perfect catalyst for his struggling Canadiens.
He wasn’t disappointed.
“It really felt like just a new year,” Pacioretty said after the Habs blasted the Bruins, 5-1, Friday at Gillette Stadium.
“We turned the chapter on the last month. We don’t want to think about December. We want to think about 2016.”
Montreal went 3-11-0 in December, unable to maintain its winning ways without injured stars Carey Price or Brendan Gallagher.
While Price remains sidelined, Gallagher returned against the Bruins, scoring once and adding an assist on a Pacioretty goal. For that, the 23-year-old winger was named the first star.
“Everybody knows the way he plays and why he has success,” Pacioretty said of his bulldog linemate. “It’s because he plays the same way every night.”
“Things that Gally’s doing, not too many players in the league can do those,” said center Tomas Plekanec. “We’ve played so many games together that the chemistry’s there.”
Of course, it was only one game. With some tough opponents coming up, defenseman P.K. Subban wasn’t about to proclaim the end of all of the Canadiens’ problems.
“We’ll have to see,” said Subban. “This is a tough league. You want to use momentum whenever you can, and try to build off wins. And we’re going to try to do that.”
FOXBOROUGH — Mike Condon wasn’t terribly busy early in today’s Winter Classic, but he made a spectacular save with seconds remaining in the second period to keep the score 3-0 for the Montreal Canadiens.
Condon’s victim was Bruins forward Ryan Spooner.
If Condon can last another 20 minutes without surrendering more than two goals, the 25-year-old Massachusetts native will register a victory in the home of his beloved New England Patriots.
Not a bad story, that.
From ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun:
The Toronto Maple Leafs are the front-runner to host next year’s Winter Classic for their centennial season, although sources say it’s not a done deal at this point.
The Maple Leafs, like the NHL, are celebrating their 100-year anniversary next season, so either way, sources say an outdoor game at BMO Field is likely. The question is whether it’s the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 or a Stadium Series game later in the season.
This isn’t the first time it’s been reported that Toronto could host the 2017 Winter Classic. Two years ago, the day the Leafs played the Red Wings at Michigan Stadium, Sportsnet reported the same thing.
Of note, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman recently told USA Today that a Winter Classic — because it’s broadcast on NBC — is unlikely to feature two Canadian teams.
“In terms of attracting a U.S. audience, you do need at least one U.S. team,” said Bettman.
LeBrun says the Rangers are the likely Leafs’ opponents.
If Toronto is not awarded the 2017 Winter Classic, LeBrun’s sources say that “a Philadelphia Flyers-Pittsburgh Penguins matchup is possible for Jan. 1, either at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia or Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.”
Penn State’s Beaver Stadium has been raised as a potential site for a Pens-Flyers Winter Classic, but LeBrun’s report makes no mention of that.
Related: Rob Ford wants the Winter Classic for Toronto
A few days before Christmas, the Edmonton Oilers touted the importance of the games that awaited them after the break. If they wanted to stay in the playoff race, they needed to get some good results.
It has not gone well.
They blew a 3-1 lead in their first outing, losing 5-3 to the Flames. Then they lost 5-2 to the Kings. And last night, they were stifled, 1-0, by the Ducks.
“It was just a boring game, we just couldn’t find our rhythm,” said Oilers winger Taylor Hall, per Reuters. “We are a rush team and we struggled to get pucks in their end and create stuff. It was just a tough night and a boring game. But we have to get to point where we are winning those games.”
The Oilers were in a playoff spot on Dec. 14. They were three points out going into the break. That deficit is now five points. And the San Jose Sharks, the current holders of third place in the Pacific Division, have three games in hand.
Another big game awaits the Oilers on Saturday when they host Arizona. If they don’t turn it around soon, it’ll be maybe-next-year time again in Edmonton.
EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) John Gibson made 21 saves for his second consecutive shutout and fourth of the season and the Anaheim Ducks extended their winning streak to three games with a 1-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night.
Ryan Getzlaf scored for the Ducks, also 1-0 winners in Calgary on Tuesday night. They are 4-1-1 in their last six games, while the Oilers have lost four in a row and seven of their last eight.
Getzlaf scored on a power play midway through the first period. The puck came loose during a scramble in front and Getzlaf was able to score just his third goal of the season on a backhand shot over goalie Cam Talbot.
Talbot finished with 30 saves.
The Ducks kept pressing, but Talbot was able to keep it a one-goal game, notably making a highlight-reel glove save on a point-blank shot by Sami Vatanen with 5 minutes left in the second period.
Anaheim held a 25-14 edge in shots after 40 minutes.
Edmonton came close with the extra attacker late in the third, but Shawn Horcoff hooked down Teddy Purcell in front to prevent a goal and the Ducks were solid in front of Gibson with the Oilers pressing on the power play.
Related: Unable to score, Ducks are clogging it up real good