In what was one of the most anticipated games of the year, the Bruins faithful had TD Garden rocking like a playoff game. The Bruins came out like it was a playoff game. The Montreal Canadiens, however, did not come out like it was a playoff game. After the Bruins’ seven goals and a Tim Thomas shutout, the statement had been made.
The game between the long-time bitter rivals has taken on a new level of intensity this season. Their February 9th game featured about 10,000 penalty minutes and Zdeno Chara checked Max Pacioretty in their last meeting that lead to a broken neck for Pacioretty and a new debate for the NHL community all over North America. To say the atmosphere was intense for tonight’s game in Boston would be quite possibly the biggest understatement of the year.
Hopefully people enjoyed the lead up —because the actual game didn’t have very much intrigue. Johnny Boychuk scored for the Bruins 1:01 into the game and the Bruins were up 3-0 by the end of the 1st period. Boston scored two more goals in 26 seconds in the 3rd period to chase Carey Price with 15:31 left in the game. Unfortunately, Alex Auld wasn’t able to fare much better as he gave up a pair of goals—and was lucky the game didn’t last 60:01 or he would have given up yet another goal to Tyler Seguin.
Even with the impressive offensive output, the Bruins only needed one goal to win Thursday’s game. The stellar performance in net was the 8th shutout on the season for Tim Thomas and the 25th of his career. The game easily could have been a low scoring playoff preview with Thomas and Price in goal, but only one goaltender brought his “A” game.
The expected (or hoped for) game full of rough stuff never really fully materialized. Paul Mara and Gregory Campbell threw fists at each other’s faces in the 2nd period. Mara also caught Mark Recchi with a high hit that cost him 4 minutes in the penalty box. Predictably, Recchi responded with a cross-check and received a two minute minor for his troubles. Maybe the hit was in response to Recchi’s comments earlier this week about Pacioretty possibly embellishing any concussion-like symptoms for a possible Zdeno Chara suspension. Maybe it was because the two teams are – and always will be – bitter rivals. Then again, maybe it was just because it was intense competitors coming together in an intense game. Bruins forward Shawn Thornton explained the night perfectly:
“I don’t know if there were any scores to be settled. We came to play. All the other stuff didn’t matter. We did a good job all week staying away from all the bull.”
There was a sequence that was a microcosm of the entire game with about 7 minutes left and the score 6-0. Brad Marchand caught Scott Gomez up high with a mid-ice hit and it looked like the game could get ugly. James Wisniewski took issue, but both the officials and cooler tempers prevailed. Marchand was given a penalty for roughing, putting the Habs on an extended 2-man advantage. To continue with the night’s theme, Gregory Campbell scored on the ensuring 5-3 short-handed situation—on a breakaway no less. That would be adding insult to the already present injury.
Before the goal, fans were serenading the Habs with a mocking Ole Ole Ole chant. They were chanting after the goal as well, for that matter. Maybe that was adding insult to injury. Or maybe the insult was that this was the worst beating the Habs have suffered to the Bruins since October of 1998. Take your pick.
There was a ton of build-up because of the history between these clubs this season, but more importantly for the big picture were the playoff implications riding on the game. The Bruins victory increased the Northeast Division lead to a full five points (Habs only have seven games left). In an interesting quirk of the standings, these two teams would face each other if the playoffs were to start tomorrow. After Thursday’s game, the Bruins would probably be alright with that. And the Canadiens would be happy to get a shot at redemption. And fans, they’d be happy to get an entire series filled with this kind of emotion.