Gallagher shines as Habs thump Bruins at ’16 Winter Classic

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FOXBOROUGH — During the lead-up to the Winter Classic, P.K. Subban said the game would be a “perfect fit” for Brendan Gallagher‘s return to the Canadiens lineup.

Turns out he was right.

Gallagher, who’d missed the previous 17 games with a broken hand, was a driving force in his first game back in action, scoring a goal while setting up another to give the Habs a 5-1 win over the Bruins at Gillette Stadium.

Paul Byron netted twice for Montreal, who got January off to a good start following a 3-11-0 month of December. Single markers went to Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais — who, at 74 seconds, scored one of the fastest opening goals in Wither Classic history.

And then there was Gallagher, the game’s first star.

Yesterday, Subban told reporters that, because outdoor games often don’t have the best ice and tend to be chippy, Friday’s contest would be “right up [Gallagher’s] alley.”

The diminutive forward, out since Nov. 22, made good on his teammate’s prediction.

Gallagher quickly re-established chemistry on Montreal’s top line with Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec — combined, the trio finished with six points, seven shots on goal and a plus-five rating.

In terms of contrasting narratives, Montreal getting Gallagher back was a foil to Boston’s story on Friday — without top scorer David Krejci (upper-body injury) and leading goalscorer Brad Marchand (suspended), the B’s really struggled to generate offense.

Out-shot 14-3 in the first period, Boston didn’t beat Mike Condon until 3:56 of the third period, when Matt Beleskey tipped home an Adam McQuaid point shot.

The top duo of Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson failed to make much happen despite a rotation of different forwards on their line, and Boston’s usually dangerous power play failed to convert on any of its chances.

In goal, both Condon (27 saves on 28 shots) and Tuukka Rask played well, and though Rask’s numbers (25 saves on 30 shots, .833 save percentage) don’t necessarily show it, the Finnish netminder was the main reason Boston only went into the first intermission down 1-0.

Looking ahead, Montreal will be buoyed by the win and the offensive breakout. The club had scored just one goal in four of its previous five games, and has to be thrilled the top line is back together and clicking.

For Boston, this disappointing result is hardly the way it wanted to start the year. What’s more, the B’s have a tough schedule ahead — a home date against Eastern Conference-leading Washington, followed by a lengthy five-game road trip.

Notes: The attendance was 67,426… The two teams combined for 58 minutes in what was a chippy affair…Habs forward Dale Weise took this Kevan Miller cross-check early in the second period, and didn’t return: