BOSTON – The Canadiens came into Boston and snapped the Bruins’ 12-game win streak with a gritty road performance.
The Habs entered TD Garden on Monday night well aware of the challenge they were about to face. Lining up against the NHL’s hottest team, the Canadiens were able to do what no other team had been able to accomplish since March 1: earn two points off the Boston Bruins. Buoyed by some clutch glove work by backup netminder Peter Budaj to keep the B’s forwards at bay, Montreal was able to limit the league’s second-most potent offense to a single goal in 65 minutes.
“There’s nothing special I’m doing or the team is doing [against Boston]. You get ready every time against a tough opponent,” explained Budaj, who improved his all-time record to 5-2-0 against the Bruins with Monday’s 2-1 shootout win. “It doesn’t matter who you play in this league, everybody is tough. There’s such a big rivalry between us that they always come out hard. The more exciting the game is, the more fun it is to play.”
After losing two tough customers less than five minutes into the game as Dale Weise was sent hard into the boards by Kevan Miller and Travis Moen was injured on the ensuing fight with the Bruins’ defenseman, the Canadiens had to face the top seed in the East with just 10 forwards on the bench. Despite holding off the NHL’s sixth-ranked power play on their first five opportunities with the man advantage, the Habs weren’t able to snuff them out completely after heading to the box four times in a 12-minute span in the third period.
“I thought we took a few too many penalties – more than we should have – but our goaltending was strong and our penalty killing was strong,” offered Tomas Plekanec, whose 23:42 workload on Monday night included nearly six minutes of shorthanded ice time. “It was tough, especially being short two guys who usually kill penalties so it was a great effort all around. When you’re killing all those penalties it takes a lot of energy. It wasn’t easy but we did a great job and we showed a lot of character to be in that game.”
As always, the man between the pipes proved to be the team’s best penalty killer, robbing Milan Lucic on the back door before flashing the leather on a Dougie Hamilton point shot on back-to-back attempts in the first period. In his third start against the Bruins this year, the Slovak netminder kicked aside 28 of the 29 shots he faced before shutting the door on all four Boston shootout attempts.
“I wouldn’t say it’s just in Boston; he’s strong every time he plays for us,” stressed Plekanec on his goaltender’s success in his 22nd start of the campaign to help the Habs win the season series 3-1 against their divisional rivals. “We see how hard he works in practices, staying out with the guys for an extra half an hour or 45 minutes. It paid off for him tonight and it paid off for the whole team.”
While the biggest focus on the Canadiens’ bench was on earning another two points in the standings, snapping their longtime rivals’ undefeated sequence was a pleasant by-product of the win in Beantown.
“That’s kind of nice to be able to end their streak,” admitted Mike Weaver, who played over 20 minutes for the first time since becoming a Hab at the trade deadline. “It would have been even better to end it in regulation but obviously coming in here, everybody was talking about their 12 wins. They’re a really good team and they’re on a high right now. These games are so important. Every point matters and it was a great team win.”
Not surprisingly, with the number of games remaining in the regular season now dipping into single digits and the playoff race getting tighter by the day, defense and special teams were keys to the Habs’ victory in Boston.
“It was a huge win for us. We were blocking shots – I don’t know how many shots we blocked but it looked like a lot,” mentioned Budaj, whose teammates blocked 20 shots against the Bruins. “Guys were sacrificing the bodies and doing the little things right.
“It’s just great to see we’re coming together down the stretch,” he added. “Come playoffs, it’s very important because you can’t just flip the switch on once you’re there; it has to start now. You have to accumulate the energy now so you’re peaking in the playoffs. It was a very exciting game for everybody and a good win for us.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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