Bruins visit Canadiens, try to avoid 11th straight loss
BRUINS (23-22-11) at CANADIENS (28-25-6)
Boston 0-6-4; Montreal 5-3-2
Fourth of six meetings this season between Northeast Division rivals. Montreal has taken all three matchups so far, including a 5-1 win on Dec. 4 in the only game played at the Bell Centre. Mike Cammalleri
had a hat trick. The Canadiens also beat the Bruins in a pair of shootouts in Boston -- 2-1 on Nov. 5 and 3-2 on Feb. 4.
Only five points separate these Original Six teams in the Eastern Conference standings, but their seasons have taken remarkably different turns of late. The Canadiens lost Cammalleri for the next 6-8 weeks with a knee injury, but have won three in a row without him to take over sole possession of sixth place. The Bruins just can't buy a win, and are in danger of tying the franchise record of 11 straight losses set in 1924-25 if they drop Sunday's game. In each of their last two they've blown a two-goal lead and lost in a shootout.
If there's a way to lose a game, Boston has found it of late. Even when the Bruins are playing from ahead and outshooting their opponents, as they did Saturday against the visiting Canucks, something ends up going wrong. First-period power-play goals by Zdeno Chara and Michael Ryder set them up to end the skid, but Vancouver battled back and Pavol Demitra netted both the tying goal in the third and the shootout winner.
"I think both goaltenders played well tonight and certainly kept their teams in the game," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "Again, with that 2-0 lead we really had to try to find a way to get that third goal. It didn't happen, so eventually it came to the shootout again."
Facing defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh, which was coming off a four-day break, Montreal was the sharper team Saturday. Brian Gionta
scored a pair of goals and assisted on another, and Tomas Plekanec
chipped in a goal and two assists in a 5-3 victory, the Canadiens' first in six games against the Penguins. After having to stop 45 shots in each of his previous two wins, Jaroslav Halak only needed to make 18 saves in this one.
"We were initiating the play," Gionta said. "We weren't sitting back and waiting for them to come to us. Against a team like that, so skilled, so offensively talented, you need to initiate the play and get them back on their heels."
Marc Savard's return has energized the Bruins' offense, and he has five assists in as many games since getting back in the lineup. … Plekanec has five goals and seven assists in his last 11 games. The Canadiens' leading scorer now has 58 points in 59 games. Scott Gomez
has consecutive multi-point efforts, totaling a goal and three assists.
Julien said defenseman Andrew Ference is "a good possibility" to return after missing 14 games with a groin injury and play Sunday. Ference skated on Saturday. Fellow blueliner Mark Stuart is expected to miss four weeks after surgery on his left pinky finger.
Cammalleri is out with a right MCL injury for Montreal, which also has forward Andrei Kostitsyn
(knee) and defenseman Paul Mara (upper body) on injured reserve.
The Bruins outshot their opponents 165-111 on a recent four-game homestand that failed to produce a victory. … The Canadiens continue to excel on special teams, with their power play ranking second in the League at 25 percent and their penalty kill seventh at 83.7 percent.
Even a 10-game losing streak hasn't dropped the Bruins far from the top eight. This is the start of a four-game road trip prior to the Olympic break. Perhaps getting away from the TD Garden and the pressures of trying to snap their skid at home will be the spark Boston desperately needs.
The Numbers Game - Feb. 6, 2010