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Bruce Cassidy’s Bruins continue to roll with 3rd straight win

02.13.17 at 12:17 am ET
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The Bruins are 3-0-0 under Bruce Cassidy. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins are 3-0-0 under Bruce Cassidy. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Interim head coach Bruce Cassidy admitted that he was going to be able to sleep well when he won his Bruins head coaching debut last Thursday. That sleep will continue through the B’s bye week, too, as the Bruins have rattled off three wins in as many games under Cassidy.

They apparently saved their best for the last game of what was a do-or-die type of weekend, as the Bruins rolled the Canadiens to a 4-0 final with contributions across the board and in all situations.

“Yeah it is,” Cassidy said when asked if this was the perfect high note to go into their five-day bye on. “It was a tough game tonight, you never know how those games are going to go, a big rivalry and it went our way. I thought we were full value for it. I thought we got better as the game went on, we dealt with some adversity, we were able to get the two points and that’s always enjoyable.”

In a rivalry that’s been one-sided over the last few seasons, especially in games played in Boston (the Bruins entered play with losses in nine straight home games against the Habs, their last win coming all the way back in Jan. 2012), they stayed true to the aggressive tendencies established in wins over the Sharks and Canucks.

And have yet another win to show for it.

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Tuukka Rask moves into sole possession of 2nd place on franchise’s all-time shutouts list

02.12.17 at 11:31 pm ET
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Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask recorded the 36th shutout of his career tonight. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask recorded the 36th shutout of his career tonight. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Rest on Saturday did Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask a whole lot of good Sunday night, as the 29-year-old stopped all 25 shots thrown his way en route to a 4-0 win over the rival Canadiens.

In what finished as Rask’s first career home win against the Canadiens, as he entered play with zero wins and an .890 save percentage in 12 prior Boston head-to-heads against the Habs, the 29-year-old was tested early and often and improved his 2016-17 season record against Montreal to two wins and just one goal allowed on 56 shots against.

“[His] performance was excellent,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Rask following the win. “We needed him early.”

It also inched Rask further up on the franchise’s record books.

Not only was it the club’s first shutout over the Canadiens since Nov. 2011, and their first home shutout against the Canadiens since Mar. 2011 (both zeros were posted by Rask’s old creasemate, Tim Thomas), but it also Rask moved into sole possession of second place on the club’s all-time shutouts list with career shutout No. 36.

Entering play tied with Frank Brimsek at 35, Rask now trails only Cecil ‘Tiny’ Thompson for the franchise lead. But don’t hold your breath on Rask (or anybody for that matter) catching Thompson, as he finished his B’s career with a whopping 74 shutouts.

Rask now has 27 wins and a .912 save percentage in 46 games this season.

Zdeno Chara, Bruins make statement in 4-0 win over Canadiens

02.12.17 at 10:18 pm ET
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The Bruins improved to 3-0-0 under Bruce Cassidy with Sunday's win over the Canadiens. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins improved to 3-0-0 under Bruce Cassidy with Sunday’s win over the Canadiens. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

If you closed your eyes and just listened to the crowd at tonight’s season-series finale between the Bruins and Canadiens, you would have thought you had been transported back to the better days of 2011.

At the 5:08 mark of the second period of the game, which ended as a 4-0 victory for the Black and Gold, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara pulled out a beautiful move and beat Canadiens netminder Carey Price upstairs for a shorthanded goal, and the building began to shake.

In what was (fittingly enough) Chara’s first shorty since 2011, Chara showed the raw emotion seldom seen from the B’s captain of 11 years — at least in recent seasons of the franchise’s fall back to the middle of the NHL pack, anyways. His celebratory scream, a former trademark of No. 33, was echoed by those from the crowd, and backed up with the sing-song ‘Ca-rey’ chant that hasn’t been heard in this building in any sort of meaningful manner in over five years.

It was a statement from Big Z that his club was not going to down without a fight.

Not to this team, and not for the 10th time in as many visits to Boston.

And a statement from a Hub fanbase that’s not yet ready to wave the towel on their season.

Not when the team plays with this passion.

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Referee Wes McCauley gets really pumped about Torey Krug vs. Andrew Shaw fight

02.12.17 at 8:30 pm ET
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It didn’t take long for Torey Krug and Andrew Shaw to set the tone for Sunday’s showdown between the Bruins and Canadiens.

In the final matchup between the two, Krug and Shaw dropped the gloves just 58 seconds into the first period, and brought the TD Garden crowd to life. The fight also appeared to pump referee Wes McCauley up quite a bit, too.

At least when it came to his penalty announcement to the sellout crowd in Boston.

The fight was obvious carryover from the last meeting between the Bruins and Habs, when Krug rocked Shaw up high with a hit.

 

Goaltender Tuukka Rask gets start for Bruins vs. Canadiens

02.12.17 at 4:59 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask gets the start for the Bruins tonight vs. the Canadiens. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Tuukka Rask gets the start for the Bruins tonight vs. the Canadiens. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Over a foot of snow is coming to Boston. So are the Canadiens.

And at this point, I’m not sure which visit the Hub dreads more.

In what’s become a one-sided rivalry if there ever was one, at least when it comes to games played in Massachusetts, the Canadiens come to TD Garden tonight riding a nine-game road winning streak over the Bruins. The last B’s home win over the hated Habs, which came all the way back on Jan. 12, 2012 in case you don’t remember, was the night that the Canadiens traded their best scorer (Michael Cammalleri) in the middle of the game, too. So, at least that was nice of them.

But with the ‘fresh start’ that’s come with the hiring of interim head coach Bruce Cassidy for a lot of players in this roster, the Bruins will turn to Tuukka Rask in search of another one of those, and the necessary strong finale before the club’s long-awaited bye week begins on Monday.

One that doesn’t happen without that aforementioned fresh start against the club’s top rival.

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Anton Khudobin gets back on track with second win of the season

02.12.17 at 3:57 am ET
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Anton Khudobin made 29 saves for his second win of the season. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Anton Khudobin made 29 saves for his second win of the season. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

It’s been so long since Anton Khudobin tasted victory at the NHL level that you actually understood how or why his brain went on auto-pilot and sang a familiar refrain after Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Canucks.

“Winning sucks,” Khudobin, who stopped 29-of-32 shots in the win, his first since Dec. 1, said. “I mean, losing sucks.”

Khudobin winning just his second game of a season all the way on Feb. 11 — and in a season that’s come with unexpected stops and starts in Boston, the waiver wire, and Providence — is not how second-year Bruins GM Don Sweeney drew it up when he signed Khudobin to a two-year deal on the first day of free agency last summer.

But like most of the struggling pieces of this Bruins group, the firing of Claude Julien and insertion of Bruce Cassidy as the team’s interim head coach has come with a proverbial fresh start, and one that Khudobin undoubtedly took advantage of when called upon.

“Very strong game,” Cassidy said of Khudobin’s performance against the equally desperate Canucks. “Certainly gave us a chance to win, we had a number of breakdowns in front of him that led to quality chances that he was there to make the save on.  So I’m very happy for him, he’s worked hard on his game and you know we scored a goal late for him to get the win.”

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Unconventional third line might work wonders for Bruins

02.12.17 at 2:58 am ET
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The B's new-look third line is worthy of an extended look. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The B’s new-look third line with Jimmy Hayes and Frank Vatrano as Ryan Spooner’s wingers is worth an extended look. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Frank Vatrano to the left, Ryan Spooner in the middle, and Jimmy Hayes on the right. Unless it’s a faceoff, in which case Hayes moves to the middle and then retreats back into a winger situation while Spooner moves back to the middle once the puck is dropped.

What I just described to you is likely the stuff of Claude Julien’s nightmares. But it’s also the current third line iced by interim B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy in both of his games behind the bench.

It was in Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Canucks, too, that the unlikely trio chipped in with some key contributions for the Black and Gold.

Their first goal came with a three-zone effort that started with a battle win, transition, and the little things that often go unnoticed (but clearly didn’t by Cassidy) but allowed defenseman Kevan Miller to join the rush as a shooting option and the eventual goal scorer.

“Well the capsule of that goal, Vatrano winning a puck against the wall, Spooner coming underneath with speed out of the neutral zone, Hayes driving the net and the D coming late,” Cassidy said of their impact on the first goal. “These are things we’ve asked and we’re going to ask that line to do on a regular basis and that should help them create offense. That was a great reward for them.”

Vatrano, with the help of a straight-up pretty pass from David Krejci, put the Bruins on the board with their first lead of the night before the period was over, too, with his fifth power-play goal of the season (and his seventh goal overall).

And it was a smart drop-back pass from Hayes on Colin Miller’s third period goal — a play in which Hayes took a hit to make the pass happen — that allowed the Bruins to keep pace with the Canucks and actually push the pace further in their favor.

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