|04.09.09 at 11:35 pm ET|
If you were at TD Banknorth Garden and closed your eyes in any one of the three periods during Thursday night’s instant classic between the Bruins and the Canadiens, you might have had flashbacks to last year’s Game 6 against the hated Habs — the best hockey game ever played in the new Garden.
This wasn’t quite the equal of that one — it was after all enough of a throwaway game for the B’s that they felt free to chase down and punish whichever Canadiens players even looked at them askance — but it was a highly entertaining, living, breathing advertisemen for just how great a game hockey can be.
The penalty boxes were overflowing with players from both sides all night, the offenses were clicking at a high rate and ticking off quality chance after quality chance and the 17,565 in attendance — a mixture of the Bruins Faithful and a large number of invading Habs fans from the Great White North — were in the presence of two teams fully primed for the playoffs all wrapped in a 5-4 overtime win for the Bruins.
The Big, Bad B’s lost their minds a little bit in the second period when they paraded to the sin bin with retaliatory-type infractions and allowed Montreal’s power play to rack up three man-advantage strikes, but — like any good playoff team — they didn’t allow the Habs to run roughshod over them. The Spoked B righted the ship in the third with a return to discipline and a gritty game-tying score by Zdeno Chara while his big body was lurking in front of the Montreal net.
“It was a great game. It was a hard-fought game,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We kind of played our game the whole time, but there’s a part in the second period where we kind of got away from our game, trying to be too physical. I guess: taking just a couple bad penalties and we better stay a little more disciplined. It was a great game, we all know it. The Canadiens are a great team, they never ever stopped and we showed that today.”
With the win, the B’s continue to keep stride with the top Western Conference teams, while the Canadiens drop into an eighth-seed slot that could very easily set them up with the Black and Gold for a sure-to-be-unforgettable first-round playoff pairing.
Many thought it might be wise to rest up Chara and perhaps even play Manny Fernandez in a game that clearly meant more to Montreal than Boston on paper. “Let the players rest up for the playoffs” some chanted because the meaning of Thursday night’s statement game was lost on them.
Well, it clearly wasn’t lost on a Bruins team that fought from the opening bell when Chara crunched a Habs skater in the corner, and seemed to tweak his knee a little bit in the process. That all-effort bodycheck let the Habs know it was going to be a long, hard-fought battle for the point they needed to get into the playoffs, and it also signaled to everyone watching that the Bruins viewed this game as something of a postseason preamble.
It had all the markings of last season’s playoff struggle, with just a little more confidence and swagger along a Bruins’ bench that contained a bunch of Black and Gold skaters with very little to lose. Brothers in torment Mike Komisarek and Milan Lucic picked up right where they left off last season, and Lucic put a punctuation mark on the dust-up with a horse-collar/face-wash takedown of Komisarek from behind after the Habs D-man had knocked him from behind and pushed the big winger toward the boards.
Alex Kovalev was buzzing around and creating Grade A opportunities with his unbelievable hands and sniper-scope shot — an image that struck fear into the hearts of B’s fans last season, but was all-too absent this year when the Russian star often seemed disinterested under the now-jettisoned Guy Carbonneau.
So much of it was eerily familiar to last spring.
But two Bruins skaters that weren’t present on the ice during last year’s seven game series — Bergeron and Mark Recchi — ended up making all the difference when the ice chips had settled and the 76 total penalty minutes between both hated rivals had been accounted for. Recchi scored two goals, including the OT game-winner off a sweet feed from Bergeron, and was a constant presence in front of the Montreal net when pucks were headed toward Habs netminder Carey Price.
It was Bergeron, who missed last year’s seven-game series in the aftermath of a horrific concussion that nearly ended his career, that seemed to be having the most fun wheeling and dealing out on the ice with bodies flying everywhere around him. He repeatedly took the physical route when in the corner and made smart, creative plays with the puck around the net after going hard to the cage and tapping in Boston’s first score of the night in the opening period.
His physical play sparked the game-winning goal when he belted Maxim Lapierre and removed the puck from the Canadiens skater, and then set up the OT goal. Bergeron skated in toward the right post, drew the Habs attention and then slid a puck to Mark Recchi cutting toward the cage. Recchi banged the puck in, and there was nothing left but good old-fashioned Garden adulation.
The 23-year-old has to be looked at as something of an X-Factor headed into the playoffs after searching for his offensive touch for much of the season, and then really finding it during the month of February and March during which he’s totaled 2 goals and 13 assists in 16 games. He’s looked very much like the old Bergie that captured the imagination of Boston fans during his first three years in the league, and been a driving force behind the surge that he — along with Recchi and Chuck Kobasew — has enjoyed as the playoffs loom closer.
“It’s ironic because, before the game, all the Montreal media were asking about how much Bergie’s come along, and I don’t think I have to say much about him now,” said B’s coach Claude Julien, who wasn’t altogether pleased at how the Bruins were coaxed out of their games by Montreal’s provocative ways in the second period. “They saw it firsthand, and he’s been really, really good for us in the last six weeks, getting better and being more and more of an impact player. Obviously it couldn’t happen at a better time.”
Perhaps this game couldn’t have come at a better time for the Bruins’ players, who once again last night grasped at the intimidating, scoring, dominant force they can be when they are 19 intently focused hockey players all pulling in the same direction.
Injury Ward: Kobasew played through whatever undisclosed ailment bothered him, but P.J. Axelsson, Dennis Wideman and Andrew Ference didn’t crack Thursday night’s lineup. Vladimir Sobotka was also a healthy scratch for the Bruins after getting called up from Providence.
Player of the Game: Bergeron played like a man possessed while ringing up a goal and two assists along with a game-high +3 in a dominant evening of hockey. With exaggeration or hyperbole, that was the best game Bergeron has played since suffering that very first concussion against the Philadelphia Flyers back in October 2007.
Goat Horns: The Bruins as a team lost their cool a little bit in the second period, and Komisarek clearly tried to get under the skin of Lucic to pretty decent effect. Lucic was pretty well in check until he chased Komisarek from behind and dragged to the ice by the scruff of his neck when Shawn Thornton was already engaging him — but the Bruins have built their reputation while refusing to back down to anyone or anything. If the players can find a way to win the game and defend themselves against the flopping, diving, underhanded Habs, then all the better.
Turning Point: Tim Thomas made a point to change his frame of mind headed into the third period after allowing three power play goals to Montreal in the second period — with some of those shots coming from the outside angles that he normally stops with ease.
“I was just thinking to myself ‘you’ve got to find some way to start making all the saves,” said Thomas. “Even if you’re having a hard time finding the puck when it’s leaving the stick, no excuses, make up for it by better positioning or being a little bit more aggressive. Find a way. So I was more thinking like that. ”
Whatever it was, he found a way to make 15 saves in the third period and overtime that helped hold down the fort for Chara’s game-tying score and Recchi’s OT heroics.
|04.09.09 at 8:28 pm ET|
14:33: Tie hockey game. Big Zdeno Chara mixed it up down low during the power play and flipped a second effort attempt past Price after he managed to stop the first swat from Mark Recchi. The power play score began with a big wrist shot from the right point by Marc Savard. One more goal from Chara will put him at a career-best 20 for the season, and might put a little more shine on his Norris Trophy candidacy.
5:43: The Habs are throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the Bruins, and Tim Thomas is playing his best of the three periods tonight. A couple big saves when the defense started running around a little bit in Boston’s end during the last possession.
5:00: Great save by Thomas on a one-man rush by Chris Higgins as he managed to slice through a pair of Boston defenders.
2:02: Another sprawling save by Thomas on a Kovalev rush up the right side. Tonight Kovalev has looked like the guy that was a Bruins killer last season.
0:00: And the Canadiens crowd goes wild high-fiving at the Garden. Yes, the game is going to OT, but the Habs have clinched a playoff spot with their one point earned by pushing things to overtime.
OT: Mark Recchi does it again. A great set-up from Patrice Bergeron, and the 41-year-old “rent-a-player” banged it home to send the Bruins’ masses home euphoric. We can only hope that the hockey gods deem this Habs/Bruins worthy in the first round of the plays. Seven games just like tonight’s instant classic would be epic.
A Mark Recchi score in OT gives the B’s a rousing 5-4 win. The Bruins have two games left against lesser lights in Buffalo and New York (Islanders, not Rangers) and then the playoffs begin in earnest.
|04.09.09 at 7:17 pm ET|
16:48: Phil Kessel the sniper is back. Kessel scored his 33rd goal of the season on a picture-perfect wrist shot from the right faceoff circle that beat Price top shelf and against puts the B’s on top.
16:05: Ryan O’Byrne just completely turtled when Shawn Thornton came calling after O’Byrne did some pushing and shoving in front of the net, and then threw a shoulder at Thornton as the two passed each other during a stoppage in play. Once again the timeouts in play are no longer a safehaven if you’re the Bruins. As soon as Thornton grabbed him and dropped the gloves, O’Byrne dropped to his knees and covered his head like a man half his size. O’Byrne got hit with a double minor and a misconduct for his Avery-esque actions.
14:30: It’s time for the Chant at the Garden again. Zdeno Chara unloaded a big bomb from the right point after missing wide on his first attempt, and the sure-handed Mark Recchi tipped the puck past Price for a Bruins score. You may see a lot of those in the playoffs. It’s going to be that tough to stop.
13:54: This is a great way to rev up for the playoffs. A Byron Bitz goalie interference penalty in front of the Montreal net just turned into total pandemonium with Shane Hnidy and Josh Gorges tossing each other around in the corner and Milan Lucic taking on half the Habs lineup at the right faceoff dot. This has been entertaining Old Time Hockey tonight, even if the Canadiens are playing turtle-hearted hockey. Half of the Bruins team is in the penalty box following the melee with Milan Lucic, Shawn Thornton, Shane Hnidy and Bitz all taking up residence in the sin bin.
12:33: Rookie Matt D’Agostini just made it a one-goal game with a hammered slap shot from the high point with traffic in front of goaltender Tim Thomas. The large Montreal contingent in the crowd just let out a big roar.
11:48: Milan Lucic is back in the box again after getting cross-checked from behind by Komisarek and then retaliating with a horse collar tackle from behind after Shawn Thonrton had already dropped the gloves and begun engaging the Montreal troublemaker. Lucic grabbed Komisarek in a head lock from behind and threw him to the ice while he was still tangling with Thornton. Double minors and a misconduct for Lucic and a pair of minor penalties for Thornton and Komisarek. It might be prudent to have Lucic hit the showers for a bit before he does something suspension-worthy with the playoffs just a hair’s breath away.
9:32: Mathieu Schneider is off the injured list and into the scoresheet. The Montreal defenseman just beat Thomas to the far post with a sizzling slap shot that passed through the big body of Zdeno Chara on its way to the net.
5:38: Huge save by Price in front when Bitz redirected a Stephane Yelle set up pass from the side of the net. Yelle had picked off a Montreal turnever by the blue line while moving with speed into the offensive zone.
3:07: D’Agostini scored his second goal of the period after skating into the Bruins zone with speed and picking a corner with a nifty wrist shot from the left faceoff circle. Not bad for a kid who hadn’t dressed in six of the last nine games for the Habs. Tim Thomas isn’t having one of his better nights tonight, and Montreal is taking advantage.
1:10: Komisarek at it again, going after Shawn Thornton and Shane Hnidy after Thornton leveled a blast at Carey Price following an off-sides call. Thornton and Komisarek have both gone back to the locker rooms with minor penalties.
The Bruins and Habs are knotted together with a 3-3 score after two full periods of play at a raucous TD Banknorth Garden.
|04.09.09 at 6:49 pm ET|
2:02: After a first period that should have you jacked and pumped for the Stanley Cup playoffs unless you’re heart has stopped beating, the B’s draw first blood with a Patrice Bergeron goal right in front. The Bergeron score was the end of some tic-tac passing with Mark Recchi flipping it cross-ice to Matt Hunwick bombing down the right side. Hunwick picked his head up and found Bergeorn all alone at the right post, and fed a sweet tape-to-tape pass for the tap-in. Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges cross-checked Bergeron from behind after the puck was in the net, and set off an extended pushing and shoving scrum.
0:00: All heck broke loose at the end of the first period as Mike Komisarek, who has been active all period, went in after David Krejci in the corner. The two pushed and shoved, and then Zdeno Chara arrived and started throwing elbows and jobs at Komisarek. The entanglement started a team-wide donnybrook in the corner, and both Chara and Komisarek were whistled off for penalties. Komisarek was hit with a two-minute penalty (roughing) and Chara got four minutes (double minor for roughing) after coming in late to stand up for Krejci.
The Bruins are leading the Canadiens by a 1-o score after one full period at the TD Banknorth Garden.
|04.09.09 at 2:30 pm ET|
Responding to a report out of the Boston Herald that the Boston Bruins will play the 2010 Winter Classic outdoors at Fenway Park on New Year’s Day, Boston Bruins and Delaware North Companies Principal Charlie Jacobs stated in an email to WEEI.com this afternoon that nothing has yet been finalized to make the Jan. 1 hockey game a reality. Jacobs said that the classic is “close” to coming to Boston, but that nothing has been finalized by the parties involved.
‘Contrary to published reports, at this time we have not finalized plans for a Bruins game at Fenway Park on New Year’s Day,” wrote Jacobs in an email to WEEI.com. “It is no secret that I would love to bring The Winter Classic to the City of Boston ‘ and I have been working with the NHL to consider a number of venues in the area. We believe that we are close to accomplishing this. Bruins fans deserve to have an outdoor game, and we hope to deliver one to them in the near future.’
|04.09.09 at 11:47 am ET|
A hockey source familair with the proceedings has confirmed to WEEI.com that the 2010 NHL Winter Classic will take place at Fenway Park on Jan. 1 with the Boston Bruins taking on an as-yet-undetermined opponent. The two most speculated opponents for the Fenway game have been the New York Rangers and the rival Montreal Canadiens, with the Habs the more likely of the two teams.
After the last two NHL Winter Classics have gone without a Canadian hockey team, it’s expected there will be pressure exerted by the powers that be North of the Border to get the Canadiens involved in the Boston game. Bet on B’s and hope for the Habs Jan. 1 at Fenway Park, and expect a banged out ballpark with mittens, hot cocoa and earmuffs as far as the eye can see. Should be a once-in-a-lifetime type event.
|04.09.09 at 11:27 am ET|
Young Czech forward Vladimir Sobotka was called up to Boston this morning on an emergency basis for tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens at the TD Banknorth Garden. The 21-year-0ld Sobotka has a goal and three assists in 23 games for the Bruins this season, and has 20 goals and 24 assists and a +11 in 44 games for the Providence Bruins this season.
Chuck Kobasew, Dennis Wideman and P.J. Axelsson were all question marks heading into a game with playoff implications against the Montreal Canadiens after not practicing at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday afternoon. Sobotka’s recall is a pretty indication that either Axelsson or Kobasew won’t be healthy enough to go against the hated Habs tonight.
Latest from Bleacher Report
- Brad Marchand's Hot Streak a Big Reason for the Boston Bruins' Recent...
- Prospect Depth Allows BOS to Not Rush Pastrnak
- Seth Griffith Fitting in on the First Line with the Boston Bruins
- Bruins' Depleted Defense Returns to Reality in Loss to Wild
- Bruins' Patrice Bergeron Records 500th Career Point
- Bruins Players Dress Up as 'Frozen' Characters
- Looking at Bruins Defensive Pairings Without Chara