As the seconds ticked down Wednesday night, Boston Bruins Nation took a big, collective sigh of relief.
Finally. Their recurring nightmare of losing to Montreal was over.
It seemed after 40 minutes like it was just going to be another one of those nights. Boston mustered just 14 shots on Mike Condon’s goal and were victims of a fluky goal from Paul Byron which took a kind bounce off Bruin defenseman Zach Trotman. Their forwards struggled to generate any sustained offensive pressure and were hemmed in their own zone by the Canadiens for much of the night.
After his nightmare start, Rask has a .930 SV% over his last 15 games and .946 SV% his last 7 games.
— Bruins Stats (@bruins_stats) December 10, 2015
However, thanks to a three-goal blitz in the third period, the Bruins left Montreal with two points for the first time in eight games with a 3-1 victory at Bell Centre. Tuukka Rask, who had been haunted by the Habs in his career, turned in his best performance this season with 32 saves. Boston’s franchise netminder improved to 5-0-2 in his last seven overall appearances, allowing just 11 goals in that time.
So, how did the Black and Gold overcome their demons that don Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge?
Speaking of Rask, his performance Wednesday night was worthy of all three stars of the game.
Tuukka Rask definitely silenced those Montreal ghosts tonight. Good to see team rally off his play!
— MurphysLaw74 (@MurphysLaw74) December 10, 2015
The Finnish goalie was stellar in bailing out a Boston squad that looked like they left their skating legs back at the hotel. Through the first 40 minutes, Rask made 25 saves repelling chance-after-chance from Montreal’s speedy, dynamic forwards. In one of the most hostile environments in the NHL, the 6’2 twine tender tuned out the noise and controlled his crease with authority.
It’s not easy for a goaltender to face his kryptonite. After all, Rask was 3-14-3 in his regular-season career against the Habs prior to Wednesday. However, he looked cool, calm and collected throughout the game. Riding the wave of momentum generated in his last seven appearances, Rask is starting to find the form that made him one of Boston’s best players all of last season.
On Wednesday night, he was the Bruins best player once again.
Boston’s offensive attack was stuck in neutral for most of the night. The one constant threat the Black and Gold had in the attacking zone came from the line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Brett Connolly.
The trio was at the heart of their best scoring chances through the first two periods. Connolly was denied of a goal midway through the first thanks to a great reflex save by Condon, set up by their first sustained attack of the night.
Marchand and Bergeron generated eight of the Bruins’ 23 total shots on the night, eventually culminating in Boston’s third goal to seal the deal. The pesky winger found his linemate Bergeron waiting in the high slot with a crisp pass that was eventually dispatched after the number-37 dangled around Condon, tucking it in behind him.
It was a fair and just reward for the trio that had been at the heart of the Bruins’ best offensive moves, even when everyone else was going in reverse.
The penalty kill had been a sore spot for Boston all season. In fact, it was a power-play goal off the stick of David Desharnais that sunk the Bruins on November 7 after a David Krejci penalty.
Wednesday night was proof they learned their lesson. The Black and Gold were a perfect three-for-three in shorthanded situations, allowing just three shots to get through to Rask. Both PK units limited the Habs to shots from the point and bad angles while blocking many of those that were headed in their goaltender’s direction. The Canadiens were relegated to passing the puck around more often than shooting it, which was a far cry from how things were in Montreal just over a month ago.
Captain Zdeno Chara led the way for the Bruins with a game-high 3:45 in shorthanded time-on-ice. He also recorded a baseball-style assist on the goal that changed the course of the game.
Thanks to events of the third period, Bruins fans have a new catch phrase: “42 seconds”.
It all started when Chara batted a clearing attempt right on the tape of Loui Eriksson’s stick. The winger, who was skating on fumes, found the strength to skate into the offensive zone and fight off two Canadiens defenders on his way to a shorthanded goal, sliding the puck past Condon to tie the game. His effort and “will to win”, as Bruins color commentator Andy Brickley would say, directly led to a much-needed tying goal as the Habs were actively seeking a second goal to put the game on ice.
People in Boston got so upset when Bruins lost Fraser & Cunningham on waivers last season. What are they doing in Det. after Ferraro loss?
— Matt Kalman (@MattKalman) December 10, 2015
Soon after that, Boston’s third line would be the culprits of the game-winner. Ryan Spooner’s pass to an open Landon Ferraro allowed the former Detroit Red Wing to rip a slapshot that found the top corner of Condon’s blocker side. Through all the offensive dysfunction on the night, the Bruins scored twice on back-to-back shifts to flip the game on its head. Whatever momentum Montreal had shifted across the bench to the “eight-spoked B”. The Canadiens and their fans were left to try to pick up the pieces after a 42 second barrage left them looking for an answer that never came.
In that time, Boston got more than just two goals and (eventually) two points. They now have a sense of belief they can beat their long-time rivals after losing seven straight. It was a victory earned thanks to sheer character, will and determination that should have long-lasting effects for the Black and Gold going forward.
With the Winter Classic fast approaching, the Bruins got what they wanted from Montreal at the best possible time.
Joe is a writer covering the Boston Bruins. He is a lifelong native of Massachusetts and is currently a content writer/manager for a newsletter at a Human Services Agency. Joe can be found on Twitter: @JoeCherryTHW