February 15, 2012

B's stumble late, grab extra point in shootout against Habs

By Jesse Connolly

Final: Boston 4, Montreal 3 (SO)

Recap: During a hard-fought first period, Andy Ference got the B’s on the board at 17:09, slipping a wrister through traffic and past Carey Price to put Boston ahead 1-0. The middle frame was a wildly eventful 20 minutes of hockey.

Mathieu Darche’s shorty knotted things up at the 1:39 mark. Benoit Pouliot helped the reeling Bruins get back on track with a snipe at 5:07 and Patrice Bergeron’s power-play strike at 14:33 gave Boston a 3-1 edge heading into the third.

After Montreal cut the lead to one on Max Pacioretty’s team-leading 24th goal of the campaign, Erik Cole grabbed a gift-wrapped giveaway from Zdeno Chara and beat Tim Thomas on the backhand to make it 3-3 with 8:48 left in regulation.

Boston dominated the overtime session, outshooting Montreal 7-3, but the closest they came to scoring was a rung crossbar by Brad Marchand. In the shootout, Thomas made a trio of huge stops on Rene Bourque and Pacioretty. Tyler Seguin scored on the B’s second attempt and Thomas sealed the deal by stoning Lars Eller.

Records: Boston 35-18-2, 72 points; Montreal 23-25-10, 56 points

Key Play of the Game: You could take your pick, but we’ll give this one to Thomas in the shootout. Pacioretty made a great move and thought he could just tuck one in, but Thomas fully extended his left leg flat across the ice to thwart the Connecticut native’s attempt.

Connolly’s Commendations: Hats off to Adam McQuaid, who flew under the radar and had a very solid game. In just 13:42 of ice time, No. 54 had a team-high five hits and a game-high five blocked shots.

Thomas may have allowed three goals for the fourth-straight game, but No. 30 was extremely impressive in this one. Many expected Tuukka Rask to get the nod in the second half of back-to-back tilts, but the B’s veteran stood on his head a number of times in the much-needed win.

Great game for Ference as well, who was as active as ever in the offensive zone. No. 21 fired a season-high six shots on goal, one of which netted him is fifth goal of the season (a career high).

Connolly’s Critiques: It’s been a rough few nights for the captain. After being guilty of four turnovers on Tuesday night, Chara’s giveaway in the third led directly to Cole’s tying tally. The 6-foot-9 defenseman also took a clearing attempt straight to his mug and finished the night minus-3.

Marchand appeared to have learned his lesson after being suspended, racking up a grand total of two penalty minutes since returning to the lineup on Jan. 19. But the undersized winger clipped Alexei Emelin at the tail-end of the second period, a hit that was completely uncalled for. Marchand, quite simply, has to know better, and is lucky the whistle-happy refs didn’t go full bore and assess him anything more than a minor penalty.

Pretty quiet night at the office for Jordan Caron and Milan Lucic. The former comes as little surprise, but after such a spirited performance against the Predators on Saturday, the latter has been pretty disappointing in the last two tilts.

Notes: Boston won the season series (4-2) against Montreal for just the second time since the lockout. Rich Peverley had just two shifts in the third period. He did not return after colliding with former Bruin Hal Gill.

Final Thoughts: Boston nearly blew this one in catastrophic fashion, but a win is a win. For a team that had just four victories in their previous ten tilts, they’ll certainly take it.

Next: The B’s will be back at it on Friday night when they pay a visit to Winnipeg to take on the Jets.