BOSTON -- The Montreal Canadiens started backup goaltender Peter Budaj on Thursday for the first time in nine games.
The Boston Bruins countered with No. 1 goalie Tuukka Rask, who entered the Atlantic Division showdown fourth in the NHL in save percentage.
The result was a 4-1 Canadiens win, with Budaj stopping 34 of 35 shots to earn his first victory since Dec. 4 and Rask watching the final 26 minutes from the bench at TD Garden
Such is the unpredictability of the longtime rivalry between the Canadiens and Bruins. Montreal has now won the past five matchups between the teams.
Budaj, who had lost his prior six decisions, improved to 4-0-0 in his career at the Garden, with five goals allowed in those games. He had no answer for his dominance on Boston's turf.
"I don't know. People keep asking, but there's nothing special," Budaj said. "Obviously, these are the games you want to play. They're Original Six and they're always great rivalries between us, and they always play hard. So especially in this building, it's always rocking, so it's always exciting to play these type of games."
Nine Canadiens registered at least one point against Boston, with forwards Daniel Briere (goal, assist) and Brendan Gallagher (two assists) enjoying multipoint nights. The Canadiens have won two in a row after losing their prior four. For the second straight game, they ended their opponent's four-game winning streak.
"It's good for the confidence. There's no doubt about that," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "Even when things were going not our way, we tried to stay really positive. And we knew what we had to work on. And a lot of credit to the players. They pay attention to detail and the things that we tried to make sure we were going to get better at.
"And this is two solid games I believe that we played. Coming here in this building and being able to win, this is a tough to play against when you're in Boston, so it's a good team effort."
Boston (34-16-3) had scored six goals in each of its prior three games. But the Bruins were unable to solve Budaj enough to keep the score tight, and late in the second period Bruins coach Claude Julien pulled Rask after he'd allowed three goals on 18 shots. Julien, however, said that he was disappointed in more than just his starting goalie.
"There were three things for me," Julien said. "We didn't skate well tonight, we didn't make good decisions, and we didn't execute well. When you've got none of those three things, you're not going to win too many hockey games. So, that was absent in our game tonight, and we certainly didn't pick a good night to play that kind of game, but the results are from a lack of those three things."
Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin sustained a season-ending knee injury against the Bruins last April when he collided with Milan Lucic. He created a good memory against Boston when he scored his first goal this season on a one-timed blast from the top of the right circle through several screens and past Rask for a 1-0 Montreal lead at 2:16 of the first period.
Montreal (29-20-5) doubled its lead at 14:32 on a Max Pacioretty breakaway goal. After David Desharnais picked off Daniel Paille's cross-ice pass, the Montreal center bumped the puck up to Brendan Gallagher at the blue line, and the Canadiens forward sprung his linemate. Pacioretty held off the backchecking Johnny Boychuk to beat Rask with a backhand shot.
The Bruins were back within one goal by the first intermission though. Dougie Hamilton's one-time blast from the right point after some great board work and a pass up the wall from Loui Eriksson beat Budaj at 15:28.
A double minor against Brad Marchand for roughing helped Montreal extend its lead in the second period. Eleven seconds after Marchand's penalty, Brian Gionta tipped Tomas Plekanec's shot past Rask for a 3-1 lead at 11:54. That goal ended the night for Rask, who fell to 2-9-2 against Montreal in his career.
"It's a lot of everything," Julien responded when asked why he pulled his star goalie in favor of backup Chad Johnson after three goals. "That's a decision that I make and I don't feel I have to explain every time."
Briere beat Johnson with a wrist shot on a breakaway on Montreal's first shot against the backup at 13:46. A giveaway by Eriksson at the Montreal blue line led to Briere's breakaway and the 4-1 Montreal lead. Johnson stopped the next 14 shots he faced.
It didn't appear the Bruins will forget this loss.
"I would say from what I remember, the worst game of the year," center Patrice Bergeron said. "And you can't have success if you're playing like that."
The Canadiens won the only prior meeting this season with the Bruins, 2-1, on Dec. 5 at Bell Centre.
Montreal returns home to face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, when Boston hosts the Edmonton Oilers.
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