As Seen on NESN – The Boston Bruins put up the fight of their season, forcing Saturday night’s final game of the year against the Montreal Canadiens into a shootout and earning their only point for the season against the Habs, but eventually losing 3-2. Marc Savard and Petteri Nokelainen scored the two goals for the Bruins, while Saku Koivu scored the only shootout goal from either team to lead Montreal to the win.
“The effort was there again tonight,” said head coach Claude Julien. “Against a team that we’ve really struggled [against], especially in this building, I thought we did a great job, and I thought it was a good effort from our hokey team.”
Boston headed to Quebec to take on the Canadiens at the Bell Centre in the second game of a home-and-home series that began Thursday night in Boston.
Immediately after the face off, the Bruins end of the ice saw plenty of action, but Tim Thomas kept the Canadiens from putting the puck into his net until Andrei Markov found a hole and put the Habs on the board 2:20 into the game.
Just 10 seconds later, P.J. Axelsson and Maxim LaPierre responded with a tussle against the boards. Axelsson managed to rip off LaPierre’s helment, but the fight was probably best characterized as a draw.
“I called him killer once,” said Aaron Ward, “and that’s it for the season.”
Both men were given five-minute fighting majors – only the second one of Axelsson’s career.
Milan Lucic was called for interference at 5:07, giving Montreal a man advantage, but even with the best power play in the league, they failed to make their mark, and a short four-on-four, followed by a power play for Boston, occurred when Alex Kovalev garnered a hooking penalty at 6:38.
However, a call against the Bruins for too many men on the ice made it four-on-four again for one minute, plus a minute-long power play for the Habs.
With 11:54 remaining, Thomas came out of the crease to make a split save on a two-on-one shot by Christopher Higgins. That save allowed Savard to step up and answer Montreal’s goal, when he stuffed the puck past goalie Carey Price at 8:36 to tie the game at one.
“In the past obviously they’d gotten the first goal, our heads went down, and we thought to ourselves, ‘Here we go again,’” said Ward, “but we knew we had to exorcise the demons today.”
A little over one minute later, Andrei Kostitsyn put the Canadiens in the lead once again with the team’s second goal at 9:49.
Phil Kessel and Tomas Plekanec earned coincidental minors at 12:37 for high-sticking and hooking, respectively. However, Kessel’s penalty earned him an extra two minutes.
The penalties kept coming, and Boston got a four-on-three advantage after Sergei Kostitsyn was called for hooking on David Krejci at 14:02.
Thomas still had much work to do and needed to make save after save. The rest of the team continued their tenacious physical play and earned some chances that gave Price his turn to show off. But as the first 20 minutes wound down, the score still remained 2-1 in favor of Montreal.
Kovalev entered the box once again for hooking at 19:18, which would give the Bruins the advantage to start the second period.
Ward dove on the puck amid a scrum of players in the Boston end to effectively block a shot by Koivu and stop play at 1:33 in the second.
The second 20 minutes, overall, were far less penalty-marred, but still required skilled play by both teams’ goalies.
Price found himself rolling around on the ice to capture the puck after it made its way near his net, ending in a shot from Marco Sturm, around the six-and-a-half minute mark.
Smart play by Lucic, who kept control of the puck through a Boston line change, followed by a pass to Mark Stuart, resulted in a game-tying goal from Nokelainen at 9:33.
Some dominating play by the Habs in the Bruins end required Thomas to make a similar rolling save or two within the last five minutes of the game.
“I felt good in the second,” said Thomas. “The importance of the game kicked in for everyone on the team. We were laying down, blocking some shots, and doing the things that we needed to do to stay in the game.”
All heck broke loose, though, after a hit from Steve Begin on Shane Hnidy, followed by one on Nokelainen, both around the three-minute-remaining mark. When Hnidy suffered another hit shortly after from LaPierre, gloves and sticks went flying as fights began all over the ice.
Both Hnidy and Begin earned five-minute fighting majors for their efforts with 2:55 remaining.
The Black & Gold went on a power play with 1:21 remaining as Sergei Kostitsyn was called for interference, but Thomas was forced to make a stellar save shortly after on a shorthanded breakaway shot by Higgins, sending the teams to the locker rooms with the game tied at two after two periods.
“It’s just a decision you have to make as a coach,” said Julien on his decision to go with Thomas in goal. “Timmy tonight played extremely well and made some unbelievable saves, and I feel very comfortable with the decision I made, and he just proved me right.”
Even as they started the period with the remainder of the man advantage, the Bruins failed to get the puck past Price still – although they certainly made him work hard and keeping them at bay, especially off a shot from Krejci about one minute in.
It looked to be another period where both goalies would be tested, as Thomas, too, once again had to make his share of key saves to keep the game tied, including one during a scrum around the net at 5:29.
A tripping call to Nokelainen at 7:17 gave the Habs another chance to get an extra goal, but Thomas continued to show off his skills in net, and the B’s penalty kill kept Montreal from scoring.
A shot by Andrei Kostitsyn forced Thomas to stay tight to the net to keep the Canadien’s chance out of the net with 9:35 remaining.
Becoming more desperate, many of the Bruins resorted to using their bodies to block shots during the latter part of the final period.
The hockey gods were on the B’s side when a Montreal player missed an open-net shot around the 16-minute mark, and then when Tom Kostopoulos was called for delay of game after he flipped the puck over the boards with just under two minutes remaining, giving Boston the man advantage and their first point of the season against Montreal as the game went into overtime.
The Habs put up a good fight, but the Black & Gold hung on, and a shootout commenced after five extra minutes of no scoring from either team.
It looked as though extra shooters may have to be called in, as Price blocked shots by Zdeno Chara, Kessel and Dennis Wideman, and Thomas succeeded in shutting down Mark Streit and Kovalev.
“I thought this was the night we were going to break the jinx,” said Thomas, “but we just fell a little short.”
However, Habs captain Koivu pulled through, getting the final shot past Thomas for the win.
“I got a pretty good piece of it, and I was hoping it was trapped under my leg,” Thomas explained. “To add insult to injury, I stepped on the puck when I was trying to get off the ice.”
Still, coming out of this last game with a point – especially playing in Montreal – was something the team felt they could be proud of.
“It’s tough coming in to Montreal,” said Ward, “but the performance is something you can draw a lot of positives from.”
1 - 0 MTL
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 MTL