There were 65 shots, 52 hits, several good scoring chances, countless great saves, five goals, and a world-class, heavyweight fight between Nic Deslauriers and Kevan Miller in Monday’s Montreal Canadiens-Boston Bruins contest at TD Garden.
It was the kind of game that left you begging for more, but this January tilt was the last one to be played between these bitter rivals this season. The 3-2 win for Montreal evened the series at 2-2 and saw the Canadiens leapfrog the idle New York Islanders in the standings, placing them in the first wild-card position in the Eastern Conference—two points behind the Bruins for third in the Atlantic Division, and just three back of the second-place Toronto Maple Leafs.
Granted Boston has a game in hand, Toronto has two, and everyone’s got a lot of road left to travel before things the dust settles on the playoff picture. But the Canadiens keeping pace to this point tells you much about how surprising their season has been.
They were supposed to be a lottery team, but they’ve shown night in, night out that they’re going to fight right to the end for a playoff spot.
On this night they were out-played, in tough against a Boston team that came into the game with six wins in its last seven games and looking to pad the NHL’s second-best home record (16-6-0).
Here are our takeaways outlining how the Canadiens prevented that from happening.
Carey Price closed the door … Again
He did it 41 times on Monday, and he made multiple highlight-reel saves along the way.
There was the first-period two-on-zero rush from Boston’s most lethal combination—with David Pastrnak passing to Brad Marchand, who took a perfect shot to the blocker side that Price kicked away. There was a second-period glove save on David Krejci, who had all kinds of time to shoot from the most dangerous area of the ice thanks to Canadiens defenceman Mike Reilly swimming helplessly in front of him.
In the third period, Price made an unbelievable stop on Jake DeBrusk before shutting down an in-tight attempt from Sean Kuraly. And he made two great saves on Krejci before the veteran Czech sniper tied the game 2-2 with 38 seconds remaining while Canadiens forward Michael Chaput was serving the final seconds of a puck-over-glass, delay-of-game penalty.
There was nothing Price could do on Marchand’s game-opening goal, which beat him on the glove side. Nothing he could do about Krejci’s either, with DeBrusk taking away his vision on the point shot. And he was close to beat on great moves from both Krejci and Pastrnak over the final 20 minutes.
But Price got just enough of those chances to keep them out of his net and was near perfect this one. He was unquestionably the biggest reason the Canadiens got the extra point.
The B.C. native came into the game with the NHL’s second-best save percentage (.926) and its third-best goals-against average (2.18) since Dec. 1 and left Boston having improved on those numbers.
Phillip Danault won the big draws
He took 29 faceoffs and won 59 per cent of them.
One of his biggest ones came clean with just over 1:30 remaining in the first period. The Canadiens were trailing 1-0, they got a faceoff in the Boston zone, and Patrice Bergeron was waved out of the dot and replaced by Brad Marchand.
Danault swept it back, Jeff Petry shot it right away, and Brendan Gallagher scored his 18th goal of the season to tie things up.
More on Gallagher in a minute.
Danault won nine of his 15 faceoffs against the reputed best faceoff man in the league, Patrice Bergeron, who also happens to be his role model.
Gallagher brings Canadiens into the fight
On his very first shift, Gallagher, who’s generously listed at 5-foot-9, 184 pounds, went full steam into 6-foot-9, 250-pound Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and bounced right off of him.
No damage done to the big man, but the point of the hit was to make it clear right off the hop that he was going to be a nuisance in that matchup for Chara.
It was less than 18 minutes later that Gallagher juked into the high slot and bounced off Chara again to get his stick on the Petry shot that tied the game 1-1.
He now has eight goals, 13 assists and 20 points in 28 career games against Boston. More than any of his teammates.
Paul Byron with his biggest goal of the season
The speedy Canadiens winger had gone three straight games without a shot on net and had recorded only one—from a terrible angle on Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask—before he raced down the ice shorthanded and scored a remarkable goal.
Considering the circumstances—the Canadiens getting worked in a big divisional game—it was the most important goal of the 10 he’s scored this season. It came against a Bruins power play that had scored on 33.4 per cent of its chances at home.
Byron’s goal should also be considered one of the best plays of the season.
It started with him picking off a pass Pastrnak bobbled. Byron then chipped the puck past Bergeron at the Canadiens’ blue line, he flew around him at warp speed, and then he made a brilliant move to protect against a Bergeron stick-lift before shelving a backhand over Rask’s glove.
Petry hits 200 points in style
Batting a puck out of midair, 15 seconds into overtime? Are you kidding?
If Petry whiffs, the Bruins have a 2-on-1 from the faceoff dots in their own zone all the way down to Price’s net. But Petry, the son of former MLB star Dan Petry, connected pure on the rebound of Max Domi’s shot for what was the 200th point of his NHL career, delivering a huge win for the Canadiens.
The goal made Petry the fifth defenceman in the NHL to hit the 10-goal mark this season. His two points on the night improved his total to 33 on the year, ranking him 11th among blueliners in scoring.
Petry’s previous career highs in goals and points were 12 and 42, respectively, over 82 games last season.