BOSTON – The gesture? Predictable.
The timing? Ridiculous.
Midway through a tight contest that saw the Flames leading 1-0, Marchand converted a shorthanded breakaway to send the crowd at TD Garden into a frenzy.
Instead of proceeding to the Bruins’ bench, the Bruins veteran immediately skated towards Mikael Backlund to deliver a stare down and a few choice words.
It was akin to a post-homer bat flip, showing up the opposition when they’re at their most vulnerable and frustrated.
A crowd of unhappy Flames gathered, including Milan Lucic and Backlund, who shared their displeasure with today’s version of the Little Ball of Hate.
After high-fiving his teammates along the bench (which is another junior-level celly that needs to disappear) Marchand looked up at the Flames bench to deliver a sneer.
Undaunted by the lost lead, and fired up by the disrespect, the Flames responded appropriately — with a pair of goals to break the game wide open.
And then, with the Flames clinging to a 3-2 lead late in the evening, it was Backlund of all people who scored the clincher and an empty netter.
You know what they say about karma.
“He didn’t say anything — he just did his classic smile,” shrugged Backlund who took the high road by refusing to even peak towards the opposition’s bench after scoring either goal.
“It always feels good to give it right back to him by winning and scoring. He does what he wants. For us it’s nice to go back and score when guys do stuff like that.”
Asked if players show up opponents much after scoring goals, Backlund smiled.
“No,” said the man with eight goals in his last eight games, going on to explain the genesis of the confrontation.
“We just went after each other physically a shift or so earlier. And then we said a few words before faceoff, and unfortunately he scored.”
A pair of makers by Sean Monahan — one even-strength, followed by a power play finish — put the Flames ahead with an emotional response to Marchand’s silliness.
Four days after coughing up an early 3-1 lead to lose 4-3 to the Bruins in Calgary, the Flames responded like the kind of team they’ll need to be from now on: driven, focused and engaged.
“I just thought the guys did a really, really god job regrouping — it didn’t distract them,” said Flames interim coach Geoff Ward of the Marchand glare.
“They came off it and competed. I think the response was exactly the right one. I’ve seen (Marchand’s antics) so many times. For me it’s status quo. He’s a guy who is trying to get some emotion into his team. That’s what he does. Really good response for a team that’s showing resiliency to be more and more of a characteristic every day.”
Handing the top-ranked Bruins just their league-best third regulation loss at home in 33 outings this year, the Flames continued their stellar road prowess of late. A 5-2 win moved then to 15-4-1 away from the Dome the last two months.
No team has been better over that span.
And the man chiefly responsible for that shocking run is Rittich, who was in command all night long with 26 saves.
Even after a comedy of errors in a goal-mouth scramble led to the Bruins closing the gap to 3-2 with seven minutes left, Rittich stood tall to move to 12-3-1 his last 16 road starts.
The Flames, who entered the game with the third-hardest strength of schedule remaining in the Western Conference, opened with a Matthew Tkachuk goal midway through the first.
Marchand’s indiscretion 20 minutes later was followed just three minutes later by Monahan’s one-timer off a pretty Johnny Gaudreau pass.
Monahan’s second came a minute later on a power play set up five seconds earlier by a big hit by Dillon Dube that prompted Matt Grzelcyk to retaliate.
Backlund’s 13th of the year came on a gritty rush that saw him go end-to-end before beating Tuukka Rask for the clincher with 90 seconds left. Backlund’s empty netter followed.
Earlier, he assisted on Tkachuk’s goal to give them both three points on the night.
The game marked the debut of trade deadline acquisitions Derek Forbort and Erik Gustafsson, who played well as a pair. In the absence of Mark Giordano, Gustafsson ran the first power play unit, picking up an assist on the Flames power play goal.
After missing nine games with a hamstring injury, Giordano skated on the top pairing with TJ Brodie in the morning with word he’d be a game time decision.
“Until he feels like he’s really, really confident in it there’s no sense putting him on the ice,” said Ward.
“If this was a playoff series, it might be different. We’re going to take our time and when our medical people tell us he’s ready to go and he feels confident with it he’ll play.”
Winners of the first two games on this five game road trip, the Flames play in Nashville Thursday before finishing with games against both Florida clubs.