MONTREAL—It didn’t take much to stoke the rivalry.
Two hits in the first period of the 737th meeting between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins Monday ensured that the final game between them (Feb. 12, and possibly more come playoff time) will be must-see TV.
The first one came at 13:13 of the frame, care of Canadiens defenceman Alexei Emelin, who laid his shoulder into Bruins leading goal-scorer David Pastrnak. It was a violent collision that slammed Pastrnak into the boards and then onto the ice, sending the fans in attendance into a frenzy.
Shaw left the ice, his nose bloodied, and didn’t return before the start of the second period.
It was the type of hit that provoked much debate over social media between fans of two teams that have a healthy dislike for one another.
Many on the Montreal side of the rivalry argued—as Canadiens coach Michel Therrien did after the game—that Shaw was vulnerable and was hit directly in the head. The Boston fans replied that Krug was committed to the hit and avoiding throwing it meant allowing Shaw to skate away with the puck on a clean rush towards their team’s net.
The NHL will decide if supplementary discipline is required; it is in fact being reviewed.
Shaw was receiving medical treatment after his team’s 2-1 overtime loss and wasn’t available for comment.
“I was just going for the puck and I assumed Andrew Shaw was going to hit me,” said Krug. “I saw him, I knew who it was, and I just assumed he was going to play the body because he’s a physical player.”
Krug also said he expected what came next.
Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher challenged him to a fight at the 15:26 mark of the first period.
“It’s one of those things, regardless of whether it was clean or not,” started Gallagher. “Any time you see your teammate get up with blood on his face…I think Shaw’s the type of guy who would’ve done that for anyone in this locker room. I think everyone here was willing to step up, it was just my turn and it’s something teammates do for each other.”
As Gallagher took Krug down to the ice, the crowd erupted.
The game then settled into the low-risk, tight-checking affair it was bound to become at 0-0 going into the second period.
It wasn’t until the third that—with the Bruins leading 1-0 on Austin Czarnik’s late-second-period marker—tempers ran hot once again. Emelin flipped Brad Marchand with a hip check, and Marchand retaliated with a high-stick. Shaw ran Adam McQuaid into the rounded glass near Boston’s bench before Boston’s David Backes capped it all off with a clean run at Emelin.
By night’s end both teams had combined for 64 hits, and the score was indicative of how closely contested the game was—with Montreal outshooting Boston 31-29.
“That was a fun hockey game,” said Canadiens defenceman Nathan Beaulieu. “It’s the type of game you want to play, not giving up many scoring chances. It was a low-scoring game, and they played well too. It was probably one of the toughest battles we’ve had this year.”
The fact that Boston won it can only help the animosity carry over to their next meeting.
The Bruins had lost 15 of their last 18 games against Montreal, they had dropped nine straight against Carey Price, and the rivalry had fallen short of its billing of late.
“For this year, that was the game with the most intensity,” acknowledged Therrien.
It’s been too long since there was a game between these two teams that was truly worth circling on our calendars.
The next one should be a dandy.