MONTREAL – The Boston Bruins didn't score as often as they have over the course of what is now a nine-game winning streak, but with Tim Thomas in goal, they didn't need to.
Thomas made 32 saves to post his second straight shutout and a first period Andrew Ference goal held up as the winner in a 1-0 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.
Boston's nine-game run of success is the team's longest since winning 10 in a row from Dec. 12, 2008 to Jan. 1, 2009.
Hockey players are usually suspicious when it comes to talking about streaks, but Thomas says the reason theirs is still alive is precisely because the Bruins have successfully made it a non-issue.
"We're not focusing on it," said Thomas, who has three shutouts this season and 29 in his career. "We've done a good job of settling it down to one game at a time and staying in the here and now. It's mentioned every once in a while to keep it going, but that's it. I think that's the key."
With the win, the Bruins moved into a tie with Buffalo and Toronto atop the Northeast Division with 24 points. But, since they've played fewer games than the Sabres and Leafs, they are first in the division for the first time this season.
It would be safe to say that Stanley Cup hangover is officially over.
"I think that we're playing with a lot more desperation and a lot more energy," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
Thomas has not allowed a goal in 133:04 dating back to one he allowed to New Jersey's Nick Palmieri at 6:56 of the third period in a 4-3 win Nov. 15. He stopped 23 shots in a 6-0 win against the New York Islanders on Saturday and stoned the Canadiens at every turn Monday.
"I have felt good the last couple of days," Thomas said. "I don't know why I'm just seeing the play well and reading what the other team's options are. Sometimes as a goalie, you get stuck in a puck focus so when a guy makes a pass you get caught on your heels. Right now I've just got a good feeling that I'm in a good position for the shot, but at the same time, my feet aren't locked in so I can move."
Montreal goalie Carey Price saw his own shutout streak snapped at 148:11 when Ference was left alone on a Canadiens defensive breakdown and scored with an accurate shot inside the far post for his second in as many games at 15:41 of the first.
It marks the first time in his 657-game career that Ference has scored in consecutive games.
Price made 17 saves overall as a Canadiens defense ravaged by injuries and heavy on inexperience bottled up a Bruins team that had outscored its opponents by a combined score of 42-14 over the first eight games of the winning streak.
"We've been doing a pretty good job of limiting chances with a five-man defensive posture," said Canadiens forward Michael Cammalleri. "Generally that's a pretty good formula. The only problem is we didn't capitalize on some of our chances. You can't win if you don't score."
The Canadiens' power play, which had scored in each of the previous four games, had four opportunities over the final 26 minutes to get the tying goal.
Benoit Pouliot provided three of them himself when he took six minutes in penalties on consecutive shifts late in the second period.
First he was called for hooking in the offensive zone as retaliation for a hit he took from Alexei Emelin, then he took a double minor on his next shift for high-sticking P.K. Subban, who was playing the 100th game of his career.
Then Rich Peverley was called for cross-checking Cammalleri with 1:39 to play, but even with Price pulled for the extra man the Canadiens managed just two shots on goal, though Thomas had to make a big save on Erik Cole with 1:02 to play.
"It's disappointing," Cammalleri said of the failure to convert that final power play. "There are certain points in a game where the power play has to be accountable, and not scoring on that one hurts."
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Hi stick - double minor