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Bruins-Canadiens rivalry evident even in preseason

Tuesday, 09.27.2011 / 12:04 AM / NHL Insider

By Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

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Bruins-Canadiens rivalry evident even in preseason
It may only be the preseason, but back-to-back games between the Bruins and Canadiens -- including a matchup at the frenzied Bell Centre -- was more than enough to get the competitive juices flowing again.
MONTREAL -- Carey Price was having a bit of trouble shaking the rust at Montreal Canadiens training camp. As it turns out, all he needed was the right opponent.

"I think it might have been just seeing a Boston uniform, it might have rolled the clock back a little bit," Price said after making 30 saves in a 2-1 loss to the Bruins at the Bell Centre on Monday night. "But I felt a lot better tonight."

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The Canadiens-Bruins rivalry was revived for another year with back-to-back preseason games Sunday and Monday in Halifax and Montreal, and while the casual fan might figure it wouldn't compare to the regular season, the players involved beg to differ.

"No matter if it's preseason, season or playoffs, it's always a heated battle," Boston forward Milan Lucic said prior to the game. "Especially playing here in the Bell Centre, it's always a lot of fun with the crowd. They're into the rivalry just as much as we are as players. It doesn't matter which season it is, they want to see their team win."

The Bruins swept the two-game series with a dominant 7-3 win Sunday night in Halifax and a come-from-behind 2-1 win on Monday, with Tyler Seguin and Chris Clark scoring third-period goals.

But of course, Habs-Bruins is about so much more than the score, and that was evident in these two games as well.

On Sunday, new Canadiens defenseman Alexei Yemelin and Bruins forward Nathan Horton got into a shoving match, and Bruins defenseman Steve Kampfer leveled Canadiens forward Erik Cole with a massive hit in a game that was far more physical than your typical preseason contest.

One night later in the charged-up atmosphere of the Bell Centre it was a bit less physical, but Lucic did take a run at Habs rookie hopeful Gabriel Dumont and Gregory Campbell managed to send Price flying in his crease in the third, when the competitiveness of the game was ramped up a notch.

So was the animosity noticeable, Brian Gionta?

"No," he said. "No more than usual."

For the Bruins, coming back to the Bell Centre was a great reminder of what drove them to a Stanley Cup championship last spring.

Boston was down 2-0 coming back to Montreal in the first round, needing to win two straight there to get back in the series -- a tall task considering the Bruins had lost in their previous four visits to the Bell Centre.

However, they won Game 3 by a 4-2 score, and then dramatically erased a two-goal deficit to win Game 4 in overtime.

"No matter if it's preseason, season or playoffs, it's always a heated battle. Especially playing here in the Bell Centre, it's always a lot of fun with the crowd. They're into the rivalry just as much as we are as players. It doesn't matter which season it is, they want to see their team win." -- Bruins' forward Milan Lucic
"We know the rivalry between the two teams, so it's always fun to be here, even if it's the preseason," Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron said prior to Monday's game. "Being down 2-0 and coming here, it's always a tough building to play in. So to win those two games was a huge confidence builder and a huge test for our hockey club."

The Canadiens and Bruins fought all of last season for the Northeast Division crown before Boston pulled away in the end, and something similar could very well take place this season.

But even if it doesn't quite turn out that way, the six meetings between these two teams will not be lacking for drama.

"I'm sure it's going to be another hard-fought year against them," Lucic said.

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