BOSTON – There's no telling how many parts have to be removed from the Boston Bruins' machine to prevent their ability to produce victories like an assembly line cranking out cars.
After finding out that first-line left winger Milan Lucic wouldn't be available due to a one-game suspension Monday afternoon, the Bruins still went out and disposed of Montreal, 3-2, at the TD Garden behind goals from three different lines and 33 saves from Tim Thomas.
Benoit Pouliot, David Krejci and Brad Marchand scored for Boston, which has now gone 19-2-1 over its last 22 games. The Bruins have won five in a row and are now 19-0-0 when they score at least three goals in a game.
In recent weeks, the Bruins have played stretches without Zdeno Chara, Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and now Lucic. Still, they continue to produce like the Stanley Cup champions of six months ago.
"We can talk about depth all we want. But if we can't prove it or show it, it's not really depth, right?" said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "This is what's been going on here the last little while. We've been challenged with some injuries, and obviously tonight a suspension, and our guys keep stepping up. And whoever's replacing or the rest of the team just keeps going and we don't change our game, we don't change our game plan, we just try to play the same every night no matter who you've got in the lineup. Again, that's just the simplicity of our hockey club."
Playing their second game under interim coach Randy Cunneyworth, the Canadiens bounced back after allowing the first goal to tie the game on a Tomas Plekanec score. They also cut the lead to 3-2 with just 1:14 left in regulation and had some extra-attacker chances in the final minute to once again even the score.
Those were among the promising signs to Cunneyworth, whose team is now 0-2-0 with him at the helm and 3-3-3 in its last nine.
"I think we can look at the push at the end as a positive. I think the fact that we did not quit and we actually put them at risk very late in the game behind a goal, I think that says a little bit about the character," said Cunneyworth. "We had some mistakes at inopportune times that really hurt us, but I think we can learn from those mistakes. I think we have to make those percentage plays that don't put our team at risk. I thought it was a step in the right direction.
"We certainly did a few more things that were more team-oriented and the battle was there. That's obviously a very good team that we were up against and we know it's a difficult place to play, but I thought we certainly put our best foot forward and battled hard."
Marchand's goal proved to be the game-winner, and it came after one of those mistakes Cunneyworth talked about. With the Bruins ahead 2-1, Patrice Bergeron chopped the puck off Travis Moen's stick at the Montreal blue line. Tyler Seguin pounced on the loose puck and fed Marchand for a falling-down goal past Carey Price (28 saves).
"That's an important time and a place where you don't want to make that play," said Cunneyworth. "But again, there are other instances that we have to learn from and that's one of them. I think if we kind of reduce those situations and plays, I think we'll be on a better foot."
Pouliot scored the game's first goal off a faceoff play signaled by Rich Peverley, who won the draw forward so Pouliot could win a race and then beat Price 12:13 into the game. It was Pouliot's sixth goal of the season, but his first against the team that let him leave as a free agent last summer.
"It always feels good. Obviously winning is a lot better, it feels great," said Pouliot. "And putting a goal out there, it feels good. Price almost had me there on the stick. It feels good."
Plekanec's first goal in seven games evened the game 73 seconds later. Just 2:42 into the second period, Andrew Ference pinched up to the left dot in the attacking zone and carried the puck behind the Canadiens' net. His pass to the front deflected off the outside of Krejci's boot and past Price. The video review upheld the goal and the 2-1 lead.
The Bruins are scheduled to have Lucic back for their next game Friday at home against Florida. They might have a completely healthy team or might have a player or two or more go down between now and then. Regardless, everyone seems to be on the same page.
"I think it helps when you have expectations that are the same for every line, and the system's the same for every line," said Ference. "I think that makes it easy for guys to transfer from one spot to the next. It's not like there’s a different set of rules for Looch's line compared to the fourth line. People are expected to do the same thing, so it probably eases the transition, I think, when players get moved around."