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Sense of anticipation

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – Ten days may have passed since the Canadiens staged a dramatic come-from-behind win over the Bruins in Boston, but the lessons learned from that victory at TD Garden remain as fresh as ever as the Habs renew hostilities with their northeast division rival on Saturday night at the Bell Centre.

After jumping out to a 2-0 lead against the Bruins back on March 27, the Canadiens surrendered four straight goals to their foes in the middle frame, before storming back in the third period and besting Boston 6-5 in a shootout to earn a hard-fought two points.

It’s a scenario the Canadiens aren’t looking to put themselves in again as the Original Six clubs wrap up the fourth and final installment of their season-series, with the Habs holding a one point advantage over their counterparts in a tight Eastern Conference battle.

“I’d rather play with the lead than have to come from behind. I think we were fortunate the last game,” confirmed defenseman Josh Gorges. “We’ve got to come out to a better start and obviously have a better second period than we did last game. It’s about playing a complete 60 minutes, maybe a complete 65 minutes tonight in order to get two points.”

That victory, in addition to the 23 others the Habs have racked up thus far this season, has put Michel Therrien’s squad in the enviable position of entering Saturday night’s tilt with an air of confidence, comfortable in its ability to go head-to-head with a Bruins squad whose style is predicated as much on offense as it is on physicality.

Having bested Boston in two of three meetings already this season, forward Brandon Prust knows the Canadiens have all of the pieces in place to play a complete game in what promises to be a playoff-type environment.

“I think that’s what we’ve been doing all season, building up to this type of atmosphere and these big games,” confirmed Prust, who has five goals and 10 points on the year. “We’ve shown we can play in those big games, the nerve-wracking games and the important ones. We’ve been able to play, and that’s one good thing about this team.”

Therrien shared Prust’s enthusiasm following Saturday’s morning skate, noting that being afforded the opportunity to play in games with so much at stake this late in the season is what hockey is all about.

“These are the types of games that you want to play,” said Therrien. “These are the types of games that are fun to play, because you know the emotion is there. You know the fans always enjoy them. We’re privileged to play these types of games.”

That sense of privilege isn’t lost on Therrien’s troops either, who look forward to playing in significant matchups with a lot on the line.

“[Boston] is a good team. This is a good test. These games are always full of emotion and these are character-type games. These are games that we have shown up in this year, and we’re going to need the same effort here tonight,” indicated Gorges. “I’m sure they’re going to want to come in here and have some redemption after last game, and we have to be prepared for their best. It will be a fun hockey game to be a part of.”

For Brendan Gallagher, who tallied the shootout-winner against Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask just over a week-and-half ago, immersing himself in the Montreal-Boston rivalry over the past two-and-a-half months has been both educational and exciting all at the same time.

“The win against Boston was one of the more fun games we’ve had this year. It seems that every time we’re playing them, we’re right beside each other in the standings,” said Gallagher, who has 11 goals and 21 points in 33 games during his rookie campaign. “The intensity level and the emotions on both sides are very high. Hopefully, we could use our crowd tonight to our advantage.

The more you play in those rivalry games, the more you realize how big it is and more fun it is every game. It’s a different experience. It’s been fun. It’s an atmosphere I enjoy playing in.”

With a record of 24-8-5 on the season, Gallagher and the Canadiens have certainly earned the right to enjoy the experience, no matter the opposition.

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

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