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Bruins end slide vs. Canadiens before Winter Classic

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL -- It's difficult to put too much weight on a regular-season game a week into December, but considering the stage the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens will be on the next time they play each other, this was a big one.

The Bruins and Canadiens played each other for the final time before the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 1, when the historic rivals will face each other in front of nearly 70,000 fans at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. The Bruins came to Bell Centre having lost their past seven regular-season games against the Canadiens, and Wednesday was their last chance to enter the Winter Classic with somewhat of a clean slate.

Down 1-0 and being outshot 26-14 by the Canadiens through two periods, it wasn't looking like the Bruins would be able to pull it off.

But then captain Zdeno Chara whacked a puck out of the air during a penalty kill to spring Loui Eriksson for a breakaway goal, Landon Ferraro scored the go-ahead goal 42 seconds later, and the streak was history.

Now, instead of fielding question after question about how they can't beat the Canadiens leading up to the Winter Classic, the Bruins might have earned themselves some peace of mind.

"I think it's good for the confidence," goaltender Tuukka Rask said. "We didn't play our best game and still won, that says something. It should be an interesting one coming up January 1."

The mental block the Bruins have against the Canadiens is something they don't like talking too much about, but it seems to manifest itself every time they play. The Bruins played well enough to beat the Canadiens here Nov. 7, but a late-game penalty by David Krejci allowed David Desharnais to score the game-winning goal with 1:08 remaining.

It was typical of what has happened so often to the Bruins in recent years, critical mistakes that led to the Canadiens beating them not only seven straight times, but in 12 of their past 13 regular-season games.

At a certain point, you have to wonder if it's mental.

"When you play those guys you can't really think about the past too much because it hasn't been really too good," defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "You just have to stay in the present and just go forward and believe in our game and think of what we have to do in order to win."

Forgetting about their past against the Canadiens entering the Winter Classic would have been nearly impossible had they lost this game, especially for Rask.

Though he's played well against the Canadiens of late, Rask improved his career record against Montreal on Wednesday to 4-14-3; oddly, all four of his wins have come at Bell Centre.

Rask was tremendous Wednesday and was the primary reason the Bruins had any chance of mounting their third-period comeback. He admits the idea of getting over the mental hump of beating the Canadiens might have existed in the locker room, but won't go so far as to admit it affected him.

"Not as a team, but probably some individuals might have," Rask said. "I didn't think of that."

It's not easy for a professional athlete to admit openly that another team might have their number, or even that the idea has at least begun to creep into their minds. So the Bruins' reluctance to talk about it is understandable.

But center Patrice Bergeron was able to recognize the mental benefit the Bruins gained Wednesday, and how it can help them on Jan. 1 at Gillette Stadium.

"It's good to realize we can beat them," Bergeron said. "That's a very good team, we respect them a lot, but we can compete with them and it's a big win for us."

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