BOSTON – Montreal Canadiens goalie Peter Budaj did it to the Boston Bruins again on Monday night.
For whatever reason, Montreal's backup goaltender plays his best every time he gets the nod against the Bruins at TD Garden. Budaj held the fort early for the Canadiens, finished regulation and overtime with 28 saves and then stopped four shots in the shootout to help the Canadiens snap Boston's 12-game win streak with a 2-1 victory.
With the win, the Slovakian goalie improved to 5-0-0 with a .960 save percentage at TD Garden.
"I'm not superstitious," Budaj said with a laugh when asked if he leaves a lucky coin under the ice in Boston. "It's not just me though. I need the team to score goals and guys to block shots and do the little things right. The games here we come out with a really good performance. But Boston played really well too. They had a lot of chances and a lot of shots and they were working hard and were really competitive. It was a competitive game and it's always fun to play those games, and somehow we keep winning these games. That's what we need coming down the stretch."
Goalie - MTL
GAA: 2.41 | SVP: 0.910
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien
didn't deny he was playing the odds and using Budaj's prior history at TD Garden when he surprisingly gave him the start for the second straight game there this season. But Therrien also made it clear that Budaj has earned that faith to face a Stanley Cup contender like Boston and he proved his coach right once again.
"It's tough to say," Therrien said of Budaj, who earned a 4-1 win at Boston on Jan. 30 with a 34-save performance. "Some goalies feel comfortable to play in different buildings, and obviously Peter feels pretty comfortable about playing here. He deserved to win with the way he played and he battled hard. The decision for us is that we want to put an athlete in a position where he will get a challenge, and definitely tonight was a challenge for Peter and he responded the way we expected."
Budaj's teammates have the same confidence in him and were happy to help him reap the benefits of his hard work during each practice.
"He played really well, but we knew he would," forward Tomas Plekanec said. "I've seen how long he stays after practice for like 45 minutes with the guys, so it's a good reward for him to get a win like this."
Despite Montreal having two power plays in the first period and converting on one with an Alexei Emelin goal 6:39 into the period, it was the Bruins who out-shot the Canadiens 10-5 and controlled the play. But thanks to Budaj, the Canadiens found themselves leading 1-0 and they fed off his play as the game progressed.
"He's a great goalie. We are very confident with him back there and it shows tonight," Canadiens captain Brian Gionta said. "That first period, he made some huge saves and even in the second he made some big saves where they could have been back in the game real quick. He won us that game for sure."
Budaj wasn't just making the saves he should make. It was the shots that should have gone in that had some of his teammates baffled in amazement on the bench.
"He was awesome for us," Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher said. "There were stretches there where they pinned us in and he was making save after save and on the bench I turned to the guy beside me and said, 'how did he do that?' and it was a special night for him for sure. But we know he has that in him and we have that confidence in him."
The Bruins carried a 28-7-2 home record into the game Monday. But rather than let the raucous crowd intimidate him, Budaj embraced the atmosphere and the heated Montreal-Boston rivalry.
"It's great to play here," Budaj said. "It's a great atmosphere. Montreal fans travel well so they make it fun and Boston fans are always crazy and at some points you can't even hear the whistle. So anyone wants to play in a game like that, and it was fun."
Budaj made it clear though that his best motivation is the continued faith from his coach and teammates. Knowing they believe he can get the crucial two points for his team as it battles for a Stanley Cup Playoff spot has helped him rise to the occasion.
"It was a big game and I'm glad I got the chance to play and play well and the team was playing well in front of me," Budaj said. "We got the two points and that's what I care about. I'm excited and I'm glad that coach showed trust in me in such a big game. I'm excited about that."