BRUINS (3-6-0) at CANADIENS (3-5-2)
TV: CBC, RDS (HD), NHLN-US, NESN (HD)
This is the second game of a home-and-home matchup that opens the teams' six-game season series. In their first meeting on Thursday, Carey Price
made 29 saves to pace a 2-1 Canadiens victory, giving Montreal its first winning streak of the young season. The Canadiens won last season’s series with Boston 4-2-0 before the Bruins eliminated them in the first round of the playoffs on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.
The primary subplot of Thursday night's matchup was Max Pacioretty
's return to Boston, his first game against the Bruins since a hit by Zdeno Chara
ended his 2010-11 season. That storyline was muted by game's end, as neither Pacioretty -- coming off a 3-point night Wednesday against Philadelphia -- nor Chara registered a point.
Bearing the bullseye that any defending champion must deal with, the Bruins have gotten off to a lackluster start to their season. The loss to Montreal was Boston's second in a row and third in their last four games. What's more, since handily beating Tampa Bay 4-1 on Oct. 8, the Bruins have failed to score more than two goals in six of their last seven games.
The only goal Boston scored against Montreal wasn't exactly a textbook scoring play, either. Montreal's Tomas Plekanec
won a defensive-zone faceoff cleanly, sending the puck toward Price. He badly misplayed it and it went between his legs and into the net. Patrice Bergeron
was credited with the goal despite barely touching the puck.
Goaltending hasn't been a problem for Boston. Tim Thomas
made 33 saves against the Canadiens, including several big stops that kept the Bruins in the game. The Bruins also managed to fire 30 or more shots for the fifth consecutive game, but it hasn't translated into goals or wins for the defending Stanley Cup champs.
When the Canadiens fired assistant coach Perry Pearn following their disastrous 1-5-2 start, there was little talk that it was the kind of move that would suddenly turn around Montreal's season. But the Canadiens have won two in a row against Eastern Conference rivals since releasing the coach who had previously worked with Habs coach Jacques Martin as an assistant in Ottawa from 1996 to 2004.
Following a convincing 5-1 home win against Philadelphia, the Canadiens opened their home-and-home series in Boston. After failing to score in his first seven games with the Canadiens, Erik Cole
tied the game against the Bruins with his second goal in his last three games. From there, Plekanec made everyone forget about his faceoff win that found the back of the net by scoring the eventual winner with 9:14 remaining in the third period.
"I just Bill Bucknered it," Price said of the Bruins' goal, referencing the former Boston Red Sox player. "Just a mental lapse. I didn't want that to be the winning goal. Our guys did good to get it back and they bailed me out."
While he didn't do much to earn his goal against Montreal, Bergeron now has 3 points in his last three games for Boston. Milan Lucic
and Tyler Seguin
have also been hot for the Bruins, with 5 and 4 points respectively in their last three games. … Cole now has a point in three consecutive games for Montreal, while Pacioretty and David Desharnais
both have three points in their last two games.
Other than Marc Savard
, who is expected to miss the entire season with post-concussion symptoms, the Bruins are fielding a healthy lineup. … For the Canadiens, Andrei Markov
(knee), Ryan White
(sports hernia surgery), and Chris Campoli
(leg) are all on IR while Scott Gomez
remains out with an upper-body injury.
While he hasn't been with the team as long as some of the franchise's other legendary goaltenders, Price is inching towards some esteemed company. After earning his 100th career victory on Wednesday, Price is two victories away from tying the illustrious Georges Vezina for 11th on the franchise win list. From there he'll only be seven wins away from surpassing Rogie Vachon for 10th on the team list. He could very well rank eighth in Canadiens history by season's end, a spot currently occupied by Gerry McNeil's 119 wins.
Recent history shows Boston may have a tough time winning the Northeast Division for the second consecutive season. Since 2003, the defending Stanley Cup champion has won their division the following season just once: The Detroit Red Wings did it in 2008-09.