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Canadiens hold off Bruins 4-3

by Arpon Basu /

MONTREAL - When Max Pacioretty was called up from the minors as the American Hockey League's leading goal-scorer, he said it was time for him to shine with the Montreal Canadiens.

It may have taken him a game longer than he would have liked, but Pacioretty did just that Thursday night.

Pacioretty had a goal and an assist in his second game since being called up from the minors as the Montreal Canadiens snapped a season-high three-game losing streak by beating the Boston Bruins 4-3 on Thursday.

Not only that, but Pacioretty's arrival and the addition of Brian Gionta to his line appears to have awakened Scott Gomez from a season-long slumber. Gomez had a pair of assists for a second straight game while Gionta scored his second goal in two games.

"I told people I was confident in my game last night, and hopefully I can build off that," said Pacioretty, named the game's first star. "I think our line did build off that and had a pretty good game."

Gomez's four points in two nights is one more than he had in his previous 11 outings before missing two games with a lower-body injury.

"I think it helps, but like in any situation a player has to help himself," Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said when asked if Pacioretty's arrival is the cause of Gomez's revival. "Scott Gomez is clearly playing better than he was before he was injured. He's created a lot of nice chances over the past two games."

Michael Cammalleri and Maxim Lapierre also scored for the Canadiens (19-11-2), who would have fallen out of first in the Northeast Division for the first time since Oct. 23 with a loss.

The Bruins (16-10-4) still hold two games in hand and sit four points back in the division standings.

"It was a chance for us to move into third place in our conference and take over first place in our division, and on top of that we were playing in Montreal against the Canadiens," said Blake Wheeler, who had the Bruins' first goal. "So it's a game where we expected everyone to bring their best, and we didn't get that tonight."

Carey Price bounced back one night after his worst performance of the season and made 34 saves, wiping away the 5-3 loss he and the Canadiens took against the Philadelphia Flyers at home Wednesday.

Marc Savard got his first of the season in his seventh game back from a concussion suffered last season and Wheeler and Milan Lucic also scored for the Bruins, who have only two wins in their past six (2-2-2).

"I think that was probably (Savard's) best game so far this year," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "It was nice to see that."

The Canadiens desperately needed to end their losing streak -- this was their last home game of 2010. They play at Colorado on Sunday in the opener of a seven-game road trip straddling the Christmas break, one that will give a clearer picture of where Montreal truly sits in the standings.

This was the Canadiens 19th home game of the season -- they improved to 12-5-2 at the Bell Centre -- but they've played only 13 times on the road, going 7-6-0.

"That was our last home game of 2010, so we wanted to get a win," Price said. "I thought our guys did everything right tonight."

Tyler Seguin, the No. 2 pick in the Entry Draft this past June, returned to the Bruins' lineup after sitting out the last two games, one as a healthy scratch. He earned an assist on Savard's goal but was not much of a factor otherwise, though Julien was pleased with his performance.

"He was fine, I think he played well tonight," Julien said. "It was nice to see him come back and play well."

It was a night of firsts for Cammalleri -- his goal 1:04 into the game came on his first career penalty shot, and at 11:31 of the second he got into his first career fight with David Krejci, who also dropped the gloves for the first time in the NHL. The fight left both players bloodied without a clear winner emerging, though Cammalleri took several stitches to his forehead and still had blood around his nose afterwards while Krejci looked none the worse for wear.

As Cammalleri was talking about his first fight with reporters, Lapierre went to the dressing room stereo and began pumping "Eye of the Tiger" from the Rocky movies.

Cammalleri couldn't help but laugh.

"That's pretty good," he reluctantly admitted.

While it may appear as though Bruins goalie Tim Thomas had a rough night with four goals allowed on 41 shots, nothing could be further from the truth -- this game could have gotten out of hand in a hurry if not for his heroics. He made two highlight-reel stops off Gionta in the first period alone, robbed Travis Moen on a rebound in the opening seconds of the second period and stopped Tomas Plekanec on a clean breakaway in the third.

Thomas had absolutely no chance on the penalty shot as Cammalleri made at least five dekes before roofing his 11th of the season. The goals by Pacioretty and Gionta went into the net off Bruins defensemen.

Thomas wasn't very pleased that Cammalleri was awarded a penalty shot because he didn't appear to be totally in the clear on the play.

"I think one of the prerequisites for a penalty shot is that you have to deny him a chance to get a shot, but he lost the puck himself," Thomas said. "I usually don't like to seem bitter about these things, but that's a big call at a big time in the game. It changes the whole complexion."

Montreal grabbed a quick 2-0 lead on Cammalleri's penalty shot goal and Lapierre's fifth of the season on a rebound at 6:24.

The Bruins got one back when Wheeler banked the puck into the net off Price at 15:52, but less than two minutes later Canadiens rookie defenseman P.K. Subban rocked Brad Marchand with a clean hit at the Montreal blue line. Gregory Campbell immediately challenged Subban to a fight but the rookie didn't oblige, earning Campbell a roughing minor that eventually turned into Pacioretty's first of the season at 19:30 to make it 3-1.

"They're trying to send a message that, 'Hey, you're not going to be able to just walk all over us.' I'm fine with that," said Subban, who laid a similar hit on Flyers tough guy Daniel Carcillo on Wednesday, and also refused an invitation to fight him. "But at that point I didn't really want to fight, our team wasn't in a position where we needed that. So I just tried to stay in the game and force him to do something, we drew a penalty out of it and ended up scoring on the power play. So that's the type of game I want to play, just in your face and hopefully good things come out of it."

Savard got Boston within a goal with a deft tip of an Andrew Ference point shot at 6:54 of the second, but Gionta tipped a Pacioretty pass behind Thomas at 16:54 of the second to re-establish Montreal's two-goal margin.

Lucic drew the Bruins within a goal again with his team-high 16th on a tip of a Patrice Bergeron point shot with Roman Hamrlik in the box for tripping at 15:10 of the third, but that's as close as Boston would get in spite of constant pressure to the final buzzer.

"In the second period we were better and in the third we were at our best," Julien said. "It's unfortunate because we needed three periods like that third period."

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