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Canadiens overwhelm Bruins to win Winter Classic

by Dan Rosen

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Put together, the turn of the calendar, the scene at Gillette Stadium and the magnitude of the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic gave the Montreal Canadiens an ideal opportunity to close the book on a brutal December with a strong start to the New Year.

Montreal seized it, quickly and with authority, dominating the Boston Bruins from start to finish for a 5-1 win Friday in front of 67,246 fans at the home of the New England Patriots in the eighth edition of the NHL Winter Classic.

It was the most lopsided result in Winter Classic history. None of the previous seven games had more than a two-goal margin of victory.

The Canadiens (22-15-3) got five goals from four players, six points from a top line that was together for the first time in 18 games, and 27 saves from goalie Mike Condon to move back into first place in the Atlantic Division after relinquishing the top spot by going a 3-11-0 in December.

Forward Brendan Gallagher had a goal and an assist in his first game since sustaining a hand injury Nov. 22. Linemates Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec each had two points, including a goal by Pacioretty. Forward Paul Byron scored two goals and David Desharnais had one.

"It's so weird, I didn't even think about our struggles, our scoring struggles or our winning struggles," said Pacioretty, the Canadiens captain. "It really felt like a new year and we turned the chapter on last month. We don't want to think about December. We want to think about 2016. We started off on the right foot and we've got to keep going that same way."

Forward Matt Beleskey scored and goalie Tuukka Rask made 25 saves for the Bruins (20-13-4), who were playing without injured center David Krejci and suspended left wing Brad Marchand . The Bruins' top-ranked power play went 0-for-3.

Boston would have moved into first place in the division with a win.

"The unfortunate part is that I think we played probably one of our worst games at the worst time," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We couldn't get anything going the first period. They were all over us.

"We obviously didn't deserve to win. Unfortunate that it was on a big stage like this, and you would like to have your team give a better performance, but we didn't."

Boston was outshot 14-3 in the first period and trailed 1-0 on the goal by Desharnais at 1:14.

Center Patrice Bergeron said the Bruins got embarrassed by the Canadiens. Defenseman Torey Krug said he'll be questioning for a long time why Boston didn't perform on the big stage.

"It's always what-ifs," Krug said. "Forever now it's going to be a game we're not very proud of and we're always going to look back and be embarrassed about. We just didn't do a good job of responding. Emotionally, it was there for them and it wasn't for us. When the other team scores a goal or a big play happens, we need our best players to step up and make something happen for us and, unfortunately, we were just waiting around. It's not acceptable."

The only blemish on the day for the Canadiens was the upper-body injury forward Dale Weise sustained in the second period. He did not return to the game after leaving with 14:51 remaining in the period. There was no postgame update from the Canadiens.

Overall, the Winter Classic experience might have been exactly what this struggling team needed.

"It's big," Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban said. "For us, maybe this game means a little more because of the way things have gone over December, but a win is a win. The thing is now that it's over, you got to get ready for the next game. This is not a Stanley Cup championship game, this is a Winter Classic, but obviously it's a big stage and a lot of people are watching, and it definitely feels good to win this one."

Byron (at 2:00) and Gallagher (at 17:20) scored in the second period to extend Montreal's lead to 3-0. Gallagher missed the previous 17 games but his return seemed to ignite the Canadiens and put each player into his proper position.

"I said all along as soon as I was hurt I wanted to get back for this game, but I didn't want to come back for selfish reasons; I only wanted to come back if I could help the team win and be a contributor," Gallagher said. "I think everyone did that. Shift after shift we went out and we got the job done."

Condon wasn't repeatedly tested the way Rask was, but his sprawling glove save on Bruins center Ryan Spooner with 0.1 seconds remaining in the second period turned out to be a major moment.

"I think I even saw coach smile a little bit; during a game that's rare to see," Gallagher said. "It was certainly [a save] you don't expect him to make. Not a chance you want to be giving up too much, but when a guy can give a save like that, [it] gives us that confidence going into the third period."

Beleskey spoiled Condon's shutout 3:56 into the third, but Pacioretty answered at 8:49 and Byron capped it with 1:32 remaining.

The important thing now, as Subban mentioned, is to carry the momentum into their next game, which is Tuesday at the Philadelphia Flyers.

"This is a great souvenir for players," Therrien said. "You want to remember that day, and the best way to remember that day is to win this hockey game. We didn't want it to be a nightmare. We want to make sure that we're going to have good memories and build on that big win. We have to build on that."

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