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'Road to Winter Classic' ends with lifelong memories

by David Satriano

Leading up to the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens were in similar situations. The Bruins had lost three straight heading into their final game before the Jan. 1 showdown at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., and the Canadiens had a six-game losing streak.

That's where the fourth and final episode of "EPIX Presents Road to the NHL Winter Classic" begins.

Despite the losing streak, the Canadiens seem to be enjoying themselves playing softball in Tampa on Monday prior to their game that night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. But the newest member of the Canadiens is on the ice practicing: goalie Ben Scrivens, who was acquired in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers.

Hours later, once the softball has ended and the Canadiens get ready to hit the ice for the game, defenseman P.K. Subban fires up his teammates announcing the lineup in an expletive-filled speech.

After announcing the other four skaters in the lineup, Subban gets even more fired up.

"And then there's me, and you know we're [expletive] ready to go! Let's [expletive] go!" Subban yells before knocking over a stack of pucks and tossing a cart filled with Gatorade cups in the middle of the locker room.

His speech works; Subban and the Canadiens win 4-3 in a shootout.

Here are other highlights:

Pizza party: In Springfield, Mass., at Antonio's Pizza and Grinders, 80 miles west of Boston, Bruins forward Frank Vatrano visits his family, who run the restaurant.

"I'm going to make a pizza," Vatrano says.

At least one family member doesn't have faith in him.

"Frank, you're out of your element here. You may be good on the ice, but you're not good in the shop," his dad Greg says.

It's a case of father knows best; Vatrano ends up losing some of his dough to the floor and ends up burning the pie in the oven.

"He makes a mistake like that on the ice, he is right back in Providence [in the American Hockey League]," Greg says.

Before leaving, Vatrano gives 30 tickets to the Winter Classic to two children to share with their youth hockey team.

Hayes has his day: In the Bruins' final game before the Winter Classic, they defeat the Ottawa Senators 7-3. Jimmy Hayes scores three times for his first NHL hat trick.

The Boston native and Boston College product said it was a special day.

"You know it's a dream come true and a pretty cool feeling," Hayes said. "It's always fun to score a hat trick in any league, and to do it in the NHL for your hometown team is great."

Condon heads home: Canadiens goalie Mike Condon, who grew up in Holliston, Mass., arrives at the team hotel in a familiar place.

"It's always nice to head back," Condon said. "I have a lot of friends and family here so I'm very excited to be home and get to work. It's going to be a great event. A lot of eyes watching. Boston-Montreal at Gillette Stadium. I don't think words can really describe it right now. It's a very surreal moment."

Brother Zach and father Ted await Condon at the hotel. Ted, a state policeman, escorts the Canadiens bus to the stadium for practice.

"I hope the sergeant knows where he is going," Mike Condon says to his dad.

Condon invites Zach and Ted to the team dinner New Year's Eve night, but they can't attend because of prior commitments.

"Oh you have plans? No big deal. We'll just do it next Winter Classic," Mike says sarcastically.

Funniest moment: The Canadiens arrive for practice at Gillette Stadium and run into several New England Patriots.

"If we see [Patriots quarterback] Tom [Brady] right now ... that guy is the real deal," forward Dale Weise says.

"I mean he's no Tony Romo," Subban, a Dallas Cowboys fan, says.

Goalie Carey Price, who is out with an injury, goes to survey the field before realizing he is without credentials.

"I have to go pick up my accreditations," Price says to Subban.

"You're Carey Price, you don't need accreditations!" Subban yells back.

Later on the field, Brendan Gallagher shares some news with his teammates.

"I saw Tom!" he says. "I was right beside him but I didn't say anything! I froze. He had his big old linemen around him."

Gallagher returns: The forward who has been out since late November with broken fingers practices and says he is ready to go but "needs coach's permission"

"I'm happy to be a part of it. But I wouldn't come back if I didn't think I could help the team," Gallagher says.

That’s when Max Pacioretty clears him to play.

"I'm proud to announce that Brendan Gallagher will be playing in the Winter Classic," the Canadiens captain says after practice on Dec. 31.

Gallagher ends up scoring a goal and getting an assist in the Canadiens' 5-1 win.

Marchand apologizes, Belichick skates: Bruins forward Brad Marchand learns he won't play after he is suspended three games for a hit in the game against the Senators.

"I want to apologize and I truly am sorry to everyone about the situation and it was not my intent to make a hit or try and injure anyone on that play," Marchand tells reporters.

After that news, Patriots coach Bill Belichick is on the ice at his home stadium taking part in a skate with Bruins coach Claude Julien.

"He is the fastest improving guy I have seen so far," Julien says. "From the minute he put the skates on till he got on the ice. ... Size-wise he's the same as Marchand. He can play the left wing, we will be all set."

Finally, game time: The Bruins and Canadiens take the ice for the Winter Classic. Montreal dominates the first period in shots and scoring chances and leads 1-0 at the first intermission.

"We all know we have to be better, but we can't be [expletive] negative," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara says. "We have to find a way to build on things."

Montreal soon takes a 3-0 lead on goals by Paul Byron and Brendan Gallagher. Weise gets injured and doesn't return to the game.

The period ends with Condon making a glove save as time expires.

"By far the most fun I've ever had playing hockey," Gallagher says after Montreal wins. "There's not even a close second."

Montreal is riding high and it's all smiles in the locker room.

"It being the New Year, and us knowing how tough the month of December was for us, we wanted to come out and start on the right foot. ... I felt everybody was ready," Subban said.

On the other side, the Bruins were not happy with their effort.

"It's disappointing. It's very disappointing. I really don't know what else to say," Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask says.

As the episode ends, Subban sums up the game and the experience perfectly.

"It's one of those things you will remember for the rest of your life, and I think it's not so much where the game was, but against who it was," Subban says. "There will be a ton more Winter Classic games, but Montreal-Boston, I don't think it gets any bigger than that."


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