The game wrapped up the season series between the teams. After the Canadiens beat Boston twice in three nights in late October, the Bruins won the next four meetings – by scores of 1-0, 3-2, 2-1 and 4-3.
Final cumulative tally: 13-12 Boston.
When the puck dropped Wednesday night, 15 points separated the Bruins and Canadiens in the Eastern Conference standings. Boston had a goal differential of plus-61, the Canadiens were minus-2
Boston is cruising toward the postseason and a chance to defend its Stanley Cup.
The Canadiens are in 12th place, eight points out of eighth and no one’s favourite to hoist a 25th banner any time in the near future.
But I never got the sense, in this game or in the previous five, that the Canadiens were playing a hugely superior opponent. The Bruins did not match the mastery of the St. Louis Blues, who took the Canadiens to the Bell Centre woodshed when they won 3-0 in January.
The Bruins were fast out of the gate and had a 12-5 shot advantage in the first period. They dominated Overtime to the tune of seven SoG to three for the home team.
But the second period was fairly even, and the Canadiens owned the third. A couple of bounces, a little luck getting to the fat rebounds Tim Thomas allowed and this might have ended in regulation with fans maybe looking forward to another meeting in April.
But the bounces haven’t gone that way for the Canadiens this season. And bad plays at critical times did them in.
• Hal Gill, who probably will be traded to a Cup contender, got nonchalant with the puck behind the Canadiens’ net … and that’s dangerous with Brad Marchand in the vicinity. The über-annoying Bruin got the puck back to Andrew Ference at the point for the game’s first goal – with Gill screening Carey Price.
• Chris Campoli, another defenceman mooted to be useful to a playoff team, was undressed by Benit Pouliot, of all people, for the Bruins’ second goal.
• Randy Cunneyworth’s shootout choices were bizarre. OK, fine to lead off with Rene Bourque, who’s had some success at shootouts. But after Tyler Seguin snapped one past Carey Price (who has nightmares about shootouts), the Canadiens’ last chance was entrusted to Lars Eller, who was ice-cold, having spent most of the second and third periods on the bench after taking a double-minor for high-sticking.
Not used in the shootout: Erik Cole, who had embarrassed Zdeno Chara to score his 22nd goal of the season, tying the game and sending the Bell Centre into playoff-level pandemonium.
Or David Desharnais, who has the best hands on the team.
Ah, let’s not go too hard on the coach.
Cunneyworth knows he won’t be here next season, so he’s not afraid to be bold. Example: Using three forwards and a defenceman – the DD line, plus Raphael Diaz – in overtime.
You gotta like that, just as you have to admire Cunneyworth benching Scott Gomez and Andrei Kostitsyn against Carolina, then giving them double digit minutes – including 2:15 each on the power-play – against the Bruins.
• Tomas Plekanec playing 24:37, leading the Canadiens with five SoG and – like the good guy he is – checking on Chara’s injury while the cretins booed.
• P.K. Subban played a heroic 25:23 and did not lose his cool despite the Bruins taking numerous runs at him. He’s playing his best hockey of the season when the team needs him most.
• Mathieu Darche – a goal, six hits, 19:41 – is playing his way into another contract, if only as a shining example of hard work and dedication, to be emulated – we hope – by Louis Leblanc and whatever other youngsters make the team next season.
• Erik Cole. That is all that need be said.
• Alexei Emelin rocked Shawn Thornton early, survived a dirty hit at his knee by that reptile Marchand and was not remotely intimidated by the Bruins.
• Ryan White gave away inches and pounds but still hung and earned a draw against Adam McQuaid. White will be fun to watch as this sorry season plays out, and he’ll be back in September.
• Josh Gorges padded his league lead with four more blocked shots. And then the Canadiens de facto captain stood in the room and told the media this team will battle as long as there’s a chance of making the playoffs.
Which there still is.
But the Canadiens are running out of track.
Let’s hope, though, that we can enjoy some Canadiens-Bruins type hockey against other teams a few more times before the curtain falls.