Boston, MA –It’s not quite the holiday season yet, but there was a sense of “Auld Lang Syne” at the TD Garden on Sunday evening as the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins faced off for the first time in 641 days. Powered by two goals apiece from Charlie McAvoy and Charlie Coyle the Bruins came back to beat Montreal 5-2. Boston got 27 saves from Jeremy Swayman to earn two points in Atlantic Division play.
Last year’s runner-up in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Canadiens came to town dealing with injuries to key team members and carrying a 4-10-2 record. Boston has had its share of struggles thus far with consistency as they were just two games over .500. None of that matters when these two Original Six franchises square off. The two have played the most games against each other in league history and have a long and storied history. Sunday night’s game will be remembered by Bruins’ fans for the performance of “Two Charlies.”
“It’s been a little while since we played them,” said McAvoy. “So it was nice to revisit that. They had a special run last year, not that that changes the respect level. You respect every single team in this league, but coming into this game, I think for us, we want to continue to start building our identity, consistency, putting wins in front of each other, and keep building.”
Josh Anderson kicked off the special teams’ play with a penalty for Cross-Checking at 3:20. The Bruins power play put two shots on Sam Montembeault (36 saves), but he quickly turned away both.
Forward Joel Armia put the Canadiens ahead at 8:09 when he sniped a shot past Swayman from the right circle. The Canadiens had a three-on-two rush after Boston winger Nick Foligno fired a shot on Montembeault. Left-wing Artturi Lehkonen gathered the rebound in front of the goal and gave a short pass to Armia, who carried the length of the ice as Montreal streaked forward with numbers, but Armia kept the puck for the shot, and it paid off.
Back-to-back power plays for Boston were to no avail. The first, a Tripping call on Jake Evans only generated one Jake DeBrusk shot on goal. The second, a Slashing call on Brendan Gallagher, was quickly negated by a Tripping call on Boston’s Brad Marchand thirty-six seconds later. The four-on-four play had two Taylor Hall shots stopped by Montembeault.
Montreal opened the second with a David Savard shot off the post early. The Bruins seemed to generate more buzz and controlled the middle frame. Chance after chance, Montembeault stopped everything the Bruins threw his way. Until Mcavoy plowed his way through the front of the Canadiens net to bang in a rebound of a Taylor Hall wrister as he took teammate Nick Foligno out in the process. Hall and defenseman Jakub Zboril assisted McAvoy’s second of the year at 8:27.
Despite the continuing Boston pressure, it was the visiting Canadiens that pulled ahead at 16:25. Montmembeault stopped a Patrice Bergeron back-hander, and defenseman Jeff Petry sent a breakout pass to Anderson at the red line. Zboril went for a hit on Anderson at the Bruins blue line and missed. Anderson dropped the puck back for a trailing Michael Pezzetta, but the pass was just a bit behind. Fortunately, Adam Brooks was there to gather the puck. Brooks circled the zone and fired off a shot that bounced off Connor Clifton and into the Bruins net. Pezzetta must have tipped the Brooks shot because the 23-year-old rookie from Toronto got his first NHL goal, and Brooks and Anderson had the assists.
A holding penalty on the Canadiens Petry, a minute and change into the third, gave Boston another chance on the power play. This time they made it count. McAvoy fired a shot from the top of the circle that beat Montembeault to even the game at 2-2. Brad Marchand corralled his rebound along the boards before a little give and go with McAvoy at the top of the circle to get his 11th assist on McAvoy’s game-tying goal.
Swayman had a highlight-reel glove save on Alexander Romanov’s wrist shot from the top of the left circle as the Canadiens pressured Boston.
Coyle’s first came at 5:58 when Petry tried to clear a David Pastrnak rebound in front of Montembeault, but the puck hit Coyle in the face, as he crashed the net for the rebound, and bounced into the Montreal goal giving Boston a 3-2 lead. The unassisted goal was Coyle’s first since October 30 versus Florida.
“I’ll take one of those, to be honest,” said Coyle of his first goal. “Sometimes, you get a little lucky. You try to play the right way, and you get bounces going your way. I happened to get a really good bounce there, but it’s a big goal. I think anyone would take any of those.”
“It hit me right in the visor,” added Coyle. “Thank God, I don’t think it even left a mark on there. I got lucky, a couple of times.”
Three minutes later, Coyle added his second goal when he beat Brooks to the puck and swooped in on Montembeault to lift the puck over the goalie for his fifth of the year. Oskar Steen and Jake DeBrusk got the assists on the Coyle goal. DeBrusk also took a hit from Montreal’s Savard at the blue line, allowing the puck to carry into the Canadien’s zone where Coyle could get to it.
Montreal had a push in the latter half of the period, but Swayman was in a rhythm. Birthday boy Hall added an empty-net goal at 18:02 to cap off the two-game win streak for Boston. The 30-year-old former number one draft pick’s goal was his fourth of the year. Pastrnak assisted it.
“Second period we had zero puck luck, but in the third, we stuck with it, and we got lots. Good for us,” said Bruce Cassidy.
“For us a team, when other people are on the score sheet, it’s always good for the room. It’s good for morale for guys. It’s good for everybody,” said Cassidy of finally getting production out of players not named Bergeron, Marchand, or Pastrnak. “We can beat you in different ways. We want to be that team.”
The Bruins are off until Saturday when they travel to Philadelphia for a game against the Flyers. The Canadiens road trip will conclude on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, where they will face-off against the New York Rangers. Both games are 7:00 pm puck drops.