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BRUINS 3, CANADIENS 1

Bruins moving forward

Now, they're looking down on Canadiens

Patrice Bergeron (left) celebrates his second-period goal with Marco Sturm.
Patrice Bergeron (left) celebrates his second-period goal with Marco Sturm. (Globe Staff Photo / Barry Chin)

For much of the first half of the season, the Bruins were in turmoil. They were losing games, losing players to injuries, and losing ground in the Eastern Conference. The last couple of months, with a significant portion of their roster retooled, the Bruins have righted their ship.

The Montreal Canadiens are another story. After a terrific start, the club is in the midst of a rough patch. The Habs came into last night having lost five of their last seven. The Bruins made that six of eight with a 3-1 victory at TD Banknorth Garden. The Bruins moved 2 points ahead of the Canadiens and finally out of the Northeast Division cellar. The teams square off again in Montreal tomorrow afternoon.

''To the players' credit, they've really stepped up their work ethic, their attitudes, and they're playing spirited hockey right now," said coach Mike Sullivan. ''Because of that, they're getting results."

The Bruins had a chance to get on the board at 7:03 of the opening period when P.J. Axelsson was awarded a penalty shot. Defenseman Nick Boynton sprung Axelsson on a breakaway with a long pass. Montreal defenseman Mathieu Dandenault hauled down Axelsson, sending him flying into the net.

On the penalty shot, Axelsson stayed on his forehand, but failed to beat goalie Cristobal Huet to the blocker side.

The Canadiens went up, 1-0, at 15:14 on a beautiful goal by Tomas Plekanec.

Defenseman Sheldon Souray started the play, hitting Plekanec with a long lead pass. With Boynton chasing him from behind and Glen Murray diving at him from the slot, Plekanec roofed a shot from the left circle into the right corner of the net.

The Bruins thought they had pulled even early in the second period on a goal by Marco Sturm but it was nullified. Sturm had knocked down a pass through the crease with a high stick before firing a shot into the net.

In a span of 1 minute 13 seconds, the Bruins took the lead on a pair of power-play goals.

Niklas Sundstrom was whistled for tripping at 10:03 and was joined in the penalty box by Chris Higgins, giving the Bruins a five-on-three advantage for 1:21. At the 11-minute mark, Murray took a pass from Brad Stuart and one-timed a shot past Huet from the top of the left circle. It was the 15th goal of the season for Murray, who was playing his first game after missing 10 because of a deep bone bruise in his right foot.

The Bruins made it 2-1 at 12:13 on a terrific relay from Brad Boyes to Patrice Bergeron, who blew through several Canadiens on his way to the net. Bergeron, charging down the left slot, fed Boyes on the right side of the slot and Boyes relayed back to Bergeron, who buried it for his 17th of the season. Boyes increased his scoring streak to eight games (five goals and eight assists). Boyes said nothing about Bergeron surprises him anymore.

''That one was probably the best goal I've seen him score," said Boyes. ''From the first time I saw him play in Providence I was amazed at how good he was at that age. It is a privilege to play with him."

Boynton said it was great to watch, but not to be the opposing team.

''I feel bad for the defensemen," he said. ''Teams do that to me and it's not very fun."

The Bruins should've had a third goal but the officials missed it on the ice and in the video replay booth. With 5:40 left, Boyes took a shot from the left circle and beat Huet to the short side. The puck hit off the iron in the back of the net and went flying back out as play continued. The Bruins reviewed the tape during the second intermission, which clearly showed it to be a goal, but it was too late. Boynton and some teammates said something to a referee as play continued.

''I told him right away," Boynton said. ''He said they'd wait for the whistle [and the upstairs officials] would call down. Nothing happened. It was a little screw-up on their part but luckily it didn't factor in. We're not in Montreal, we're in Boston. We're supposed to get those calls."

Boyes, who made up for the goal with an empty-netter with 37.9 seconds left in regulation, thought he hit the crossbar.

''I saw it after and it was in," he said. ''To be honest, I thought it hit the bar. It didn't matter, it didn't count, but who cares now?"

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