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BRUINS 4, CANADIENS 2

Bruins get in spirit

Garden sellout revels in win over Canadiens

Tim Thomas (20 saves) receives congratulations from Patrice Bergeron (assist) after the Bruins' victory over Montreal. (BARRY CHIN/GLOBE STAFF)

For 18 games, the crowd at TD Banknorth Garden could be charitably described as moribund, slow to embrace the retooled Bruins and hushed when their beloved Black-and-Gold boys hit the ice for the start of each match.

Not last night.

The Garden, sold out for only the second time in 19 games this season (17,565 capacity, with significant pockets dressed in the bleu, blanc, et rouge of the visitors from Montreal), was juiced for the drop of the puck -- even too much for Tim Thomas's liking.

"I had to calm myself down," said Thomas (20 saves). "I was too pumped up."

Pumped up wasn't the proper adjective to describe the Causeway Street atmosphere last Saturday, when a friends-and-family crowd of 10,965, less boisterous than a band of crickets, snoozed through a 6-3 loss to the Florida Panthers.

Last night, however, the Garden crackled with the energy of a playoff showdown. When Montreal fans started a "go Habs go" chorus, the Boston faithful answered with the familiar "Here we go Bruins" chant. The Bruins, energized by the jump in the stands, responded with a 4-2 victory over the Canadiens, snapping Montreal's five-game winning streak.

The building erupted in the third period when Milan Jurcina broke a 2-2 tie with a blue-line slapper. The noise grew even louder when Stanislav Chistov, employing the moves Sergei Fedorov made famous during his time with coach Dave Lewis in Hockeytown, dangled through the Montreal defense and snapped a shot past goalie Cristobal Huet.

"Not many players in the league can do that," said Lewis. "I don't know if it's a Russian thing, but I remember Sergei doing that a lot."

The win, Boston's third straight, sent the Bruins off to their Christmas break a happy bunch, giving them some momentum for their upcoming four-game road trip. They could thank Jurcina for contributing the winning goal, which came at 6:11 of the third period.

After taking a pass from Marc Savard, Jurcina, who has one of the hardest shots on the team, sent a puck on goal that would hardly register as one of his fastest. But the puck somehow sailed through untouched, spotted by Huet a moment too late as Jurcina scored his first goal of the season.

"He's got all the tools," said Zdeno Chara of his fellow Slovak. "He's big, he can skate, he's got a good shot. He's young and he needs more experience, but he's got all the tools. He's got to learn to use them a little better, but it's going to come when he plays more games."

Then Chistov, skating alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Boyes after Marco Sturm suffered a lower-body injury in the second period, had the puck on his stick and faced off against defenseman Mike Komisarek.

With several dekes and head fakes, Chistov practically pulled Komisarek out of his skates, tucking the puck past Huet at 7:22 for his second goal of the year.

In the second period, with Boston leading, 2-1, (goals by Chara and Sturm, offset by a Komisarek first-period shot that bonked off Jason York and skimmed off Jurcina en route to the Boston net), the Bruins went on a four-minute power play when Alexei Kovalev (four minor penalties in 17:43 of ice time) was called for tripping and slapped with an additional two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.

But the Canadiens tallied a shorthanded strike after Bergeron's shot from the right-side boards glanced off Huet, over the stick of Glen Murray in the slot, and onto the blade of Saku Koivu. The Montreal captain took off and set up Michael Ryder for a shortie at 12:08 that tied the score at 2-2.

Still, it wasn't as if the Bruins were doing much wrong. In Thursday's 2-0 win over Vancouver, the Canucks blew past the stand-still Bruins, outshooting them, 27-6, in the final two periods.

Last night was the opposite. In the second period, the Bruins limited the Canadiens to four shots on goal. In the third, even after the Canadiens fell behind and coach Guy Carbonneau unleashed his offensive-thinking defensemen, the Bruins allowed only seven shots while ripping off 10.

It's a style that pleases the defensive-minded Lewis, who employed a 1-4 formation for much of the game's second half. Montreal had its best scoring chances in the first period, when Thomas made 10 stops (including two glove saves on close-range shots by Mike Johnson and Sergei Samsonov), but the Canadiens didn't get many entries into the danger zones in the final 40 minutes.

The deadly Montreal power play (the top-ranked unit in the NHL entering the game with a 23.9 percent success rate) shot blanks on its three opportunities. On the other end, the Boston power play (1 for 7) scored for the sixth straight game.

"It's a building block to our road trip," Thomas said. "It makes Christmas that much better. Hopefully it does for the fans, too."

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