MONTREAL - Petteri Nokelainen didn't learn that he would play his third straight game until after pregame warm-ups last night.
Nokelainen's 50th game of the season triggered one of the criteria for the Islanders, who traded the center to the Bruins in September, to receive a conditional second-round pick in 2009. New York will get the pick if Nokelainen appears in 90 total contests this season and next.
Based on Nokelainen's actions in last night's second period before 21,273 at Bell Centre, the Bruins might not complain about forking over a second-rounder.
With his team down, 2-1, and in danger of dropping its eighth straight game in regulation against the Canadiens this season, Nokelainen rolled over the boards when David Krejci came for a change and sprinted straight for the danger area in front of the Montreal net. Nokelainen arrived just in time to deflect Mark Stuart's pass past goalie Carey Price, helping the Bruins score 1 precious point in a game it would lose in a shootout.
"He's been in and out of the lineup," coach Claude Julien said of the fourth-line center. "When he comes in, he seems to do some things. He's a young player that still needs a lot of work. We're patient with him. If there's one thing he's given us, it's a good effort every night. His effort tonight was rewarded with a goal by going to the net the way we want the rest of the team to do it. There's certainly a good example there."
Montreal captain Saku Koivu scored the only goal in the shootout to give Montreal a 3-2 victory, but for the Bruins to gain 1 point after seven straight regulation setbacks to Les Glorieux was an accomplishment. The Bruins are tied for seventh place in the Eastern Conference with Philadelphia (Boston owns the tiebreaker), 2 points ahead of No. 9 Washington.
"Better than nothing," said P.J. Axelsson, who turned heads when he engaged agitator Maxim Lapierre in a first-period fight. "We played hard. I guess we have to take the point. It would have been nice to get 2."
In the shootout, Zdeno Chara thudded a slapper off the pads of Price, Phil Kessel rang a wrister off iron, and Dennis Wideman, shooting for the first time this season, tried a stop-and-start move that he failed to convert when he couldn't lift a backhander over the Montreal goalie.
On the other end, Tim Thomas foiled Mark Streit and Alex Kovalev, Montreal's first two shooters, but couldn't get all of Koivu's winning backhander.
"I got a pretty good piece of it," said Thomas (29 saves), who stoned Koivu in the third period to keep the score tied. "I was hoping it was trapped under my leg. But, obviously, the crowd lets you know.
"Then to add insult to injury, I step on the puck when I'm trying to get off the ice."
On Thursday, Thomas allowed Kovalev to score the game's first goal ("harmless backhand," Julien called the shot) in Boston's 4-2 loss. Alex Auld had allowed only six goals in his last five starts, but Julien turned to Thomas again last night. The Canadiens put two of their 12 first-period shots past Thomas (goals by Andrei Markov and Andrei Kostitsyn), but the netminder stopped every shot in the final two periods and overtime.
"He responded well and played a solid game," said Julien. "We have confidence in both our goaltenders. Right now, they're both playing well.
"You go with your gut feeling. You always hope they make you look good. I'm going to stand here and say Timmy made me look good tonight, because he played an excellent game."
Marc Savard, given new wingmen in Marco Sturm and Chuck Kobasew last night, entered the match in a four-game scoring slump, his longest drought since he scuffled through a four-gamer in 2001-02 while playing for Calgary. Savard busted his scoreless string by stuffing a wraparound into the net at 8:36 of the first period. It was his first goal since Feb. 19.
However, Savard was injured in the third period during Boston's fifth power play. Penalty-killer Steve Begin, who blasted Shane Hnidy with an open-ice belt earlier in the period ("Clean hit," said the Boston defenseman), cranked Savard with a cross-check in the back. Savard hit the deck, got up slowly, and skated to the bench, where trainer Don DelNegro held an ice pack to the center's back. Savard didn't return for overtime and went to the dressing room with help from Glen Metropolit before the shootout.
After the game, Savard spoke softly and appeared to have trouble taking deep breaths.
"We tried our best and came up a little short," said Savard. "We got a point and we're back in seventh place. Something to build off of."