|Marco Sturm and Michael Ryder celebrate Sturm's second-period goal against the Canadiens. (David Kamerman/Globe Staff)|
Set up for failure, their legs sure to be wobbly after playing the night before in Chicago, the high-flying Bruins last night turned certain disaster into fortune and fury, tattooing the Canadiens, 6-1, at TD Banknorth Garden.
The triumph, their fifth in a row and eighth in nine outings, featured a pair of goals each from Marco Sturm and Stephane Yelle, and an emphatic Milan Lucic beatdown of Mike Komisarek that threw a charge into the crowd of 16,816 - and likely established an old-time emotional focal point for these teams the rest of the season.
The hard-rock Lucic, without a fight all season, met up with Komisarek near center ice at 7:25 of the third period, the Bruins holding a fait accompli 5-1 lead over their hated rivals. The 6-foot-4-inch Komisarek, often the aggressor in last spring's playoffs, traded a couple of shots in the early going and then crumbled like a stale, flaky croissant under a flurry of swift, heavy right hands from Lucic. A screaming, waving Lucic made his way to the penalty box, where he slammed both arms against the glass before taking a seat.
"It was big for us," noted Bruins goalie, and Montreal resident, Manny Fernandez, who made a relatively carefree 27 stops. "Any time you can back them off and make them think about it, it's good."
Back the Habs off they did, and in a hurry, on the strength of first-period goals by Shawn Thornton (first of the season), Yelle, and Sturm (first of a pair of power-play strikes). Not only did franchise goalie Carey Price look flustered, but the entire CH squad looked mesmerized, as if they expected the home team to show up sleepwalking and ripe to be steamrolled after touching down from Chicago at 3 a.m. yesterday.
Instead, the Bruins carried the play right from the opening faceoff and took their first giant step toward the win when Thornton, stoned on 26 shots the first 15 games, slipped a backhander past Price with 2:31 gone.
"Nice finally to get that monkey off my back," said Thornton, who assisted on Yelle's goal at 17:00, bumping the lead to 2-0.
Prior to the Yelle strike, Komisarek, who began to embrace the villain's role in Round 1 of the playoffs, tried to goad the powerful Lucic into a fight with some pushing and cross-checks to the chest. Lucic would have none of it. Komisarek taunted him at least once more, but the disciplined Lucic resisted temptation.
But after the sides traded goals in the second period, Sturm first and then Saku Koivu, Lucic all but booked the MGM Grand Arena for the feature bout when he popped in his fifth goal of the season with 4:42 gone in the third. Off a draw to Price's right, won by Phil Kessel, Lucic made a quick chop of the puck and sent it past the unprepared Montreal goalie. The Bruins had a four-goal lead, and less than three minutes later, Komisarek had far more than he ever could have wished for in Lucic.
His right hand skinned and bloodied around the knuckles, Lucic sat calmly in the dressing room, unemotionally answering the media's questions. The hand was OK, he said. The fight? Just the obvious residue of a "high-intensity" rivalry.
What was he thinking when he made his way to the penalty box, hootin' and hollerin' at everyone, then banging on the glass around the box?
"Just excitement," he said. "The fans are screaming and pumped up, and you get pumped up."
"To me, it was part of the game," said coach Claude Julien, his club playing its best hockey since his arrival here at the start of last season. "Part of the package."
Just the package Boston fans appreciate, and have longed for on Causeway Street for far too long. Too many times, especially come springtime, that CH jersey has been a harbinger of doom for Bruins fans. Not so last night.
"They showed us what you can do when you want to play with emotion," praised Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau. "We really didn't do anything against them. We didn't force them to be tired. We had no effort. We had no emotion. We had a game plan and no one followed it. And as a result, we lost, 6-1."
And what of Price? He looked suspect in last spring's playoffs, and nothing he did last night changed that picture.
"He's going to have to find his game," said Carbonneau.
For the Bruins, it ended a regular-season winless streak of 12 games (0-10-0-2) against the Canadiens, dating to March 3, 2007. There appears to be a cultural shift, one that started last April in the playoffs, and the shift looks as if it now has the Habs in retreat.
"One word we can say," said star Canadiens winger Alexei Kovalev. "We were not prepared for this."
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.