It was supposed to be a night where the story was about the Bruins facing Claude Julien for the first time since his departure last February. Instead, it took an unfortunate turn.
A scary situation occurred at the Bell Centre with the Bruins and Canadiens tied at 3-3 with 1:27 left in the second period on Saturday night as Phillip Danault took a Zdeno Chara slap shot to the face. The Habs forward was stretchered off the ice and taken to a local Montreal hospital.
“Very unfortunate,” the Bruins captain said postgame. “You don’t want to see anyone get hit in the head area or neck area and see him being carried off the ice. So, hopefully, he’ll be able to fully recover.”
Danault suffered a head injury but is awake and moving, according to the Canadiens organization.
As tough as it was for both teams to refocus, the Bruins and Habs provided an entertaining back and forth affair. The Black and Gold earned a hard-fought 4-3 shootout win in a spirited game that saw three lead changes, tremendous scoring chances, a thrilling 3-on-3 overtime and a fantastic shootout capped off by Brad Marchand’s clincher.
Here is what we learned as the Bruins come off the bye week to extend their point streak to 12 straight games.
Both squads find challenges regaining focus
Julien and his Boston successor, Bruce Cassidy already have tough enough jobs coaching in major hockey markets. Both coaches had the same challenge following Danualt’s injury – to get their team focused on the final 21:27 of play.
Similar to Chara’s stanchion hit on Max Pacioretty at the very same building almost seven years ago, the Bell Centre crowd went silent as Danualt was assisted by trainers and emergency personnel. Both the Habs and Bruins surrounded Danualt in a sign of solidarity signified by Chara never leaving his spot following his slap shot.
The officials sent both teams to the locker room as Danault left the rink. The teams came back to play the final 1:27 of the second period before switching ends for the third.
“Once the puck drops, you’re back to work,” Cassidy said during his postgame press conference. “You can tell in the building it lost a little bit of the juice and the buzz and rightfully so. But eventually, you have to get back to business, but like I said, you don’t want to see that and hopefully, [Danault is] okay.”
The same sentiment was true for the players.
“You have to go back and regain that focus,” Patrice Bergeron said about the aftermath of the scary moment involving Danault.
“It helped that me and Zee [Chara] — because I think Zee felt pretty bad — were able to at least talk to him for a brief second. And then after that, I think we were all trying to regain our focus and it was a good decision by both teams to go back to the locker room and regroup and refocus. Obviously, we all know that it’s a fast game and a physical game, so we need to make sure that you’re into it.”
Under tough circumstances, the Bruins and Canadiens carried on in a professional manner.
Bruins respond twice to Habs leads
Aside from their overtime loss to the New York Rangers back on Dec. 16 and their recent setback against the Penguins last Sunday, the Bruins have spent little time playing from behind. They had to do that twice in a hostile environment.
Pacioretty’s 11th of the season at 3:22 of the opening stanza marked the first time the Bruins had given up the first goal since their loss to the Rangers – a span of 11 straight games. Brad Marchand (on the power play) and Jake DeBrusk countered with their 18th and 10th goals of the season, respectively, at 17:40 of the first and 2:55 of the second.
“We came back a couple of different times and that’s tough to do against Montreal, and in Montreal,” DeBrusk said. “We have great leadership here. The older guys and the veterans here really show us the way on how to get back in there, and I thought it was a team effort…”
The Bruins needed that veteran help the second time around and David Krejci came to their aid.
Nicolas Deslauriers and Alex Galchenyuk scored 3:06 apart to give the Habs the 3-2 lead. They went on the counter-attack, again, matching the Habs chance for chance. Eventually, Krejci tied things up at 17:52 — moments before Danault went down — to even things up at 3-3.
“We came back all night, and on the road, that’s not easy to do,” Cassidy assessed. “There’s no easy games in this league. Every team plays well with the lead, but we were able to fight through some penalty kills as well and regain our momentum.”
DeBrusk and Marchand shine in shootout
It was fitting that two of the better performers provided the final lift in the shootout.
DeBrusk and Marchand combined to counter Pacioretty’s tally in the first. They later combined to give the Bruins their two goals in the shootout.
With Paul Byron beating Rask to start the shootout, DeBrusk countered for the second time beating Carey Price with a slick snap shot. Marchand sealed the victory three rounds later after Rask and Price combined to stop the next five shots in the second, third and fourth rounds.
Round 2 Wednesday night
No doubt the storyline entering the second Bruins-Canadiens matchup will surround Claude Julien’s return. Before that, the Bruins welcome another old friend, Tyler Seguin, in a Martin Luther King Day matinee with the Dallas Stars Monday at TD Garden.