3 takeaways from the Bruins’ 3-2 win over the Canadiens

The rivalry is back.

David Backes celebrates his goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the first period Saturday.
David Backes celebrates his goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the first period Saturday. –Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press via AP

Intensity. Physicality. Hatred. Passion. These adjectives were sorely missing from the recent chapter of the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry.

Not on Saturday night.

The 744th regular-season meeting between the Bruins and Habs had a little bit of everything, from bruising hits to post-whistle scrums to clutch goals and quality goaltending from Tuukka Rask and Carey Price. The Bruins, despite relinquishing a two-goal lead in the third, rebounded on John Moore’s late power play tally to secure the 3-2 victory over their hated rivals.

“I was just thinking about that. There was a lot of scrapping, some hitting and some slashing,” Rask said to reporters following his sensational 31-save outing. “Good old time hockey. That’s what people want to see. It was a very entertaining game.”

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The Bruins-Canadiens rivalry is back. Here is what we learned from an entertaining 60 minutes at the Bell Centre.

David Backes makes it count

The monkey is off his back.

His frustrating season resulted in a demotion from third line center to start the season to his current spot as a fourth line winger. But Backes is taking things in stride and embracing his checking line workload.

The ex-Blues captain nearly got his first goal of the season Friday night against the Penguins. The celebration afterward was all he had to show for the effort, as replay deemed the play inconclusive to keep the game tied at 1-1.

“It’s coming. I feel it coming,” Backes said following the 2-1 victory over the Pens at TD Garden. “Just maybe next time.”

No maybe here. Twenty-four hours later, Backes indeed finally notched his first of the season — walking in all alone after forcing a Habs turnover — and drew first blood.

Backes later drew blood — literally — from Jonathan Drouin’s high-stick with a little over five minutes left in the third period. The former Blues captain skated off the ice in an old “take one for the team” moment after the Habs took control with two unanswered goals from Drouin and Tomas Tatar to even things up earlier in the final stanza.

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“If that’s what it takes to win, then I’ll take blood,” Backes told reporters following his two-point night. “Tonight was a tale of two games, where the first and second [periods] I thought we played well. Then they really made a push and got physical and had an edge on play — and I think that showed up in the scoreboard on a couple of plays — and then we had to find a way to get it back.”

What Moore can you ask for?

The Bruins don’t get late-game power play chances at the Bell Centre too often. Certainly not with five minutes and change left in regulation. And certainly not a four-minute power play.

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John Moore, for that matter, usually isn’t a staple on the Bruins’ power play unit. He’ll come in on the second unit at certain moments like filling in for injured players. Saturday was one of those moments.

Moore delivered. The veteran defenseman took a rebound — created by Backes — from the left faceoff dot and fired his snapshot through traffic and into a proverbial open net for the dagger with 2:57 remaining.

And that, certainly, marked a good time for Moore to pick up his first goal as a Bruin.

“It felt good [for the team] to have the trust in me and the faith in me,” said Moore, who signed a five-year, 13.75 million dollar deal with the Bruins on July 1. “And what more can you say about David Backes. He ends up taking a cheap shot [from Drouin] there and created that rebound and really it’s an open net for me.”

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Moore and Backes were the two unlikely heroes on this night.

“Never a dull moment for the Boston Bruins lately.”

Bruce Cassidy couldn’t have said it better during his postgame interview with Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley.

Yet, here they are, staying afloat in a tough Atlantic Division without Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo or Urho Vaakaninen. They’re surpassing expectations while battling the dreaded injury bug as they sit fourth in the Atlantic with 30 points and a 13-6-4 record.

Their goal scoring has dipped since Bergeron’s departure. Yet they’re getting timely goals in the last four games despite lighting the lamp just nine times.

Cassidy’s squad carries a five-game point streak, thanks largely to Rask and Jaroslav Halak. Their calm demeanors, along with their timely saves, give the Bruins a chance to win. That’s all you can ask for with a blueline that’s been battered and bruised since the start of the 2018-19 campaign.

The Bruins are showing their character and responding to the early-season adversity. That will bode well for them if, or when, they get a clean bill of health.

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