Following back-to-back losses to the Penguins and Sabres, the Bruins found themselves a point back of the first wild card spot and in desperate need of a solid performance as they headed up north to take on their Canadian rivals. They got just that.
Tim Horton’s famous morning brews couldn’t save the Montreal Canadiens as the Black and Gold dominated the Bleu Blanc et Rouge. Colby Cave scored his first NHL goal, Jaroslav Halak was barely tested in net, and Torey Krug recorded his 199th career assist — tying him with Mike O’Connell for the most by a US-born player in team history — during Boston’s commanding 4-0 win Monday night in Montreal.
“It’s more fun Saturday night on “Hockey Night in Canada,” but I’ll take it any day of the week,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said to the media. “With Buffalo, I think there were a few teaching moments, so we used that to motivate us tonight to get back to being hard to play against. I think our offense is coming around. We knew that we’d score some goals here, we’re starting to generate more, so we put both together tonight.”
Here is what we learned from Boston’s fifth straight Bell Centre victory.
Second line ‘Caves’ in the Habs
The Bruins got a bit of a lift in the secondary scoring department even in their two previous losses. Four of their five combined goals from their tilts against the Pens and Sabres came from someone other than their top line of Brad Marchand, David Krejci and David Pastrnak.
The second line of David Backes, Cave, and Joakim Nordstrom continued the secondary scoring trend with an early bang. The trio set the tone with a sustained amount of energy from the get-go.
This was evident on the opening goal, as it was a mere product of relentless pressure and hustle on the part of the Bruins. Nordstrom was the first man in on the puck and ended up harassing a Montreal defender all of the way to the top of the circle before finding the back of the net — his fifth of the season — to give Boston the early lead.
Nice forecheck leads to a Montreal turnover — and Nordstrom's fifth goal of the season. pic.twitter.com/977GrkMnYd
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) December 18, 2018
“We were able to channel our energy into the first period, I think that was another focus. Let’s not be on our heels and sit around and see what happens. Let’s determine the outcome and do what we can to come in with the lead, and we did,” Cassidy said about his team’s mentality.
“I think we really limited them, I don’t know if we gave up a chance in the first period. We did a real good job reloading, resulted in the first goal, had numbers back, protected the middle of the ice and matched their speed. All of the things [are] necessary to keep a good offensive team from breaking out on you.”
Nordstrom’s tally set the tone, but Boston’s second line didn’t stop there. Cave got in on the action and notched his first career NHL goal following an excellent passing sequence between Charlie McAvoy and Pastrnak.
Some nifty puck movement sets up Colby Cave’s first NHL goal pic.twitter.com/Zu91x9nCnT
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 18, 2018
Both McAvoy and Pastrnak should receive a nice early Christmas present after making things easy for the 23-year-old.
Halak posts his third shutout of the season
Although he had a rather uneventful night in net, Jaroslav Halak came up big when he needed to. The journeyman turned away all 22 shots that his former team hurled at him en route to his third shutout of the season and 45th of his career.
With the Bruins up 1-0 in the early part of the second period, the Canadiens spent the better part of a minute in the offensive zone in search of the equalizer. They threatened Halak several times in that sequence — including a breakaway opportunity — but Boston’s netminder was up to the task during Montreal’s biggest flurry of the night.
Anton Khudobin provided stability behind Tuukka Rask for two seasons. Yet, Halak — now 10-5-2 on the season — is an upgrade over Boston’s former backup goaltender. Halak’s presence, along with Rask’s improved play since his return from a personal absence in mid-November, provides the Bruins with a dynamic goaltending tandem.
Is David Krejci a keeper with Pastrnak and Marchand?
Krejci has been a completely different player — let’s face it who wouldn’t be — since joining Marchand and Pastrnak a little over a week ago.
Boston’s top line picked apart the Montreal defense and basically did whatever they wanted. Following a half dozen close chances in the first two periods, the trio added two goals in the final 20 minutes, including Krejci’s sixth of the season.
— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) December 18, 2018
Krejci, who now sits second on the team with 29 points, extended his point streak to seven games with his third-period tally. The veteran centerman is giving Cassidy a lot to think about with his future lineup.
Before Sunday’s tilt, the Bruins coach revealed that Patrice Bergeron will be practicing soon — perhaps on Wednesday — and could rejoin the lineup as soon as this weekend. The way Krejci is meshing with Pastrnak and Marchand, Bergeron’s place in the lineup is a little murky at the moment. But Cassidy and the coaching staff won’t complain when they have their top two centers at their disposal.