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Bruins 4, Canadiens 2

Bruins far from their best, but they still beat Canadiens

Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron delivered an open-ice hit to Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher in the first period.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Jim Montgomery was well aware of the discrepancy in the standings between the Bruins and Canadiens on Thursday morning.

While his team sets its sights on the NHL record for wins in a season, a rebuilding Montreal roster has fixed its attention on the draft lottery.

But a shift in fortunes didn’t stunt Montgomery’s enthusiasm ahead of the 756th meeting between these hockey institutions.

“I wish we played them, that team particularly, more,” Montgomery said. “Because it’s the Black and Gold vs. the Red, White, and Blue — it’s tradition of the game for me.”

No better was that sentiment validated than Thursday night on Causeway Street.


In a back-and-forth scrap between teams now separated by 27 wins, it was the Bruins who delivered the knockout blow — with David Pastrnak’s 49th goal of the season putting Boston ahead for good in a 4-2 victory.

It was the fifth win in a row for the Bruins, who overcame sluggish special-teams execution to put away a pesky Habs lineup.

“These games against Montreal never get old,” Pastrnak said postgame. “It doesn’t really matter where in the standings each team [is]. When Montreal and the Bruins play, you know both teams are going to play hard. It’s a good win.”

The Bruins and Canadiens might find themselves on opposite ends of on-ice prosperity in 2023. But the icy sentiment shared between these bitter Original Six rivals hasn’t thawed, as evidenced by various battles erupting on the TD Garden ice.

The clubs logged a combined 39 minutes in the sin bin during Thursday’s meeting, turning a weekday tilt in the dog days of March into a vintage brouhaha.

The embers of the dormant rivalry were rekindled just 7:50 into play, when Montreal forward Rem Pitlick dropped Patrice Bergeron with a late check. Before Pitlick could pivot and glance up the frozen sheet, he was wrangled to the ice by an enraged Brad Marchand.


Brad Marchand delivers a right to the head of Montreal's Rem Pitlick during a first-period scrap Thursday night at TD Garden.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

The Bruins left winger and Bergeron’s longtime comrade connected on a few hooks before the fracas was broken up.

“You don’t hit our captain late,” Montgomery said. “That was a three-second-late hit. I loved the fact that Marchand made the guy pay a price for doing that.”

Jeremy Swayman (29 saves), perhaps emboldened by Marc-Andre Fleury and Jordan Binnington’s unsanctioned bout last weekend, managed to get in on the hostilities after a snow shower from Jake Evans created another scrum near Boston’s crease.

While Boston and Montreal traded punches between whistles, Habs goalie Jake Allen regularly found himself on the ropes against an uneven but opportunistic Bruins attack.

Ten games into his Bruins tenure, Tyler Bertuzzi finally found twine off some overdue puck luck. The third-line winger’s centering feed from behind Montreal’s net skipped off a stick and sneaked past Allen to put Boston on the board just 4:34 into the action.

Jake DeBrusk doubled Boston’s lead less than 10 minutes later. Given an open lane via a crisp touch pass from Connor Clifton, DeBrusk turned on the afterburners, evaded two Montreal skaters, and snapped one home for his fourth goal in as many games.

The Bruins’ prickly disposition against their longtime foes burned them later in the frame. After A.J. Greer was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct from cross-checking Mike Hoffman in the face, Montreal capitalized.


Nick Suzuki’s one-time bomb slipped past Swayman with 19 seconds left in the first, snapping the goalie’s shutout streak at 162:09.

Pastrnak regained Boston’s two-goal cushion 2:36 into the second period, beating Allen off of a pump fake for his 49th of the season — a career high. But Kirby Dach’s power-play tap-in once again kept things close entering the second intermission.

Boston’s extended woes on the power play (0 for 5) helped keep Montreal off the mat for most of the night.

“Lack of execution by the players on the ice,” Montgomery said. “Our entries and breakout were poor. And it led to sloppiness and frustration for everybody, because we’re not building any momentum because all we’re doing is breaking out.”

But David Krejci gave his club some breathing room with 7:44 left on the clock, depositing a puck past Allen off a backhand attempt for his 16th of the season.

David Krejci delivers a backhand that beat's Montreal goaltender Jake Allen for a 4-2 lead in the third period Thursday at TD Garden.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Pastrnak nearly secured his 50th tally in the closing seconds. After Allen vacated his net, Marchand had a clear shooting lane. But rather than deliver the coup de grâce, Marchand lofted the puck over to Pastrnak in search of the milestone marker, only for the feed to be broken up.

“Emblematic of this team,” Montgomery said of Marchand’s attempted assist. “They’re incredibly selfless. You see guys sacrifice their bodies blocking shots. You see plays like that, it’s not the first time we’ve seen guys pass up empty-net goal to try and get somebody else. Whether they’re trying to get 20 goals, 50 goals, 800 points, 1,000 points. A lot of milestones this year.”


Pastrnak will have another shot to reach 50 goals on Saturday in a 1 p.m. matchup against the Lightning at TD Garden.