MONTREAL — Hoping to tighten up their game and keep everyone healthy entering the playoffs, the Bruins couldn’t call Thursday a complete success on either front.
But finally, they can start thinking about the playoffs.
David Pastrnak’s third-period strike gave the Bruins a 5-4 win over the Canadiens that was not at all postseason-caliber. It was loose, rife with misplays, and will soon be forgotten.
The Bruins (65-12-5), after the best regular season in NHL history, will face the Panthers in the first round, via Florida’s 6-4 loss to Carolina. That series will start Monday in Boston, with Game 2 on Wednesday.
Now it really counts, after a season in which the Bruins set NHL records for wins (65) and points (135), boasted a 61-goal scorer (Pastrnak) and leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy (Linus Ullmark), won the Jennings Trophy (lowest goals-against average), and had two 50-point defensemen.
“There’s numerous statistical and metrics you can look at that make the season special,” coach Jim Montgomery said, “but for me, it’s how much those guys care about playing for each other. That’s what was special.”
They got it done in the third period, when Pastrnak scored his 61st goal off a sweet feed from Dmitry Orlov, after Charlie Coyle walked in and tucked home the 4-4 goal.
Patrice Bergeron (upper body) left for what the team said were precautionary reasons after logging just 5:36, but Montgomery said he was fine.
“He wanted to go back out,” Montgomery said, “but I said no.”
Bergeron appeared in good spirits afterward, as he met with his parents, brother, and several family members.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Swayman allowed four goals on 34 shots and was involved in some curious events.
The Bruins killed a penalty after the netminder chipped the puck into the netting 45 seconds in, but former UMass Lowell captain Lucas Condotta batted a deflected shot into the net for a goal on his first shift.
The Habs were fired up, but they couldn’t stop Trent Frederic from standing in the paint and cashing a feed from Connor Clifton at 9:19 to tie the score.
Jake DeBrusk made it 2-1 on a crafty pass by Charlie McAvoy, who slipped a puck to his winger from behind the net at 14:40. That was the 27th goal of the season for DeBrusk, who tied his career high despite missing six weeks with injuries.
The Bruins failed on a full two minutes of five on three late in the first period, after Joel Edmundson dumped the puck over the glass and Chris Wideman cross-checked A.J. Greer.
Nick Suzuki made it 2-2 on a skillful deflection from a Edmundson shot at 7:16 of the second, and the Canadiens took the lead 1:08 later, when Swayman felt he could win a race to a loose puck. He was wrong.
Rem Pitlick beat him to the puck, chipped it down low, and passed up a gimme by feeding Michael Pezzetta for the 3-2 goal.
“I’ve got to work on my sprints,” said Swayman, shaking his head. “Bad decision … It’s a learning experience.”
Maybe Swayman should have tied up the man on the boards. He might have been the first goalie to do that.
“Get a hip check in?” he pondered. “Don’t tempt me.”
Orlov, doing more damage on behalf of the Bruins’ defensemen, rolled low and sniped one over Sam Montembeault’s shoulder at 13:58. Orlov, after the Bruins allowed a Justin Barron shorthanded goal at 1:09 of the third and Coyle tied it at 4, fed Pastrnak for the winner with nine minutes left.
“We were up all night in the rush,” McAvoy said. “It was a lot of fun. That team plays a lot looser than we’ll see in the playoffs, though. Things always tighten up in the postseason.”