MONTREAL — The Way Back Machine, the one with bloodstains on the front seats, crumpled fenders and a trunk stuffed full of hate and venom between the Habs and Bruins, rolled into the Bell Centre Monday night for 60-plus minutes loaded with old-time hockey.
Starved for goals of late, the Bruins didn’t get many, but they certainly got a lot of bang for their buck, including Ryan Spooner’s game-winner with only 1:40 remaining in overtime for a 2-1 triumph over their longtime nemesis.
Equally important, after failing to take a lead in their previous three games, the Bruins also scored first, an Austin Czarnik strike late in the second period looking as if it might hold up for the victory.
But with 3:12 left in regulation, and the sellout crowd of 21,288 at the Bell Centre rooting on Les Glorieux, Paul Byron broomed a backhander by Tuukka Rask (30 saves) to force the OT.
“Great to be back on track,’” said veteran Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, noting the old-time feel that encompassed the night.
“Right from the get-go, the intensity and energy was there. It’s always a great building to play in, and both teams had that intensity and physicality.”
The night featured big hits, the most crushing dealt by Boston defenseman Torey Krug, who rung up pesky center Andrew Shaw with a shoulder-to-head hit that temporarly sent a dingy Shaw to the Habs dressing room in the first period.
Only some 15 seconds earlier, in the Boston attack zone, Alexei Emelin rubbed out top Bruins scorer David Pastrnak with a thunderous hip check along the wall.
A peeved Pastrnak popped right up, smacked Emelin with a stiff cross-check (uncalled) across the back, and it felt like the two sides were back in the dusty Forum, where big smacks and bigger retaliations were forever the order of the day.
It wasn’t long before Krug had to answer for his hit on Shaw. With 4:34 to go in the first, after he got worked over deep in the Boston end, Krug threw down with Brendan Gallagher. By ol’ timey hockey standards, it was not much of a battle, but fights are rare in today’s game. The two diminutive brawlers, after a long engagement, hooked up only briefly before toppling to the ice in their heated froth.
“I figured it was coming,” said Krug. “After a hit like that, you figure someone’s going to challenge you. You don’t see that a lot in the league anymore.”
Spooner’s winner came in the 3-on-3 session, which the Bruins appeared to have ended at the 1:00 mark when David Krejci lofted a doorstep backhander under the crossbar.
But it was correctly ruled no goal because Habs goalie Carey Price was down and out after getting steamrolled on a first attempt by Pastrnak. In fact, when the puck went in the net, Pastrnak was in there, too, flat on the ice, behind the fallen Habs goalie.
The contact was being served in big scoops.
“I understood, no goal,” said coach Claude Julien. “It was goalie interference. My only complaint was that there should have been a hooking call and we at least should have been on the power play.”
Krug assisted on Spooner’s winner. The play went to video review for possible offside by the Bruins, but the goal was allowed to stand.
A Bruins win.
The bleu-blanc-et-rouge townies filed out in silence.
Stymied on their first 28 shots against Tuukka Rask, the Habs put their only puck in the net with 3:12 left in regulation to force the OT.
Soon after a faceoff, the Habs drove toward the net and it was Byron who broomed home a loose puck after Torrey Mitchell’s shot low in the slot failed to make it all the way to Rask.
Czarnik, without a goal since Nov. 10, connected off the rush with his low wrister to beat Price low to the stick side with only 1:05 remaining in the second period for the 1-0 lead.
The Habs, with the NHL’s best record (19-7-3), lost for only the third time this season on home ice. They are now 14-1-2 at Bell Center.
Their last loss here was Nov. 22, 4-3, to the Ottawa Senators.