The Bruins shot and shot and shot some more on Saturday, putting up a season-high 50 attempts on net, and finally it was Brad Marchand’s short-range wrister with 2:06 gone in overtime that rubbed out the stubborn Canadiens, 2-1, and handed the Black and Gold their 40th win of the 2017-18 season.
That’s the Cliff Notes version of what also was a concerning shorthanded situation the Bruins faced all day at the Garden, once losing prized rookie blueliner Charlie McAvoy with only 37 seconds ticked off the clock.
McAvoy, who routinely plays 20-plus minutes a night alongside Zdeno Chara, hobbled off the ice following a collision with Habs forward Brendan Gallagher on his first (and last) shift and was not seen for the remainder of the late-afternoon matinee. He appeared to suffer an injury to his right foot, but the Bruins offered very little about his status after the win, coach Butch Cassidy telling he media that there will be an update around the club’s next practice on Monday.
Absent his top puck-moving blueliner, Cassidy divvied up McAvoy’s minutes (a game-high 24:46 landing on Torey Krug), and then watched his cast of Wild, Wild West End shooters pile up 88 shot attempts in all.
Habs tender Antti Niemi turned back the first 42 of those until rookie Jake DeBrusk finally tipped home the 1-1 equalizer on a power play with 2:45 left in regulation, setting the stage for OT.
“Clearly we had some issues moving the puck out of our zone,” noted Cassidy, his charges falling behind, 1-0, on Gallagher’s goal midway through the first period. “Charlie’s a transporter, he’s a mover, a passer . . . all of the above . . . in the offensive zone, he can create some space and get some shots and make plays.”
But as the game wore on, Boston’s puck moving improved, and while the Bruins poured shots on Niemi, Anton Khudobin was equally brilliant, stifling the remaining 22 shots that came his way after the Gallagher goal.
Khudobin made a dazzling glove save of an Alex Galchenyuk wrister midway through the second, a shot labeled to hand the Habs a 2-0 lead on the power play. Later, with 7:03 left in regulation, he again held it at 1-0 when a blistering slapper by Galchenyk nailed him in the facemask.
It was by far the best work Khudobin has turned in this season, helping him to improve his record to 14-4-4. Niemi was brilliant, but did he did not outshine Doby, who has suffered but two regulation losses since Dec. 14.
“No doubt about it, he played lights out,” said Khudobin, praising Niemi’s work. “Unfortunately, it didn’t go his way. I am happy for our team, but from the goaltender’s standpoint, I was impressed how he performed.”
The one shot that beat Niemi in regulation, the deflection by DeBrusk, was initiated by newcomer Nick Holden, one of five Boston shooters to have 10 or more shots on net for the day. With a power play about to expire, DeBrusk angled his stick perfectly after Holden unloaded from the top of the right circle and the sellout crowd of 17,565 finally had something to cheer.
Boston’s other big shooters included David Backes (5 on net/11 attempts); Torey Krug (10/12); Rick Nash (8/12), and David Pastrnak (4/10).
After landing 46 shots on net through regulation, the Bruins never let the Habs up for air in the OT, not allowing Les Glorieux a single attempt on Khudobin. Marchand, who had but one shot on net in the first 60 minutes, was on for his second OT shift when he bogeyed into the slot and zipped home the winner as the club improved to 7-8 in OT.
DeBrusk was also on the ice for the winner.
“I thought he was going to shoot,” said DeBrusk. “I thought he was going to come around because he kind of had . . . their defenseman was tired . . . so my job was to drive the net for a rebound. That’s what I was thinking, to pull that guy in, so he’d have maybe that extra second to get the shot off. A great play by him and a big-time goal — and I got a front row seat on that one, for sure.”
Marchand, aka the Little Ball o’Hate, is among the toughest in the league to defened one-on-one.
“A nightmare,” said Backes.
“Yeah, one of the best,” added DeBrusk. “He’ll be 1-on-3 and it will look like three guys are about to rock him and he’ll have his stick on the puck . . . next thing you know, he’s on his knees and he still has the puck and makes a play. Pretty impressive.”
The Bruins now have 40 wins for the fifth straight season. With 19 games to go, the Bruins have a shot at besting Claude Julien’s high-water mark of 54-19-9 in 2013-14.
More photos from the Bruins’ win over Montreal: