David Pastrnak spread his arms out to the side, fingers dancing, asking the crowd for more, more, more. David Backes stood with his arms raised high, basking in TD Garden cheers he hadn’t felt in a month. Jake DeBrusk, on his back in front of the net, shouted and pumped his fists.
Three goal scorers, three goal celebrations, one wild, third-period comeback win against the Canadiens.
After two periods of taking knocks from the hated Habs, the Bruins put three on the board in the third in a 3-1 decision, their seventh straight victory and the eighth loss in a row for Montreal.
Each goal was cathartic in its own way.
Pastrnak, roughed up all night and at the center of a second-period dustup that electrified the Garden, erased Montreal’s 1-0 lead at 6:16 of the third. He took a smart feed from Anders Bjork, charged into the zone and blasted a rocket off the far post and in.
“Probably,” said Pastrnak, when asked if it was one of the more gratifying goals of his season. “It was a tough game, obviously. It’s Montreal Canadiens, obviously one of the most hyped-up games for us. I love that.”
It was a goal rarely seen these days: on the rush, above the dot, overpowering the goalie. Coach Bruce Cassidy name-checked Habs legend Guy Lafleur when describing it.
Told of Cassidy’s comparison, Pastrnak smiled.
“He must have a good shot,” he said.
Few better in today’s game than Pastrnak, who has an NHL-best 25 goals as the calendar flips to December. A Bruins player is first to score 25 in a season for the first time since Phil Esposito in 1974-76. Through 27 games, Pastrnak is on pace to equal Espo’s 76 goals from ’70-71.
“He’s arguably the best player in the league right now,” said Cassidy, his club tied atop the league standings (19-3-5, 43 points) with a game in hand on Washington. “Or the hottest, anyway.”
The Bruins’ feel-good story continues here: Backes, who missed 13 games after a scary collision with Ottawa’s Scott Sabourin, made it 2-1 by crushing a one-timer from the bumper on the power play, his first goal of the season.
“You could see it on my face,” said a joyful Backes, who credited David Krejci for making a tight-window dish to the middle. “That was elation.”
DeBrusk, who wrestled Montreal pest Brendan Gallagher in the aforementioned fracas late in the second, scored off a give-and-go from Charlie Coyle to make it 3-1.
The No. 1 star was netminder Tuukka Rask, who held the Bruins in it all night. His breakaway stop on Gallagher, minutes before Pastrnak unleashed his cannon, kept a 1-0 deficit from doubling. Among his 28 stops, Rask stood tall on a penalty kill late in the first.
He saw his mates improve to a league-best 11-0-4 at home, the only squad without a regulation loss in their building.
“Once we’re going and making those plays,” Rask said, “it’s definitely fun to watch.”
The Canadiens (11-10-6), desperately in search of their first win since Nov. 15 (0-5-3 since), were hunting for revenge against the club that drop-kicked them, 8-1, in Montreal last Tuesday. Their plan, in part, was to pummel Pastrnak.
They held a 1-0 lead after Joel Armia snatched a soft Zdeno Chara pass in front of the net and clanked a shot off Charlie McAvoy’s boot, 1:58 into the affair. The Habs, small and fearless, were content to fly out of their zone time and again, denying the Bruins much possession. Through 40 minutes, it was one of their best defensive efforts of the year. They also set a physical tone, landing 10 hits in the first 10:06.
Gallagher, whose game has elements of Brad Marchand, lit a fire under the Bruins late in the second period. Responding to a hit earlier in the game, he shoved Pastrnak before a faceoff. The two jawed. Pastrnak drew an interference on Shea Weber, gave him a shove, and Weber’s crosscheck on Pastrnak started a fracas that saw DeBrusk wrestle Gallagher to the ice.
The Bruins’ top-ranked power play (31.6 percent) landed two shots, beginning at 2:47 of the second, and Armia landed the biggest hit. He decked Pastrnak behind the play, knocking off his helmet.
Pastrnak had the last word. He slipped behind defenseman Gustav Olofsson, skated onto Bjork’s banked pass, saw Weber coming from the weak side and wound up. A bullet, blocker side, that put him at 25-17—42 for the year.
“I don’t think he’s had a lot of freebies,” Cassidy said. “Let’s put it that way.”
Price, who had stopped 25 shots to that point — not including a Matt Grzelcyk try on the rush that slid along the goal line — had no chance.
“You’re in a position as a goalie, but if he hits that spot, it’s most likely going in,” Rask said. “Yeah, lucky we have him. He’s not allowed to do that in practice.”
It got better from there.
“We eventually came around,” Cassidy said. “It used to be a big trait of ours. We’d get leads and then play with the lead. Now, lately, it’s been a little more the other way, which is OK to learn to play that way.”
Follow Matt Porter on Twitter at @mattyports