For a stylish fellow like David Pastrnak, a hat trick against the Canadiens is appropriate wear for all seasons. It suited him well on Wednesday.
The ever-voguish Bruin scored his 39th, 40th and 41st goals of the season, setting a career high and powering the Bruins to a 4-1 win over their old rivals.
This was Pastrnak’s second hat trick against the Habs this season, something last done by a man named Gordie Howe in 1951-52. Generations later, invoking the name “Howe” remains in fashion in NHL dressing rooms.
“An honor for me,” said a grateful Pastrnak, who thanked his teammates several times after once again surging into the NHL goal lead. Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Toronto’s Auston Matthews had reached 40 while he was stuck on 38 the previous four games.
By the end of the second period, Pastrnak ended his dry spell, set a new career high (he had 38 last year) and became the Bruins’ first 40-goal man in 17 seasons. For those counting, Glen Murray was the last to do so with 44 in 2002-03.
What’s next? He could have the Black and Gold’s first 50-goal season since Cam Neely in ‘93-94. Can he hit 60? Not likely, unless he delivers a few more shipments of hats. But 50 is no minor accomplishment. Five Bruins — Phil Esposito, John Bucyk, Rick Middleton, Ken Hodge and Neely — have done it.
More Pasta helpings: he has 14 goals in 19 career games against the Habs, and he is the first Bruin with four hat tricks in a season since Phil Esposito in 1974-75.
With 24 games left before the postseason, he has plenty of time to add to his total.
Not yet age 24, he has plenty of time to build his career numbers (173 goals in 378 games).
“Kind of scary to look at where his ceiling might be,” said linemate Brad Marchand (three assists). “The fact he’s able to continue to find ways to score when teams are zoning in on him, it’s very impressive. There are very few guys in the league that can do that . . . He’s going to be a hell of a player for a long time.”
Marchand, whose hands are once again magical, set up Pastrnak with a gorgeous play 6:59 in. Catching Montreal defenseman Jeff Petry flat-footed off a turnover, Marchand toe-dragged around and through Petry, who had little recourse but to drape himself on Marchand until support arrived. A deft feed to a streaking Pastrnak gave Boston the lead for good.
Worth a watch, if the highlight should appear on your social media feed.
“I gave up and stopped skating,” Pastrnak said. “I was like, ‘There’s no way he can make that play with two or three guys on his back.’ Easy play for me.”
Pastrnak made it 2-0 at 4:16 into the second, faking netminder Carey Price (34 saves) and roofing the puck to finish a play that started at the other end, when he and Sean Kuraly harassed Petry into a turnover. The hats flew at 15:49 of that period, when Pastrnak dunked Petry’s failed clearing attempt while on the power play. Pastrnak even helped the ice crew collect the chapeaus with a few careful swipes of his stick.
“I’m happy for ,” said Pastrnak, who arrived for work wearing a black and white checkered overcoat and a black Fedora he purchased in Nashville. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. Big thanks come to them. Just keep it rolling.”
In a game with plenty of chippiness, the Bruins (35-11-12) matched the desperation of the Canadiens (27-25-7), who learned that captain Shea Weber will likely miss the rest of the regular season with a serious ankle sprain. It was a fast-paced game with some extracurricular stickwork, but during play, Boston was almost always a step ahead.
Tuukka Rask, whose save percentage (.930) is best of any goalie with more than 30 starts, made 28 saves on 29 shots. Minutes after Pastrnak’s first goal, Rask made a remarkable save, exploding cross-crease to deny a solo Nick Cousins a would-be tap-in.
The Bruins put 37 pucks on Price before he departed in the final minutes. Patrice Bergeron’s empty-netter finished the job with 20 seconds left, and gave Marchand his third assist.
Before going down, 3-1, Montreal’s only extended push came with about five minutes left in the first. On their best chance, down by one goal, Max Domi whiffed on a bouncing puck at the doorstep. He also hit the pipe in the second period.
The Habs made it 2-1 less than a minute after Pastrnak’s second, on a Marco Scandella wrister from the point that pinballed past Rask at 4:52 of the middle period. But they were not nearly sharp enough to match the Bruins’ hard-charging style.
“We had some desperation in our game to keep the puck out of the net,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “As much as Pasta was the star tonight, obviously, offensively, I thought a lot of our guys deserved credit . . . that’s how you win.”