Old Home Week at TD Garden, culminating in a national audience on NBCSN’s “Wednesday Night Rivalry.”
Monday, it was Tyler Seguin back with his overtime dagger to give the Dallas Stars the two points.
Willie O’Ree in town, first to participate in the Martin Luther King Day celebrations Monday, leading to the Jan. 18, 1958, 60th anniversary of his first game in the NHL to break the color barrier. Dignitaries on hand Wednesday afternoon at TD Garden with O’Ree to announce the opening this summer of a new street hockey rink in Allston-Brighton.
“I love Willie,” Bruce Cassidy said postgame about O’Ree’s presence all week. “He is very sharp for his age, very personable, great guy to chat with. I don’t know if the other guys appreciate retired players as much, having them around, these young guys. I do. I wish more of the former players would come around, as well.”
Wednesday night, Round 2 of three games in eight days against the Montreal Canadiens – and the return of Claude Julien for the first time to TD Garden since his dismissal 11 months ago. Saturday night, the Bruins took the first of the three-game set in Montreal with a 4-3 shootout win. The two teams play Round 3 this Saturday back north of the border.
The smoking-hot Black and Gold are riding a 13-game point streak (9-0-4) and looking to lock into second place in the Atlantic Division with a two-point lead and four games in hand on third-place Toronto. It’s their longest point streak since a 15-0-1 stretch from March 2-30, 2014; their 7-0-3 record in their past 10 games is the best in the NHL.
Mano y mano in net with Tuukka Rask against Carey Price. Rask at 8-15-3 in 27 career games against the Canadiens; Price 24-9-5 in 39 career games against Boston.
Montreal nine points off the playoff pace for the last wildcard with Julien receiving a rousing ovation to a Jumbotron montage of his 2011 hoisting Lord Stanley at 10:01 of the first period.
“Just because you work in Montreal, doesn’t mean you have to look at this city as a host city in your mind, you know, your family is still here,” Julien said pregame. “We built some roots here, but we’re looking forward to also having the same kind of life we had here in Montreal, and that’s the plan.”
Here’s what we learned as Bruce Cassidy’s boys stuck another fork in Julien’s game plan with a 4-1 win on a festive evening in the Hub of Hockey.
Habs — missing three keys — score 31 seconds in; Rask pitches 59:29 shutout
Julien’s bench hobbled by the same string of injuries the Bruins endured earlier in the season took the ice Wednesday without all-star and defensive anchor Shea Weber, and forwards Andrew Shaw and Phillip Danault, who took that Zdeno Chara slapshot full force above the ear Saturday night.
Montreal, however, struck first when Jakub Jerabek threw a left-dasher shot that glanced off Chara’s knee and past Rask just 31 seconds into the game.
Rask would then pitch a 59:29 shutout to the final horn, stopping all 21 of the following shots.
“I think everyone is just doing their job,” he said after. “They’re trusting goalies; goalies are trusting the defense.”
Pastrnak takes “toe” to the bank to get Bruins off and running
END 1 | #NHLBruins 1, Canadiens 1.
David Pastrnak with the tic-tac-toe tally for the B's. pic.twitter.com/nNYhQw4uic
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 18, 2018
“We responded well and played the type of game we wanted to,” Cassidy said. “I thought we skated well, controlled the pace for the most part, got the goal back fairly quickly, then wanted to play behind their D, get a good forecheck game going, be hard to play against, limit their chances, and I thought we did that.”
At 6:50, the Bruins top line went to tic-tac-toe work with Patrice Bergeron sending a pass behind Price to Brad Marchand who shoveled it on a bended knee across to a wide-open Bergeron and then back to a wide open Pastrnak for his 18th of the season tying Marchand for the team’s red-light leader.
Ryan Spooner fed a seeing-eye backhand dribbler past Price at 2:37 of the second period with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk assisting to give Boston the lead – for good.
Marchand retook the goal-scoring lead with his 19th on the power play at 3:40 of the final 20 when he kept yet another dribbler on course past Price with Bergeron and Torey Krug assisting.
Julien pulled Price with a whopping three and a half minutes left. And Boston took all of a handful of ticks for Krejci to walk in solo with David Backes for his eighth of the season at 16:46.
Adam McQuaid returns
“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” McQuaid assessed postgame after missing 36 games with a broken leg. “Just went with the first shift and then the second and just went down from there.”
The veteran blueliner returned Wednesday, taking the place of a banged-up and flu-bitten Kevan Miller on the shelf with day-to-day status. He logged 15:12 with 21 shifts and a plus-1. Best of all was 1:34 on the penalty kill, especially during a 5-on-3 Montreal power play in the second period with his team up by one goal.
“Adam is very good on the kill,” Cassidy said. “We’ve said that all along, that’s one area we miss when he is out of the lineup.”
Islanders in 24 hours
“Every team goes through it,” Cassidy said with the trip to Brooklyn in less than 24 hours. “We’ve made a priority to try to be better in those back-to-back games, and part of that is managing the puck and your shift length early.”
Countdown renditions begin for anthem legend
The Bruins announced late Wednesday afternoon that longtime anthem singer Rene Rancourt will retire at the end of this season. Rancourt has performed the national anthem at Bruins games since 1976. His signature fist-pump following the anthem was modeled after the “Stump Pump” of former Bruin Randy Burridge.
The Lewiston, Maine, native is a trained opera singer and began singing the national anthem at Boston Red Sox games. Rancourt, a veteran of the United States Army, will be formally honored at the final regular-season game on April 8 against the Florida Panthers.
Wednesday night, his renditions of both anthems were resoundingly received with an extended standing ovation.
“Mother Nature is calling,” the 78-year-old Rancourt said during the first intermission about his decision. “I’m trying to act young, but Mother Nature cannot be fooled. I started to think of retirement at 68, so I’m a little bit late.”