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  • What we learned: Late surge gives B’s season sweep of Habs

    Post Game

    What we learned: Late surge gives B’s season sweep of Habs

    Bob Snow March 4, 2018

    Not quite the same at stake as most matchups with the archrival Montreal Canadiens, especially late-season affairs on a Saturday night. The Habs out of the playoff hunt most of the season and shedding players at the trade deadline, while also losing the services of three standouts — goaltender Carey Price, Max Pacioretty and Shea Weber — coming into Saturday’s rare 5 pm start with the Black and Gold.

    Aside from two more points was a rare season sweep for the taking for the Bruins. The Black and Gold had won the last five encounters entering their 742nd all-time meeting; an NHL record. A regular-season sweep of the rival Canadiens would be a first since 1994-95; the B’s swept a playoff series in 2009.

    Here’s what we learned as a goaltending duel and a playoff-type game broke out at TD Garden Saturday as Boston completed the rare regular-season sweep of its hated rivals.

    ‘D’ slimmed down early with McAvoy injury

    Charlie McAvoy made an early exit with a lower-body injury, the result of a possible slash just 37 seconds into his first shift; he did not return. That left Cassidy and the B’s short on the blue line for more than 60 minutes.

    “Did he get his foot caught up with the other guy or is that something maybe before that?” Cassidy said. “Hopefully, it’s not serious.”

    That left Chara leading with 23:35 of ice time, and 20-plus for Brandon Carlo, Kevan Miller, Torey Krug and newcomer Nick Holden.

    “That’s 23 minutes a night that you’ve got to now have to parse out over for the full 59 minutes through five guys,” Cassidy about managing the dynamic and what gets lost. “So, I think some of our pinches were a little bit late because maybe we were fatigued, allowed a few more odd-man rushes than we would like, but for the most part, it’s that puck-moving, first pass that we missed.”

    Khudobin and Niemi duel to OT

    Usually, a B’s-Habs game means Tuukka Rask vs. Carey Price. Described pregame by Bruce Cassidy as a very, very minor injury to Rask, Anton Khudobin got the start instead. Khudobin was winless in his career against Montreal at 0-4-0.

    Khudobin vs. Antti Niemi turned into a classic mano a mano duel.

    Things did not get off well for Khudobin and Kevan Miller when Miller’s outlet pass landed right on Brendan Gallagher’s stick. Gallagher went in alone for his team-leading 23rd of the season at 9:16

    The game ended in overtime with a 50-28 shot total in Boston’s favor.

    “You’ve got to give their goalie credit,” Cassidy said when it was all over. “I thought, for a 1-1 game, both goaltenders were – I don’t know if they were one and two star, but damn close if they weren’t. I thought it was a really well-played game as far as the goaltending.”

    B’s power play powerless until crunch time; while PK’s prevail

    It wasn’t enough that tens of thousands were without power across the state from Friday’s Nor’easter. The B’s showed the same on their power play most of Saturday, coming in at No. 13 in the NHL, while the Habs penalty kill was ranked 25th.

    It would be a game of PK supremacy with Boston killing all four Canadiens’ man-advantage opportunities and Montreal killing all but the last of the Bruins’ six. No power-play goals in those first five chances — including a 5-on-3 with five minutes left in second period — and shots at 19-7 that period. Yet another two chances went for naught early in the third.

    “It was frustrating with the power play,” Cassidy said about lost opportunities, “because we had a lot of them, and tonight’s that night we needed it. So, it took a while but we got it done.”

    The Bruins got there with four minutes left on their last power play. Nicolas Deslauriers, playing without a stick for the better part of a minute, gave Boston numerous chances for the equalizer in a de-facto 5-on-3. Jake DeBrusk finally mastered Niemi when he tipped Nick Holden shot to twine with Torey Krug also assisting at 17:15.

    “Well, a guy lost a stick,” Krug said. “I think that’s a key part of it.”

    “We’ll take whatever little break we can get,” David Backes followed about the rabbit’s foot.

    “It’s like he has that joystick back there,” Cassidy said about Holden’s work on the PP and the winning goal. “He’s able to maneuver it around so it finds its way through. It’s knuckling, it’s dipping. He had a couple of heavy ones, but he’s just got a good mindset and finds his lane early and understands that when it’s on his stick, when he’s going to shoot,”

    Khudobin followed with the save of the game with a minute to go on a Gallagher 2-on-1. Shots on net favored Boston 46-28 after regulation.

    Second OT of the week again favors B’s

    “It’s a 1-1 game going to overtime and the other goalie was playing really well,” Khudobin said after. “I was just hoping that we were going to score that’s all.”

    The Canadiens went public skating in OT and Boston controlled the extra session for all 2:06 with a 4-0 shot advantage until Brad Marchand played whirling dervish, circling Niemi before pushing his 25th home to give Boston a 2-1 win and take the No. 1 star of the game.

    “That goal, that’s all-world,” Cassidy said about Marchand’s game-winner. “To have it that long and then be able to finish, hell of a play.”

    “Got a little lucky,” Marchand, the game’s No. 1 star said about his game-winner. “I think they were a little tired, they were definitely a little bit, nice to get the win though.”

    Crunch time in March

    “You’re going to have those runs and you want to keep them as long as you can like we did,” Miller said about the stretch run. “But there’s going to be injuries, there’s going to be the trade deadline, there’s going to be adversity and I’m glad we’re facing a little bit, to be honest with you, because it makes us a better team in the long run.”

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