The Boston Bruins embarked on a unique schedule in the final five games of their 2021-22 regular season.
They received a spark from a trio of reinforcements in David Pastrnak, Linus Ullmark and Hampus Lindholm during Saturday’s 3-1 win over the New York Rangers. But they kept the three recent returnees in Boston for Sunday’s road tilt against the rival Canadiens.
Pastrnak discussed the intriguing dynamic of facing playoff-bound teams and the league’s bottom-feeders late in the year in a foreshadowing of sorts.
“It’s way better to play these kind of teams than to play against guys who are out of the playoffs, who are playing free and not scared to make a mistake,” Pastrnak said. “So sometimes it’s tougher to play those guys than the guys who are actually in the playoffs and getting ready for playoff hockey. I think I like it more when you play [playoff] teams. It’s a good team that we beat today.”
Well, the Bruins didn’t have their sharpest of games Sunday. But, without Pastrnak, Lindholm and Ullmark, they managed to earn the season sweep of the Canadiens following their 5-3 triumph on an emotional night at the Bell Centre.
A pair of two-goal outings from Patrice Bergeron and Erik Haula set the offensive tone. But the Habs battled back in the third period, taking advantage of a Marc McLaughlin delay of game penalty and some laxxed defensive coverage to cut Boston’s lead to 4-3 on respective tallies from Mike Hoffman and Nick Suzuki.
The Bruins persevered and sealed the win on Bergeron’s empty-netter. Here’s what we learned on a night when the Habs paid tribute to the late, great Guy Lafleur.
Bruins soak in the touching pregame ceremony for Lafleur
Sunday marked the Canadiens’ first game since Lafleur’s passing. The organization provided an appropriate ceremony fit for an icon in typical Montreal fashion.
The Bruins and Habs trotted out to the ice shortly after 7 p.m to watch the tribute video of Lafleur’s legendary moments both on and off the ice. Afterward, the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge supporters rose to their feet for a standing ovation spanning north of 10 minutes.
“I thought the Montreal organization did a great job with it,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said via Zoom. “Obviously, Guy is a legend here. And the fans were awesome. It went on and on, and rightfully so. It was nice to be a part of it.”
Many of the players on this night never saw Lafleur suit up in a game, including Jeremy Swayman. One of Lafleur’s quotes, in particular, resonated with the young Boston netminder.
“He had a quote in his video that said ‘hockey is not a job, it’s a game”… that stuck with me,” Swayman said. “It made the game fun. I’ve known that. But to hear one of the greats say that and just understand it is a game and we all love playing it, it hit home for me.”
The ceremony hit home for Bruins fans too. Even with all the intense moments of the rivalry with the Habs of the 1970s, New Englanders always had a fond respect for the classy Lafleur and his immense talent. A remarkable development given Lafleur’s knack for delivering clutch season-ending goals against the Bruins, including his tying and overtime markers in Game 7 of the 1979 Stanley Cup Semifinals shortly after the Don Cherry-led squad committed a too many men infraction at the old Montreal Forum.
Ironically, the Bruins nearly committed a costly too many men penalty in the third period of a 4-3 game. But they escaped a potentially haunting moment before securing their 103rd point of the season.
“Wouldn’t that have been something, huh?” Cassidy joked. “The Ghost of Guy getting us.”
The Bruins escaped the Ghost of Guy and the blooper reels en route to two late-season points.
Haula nearly channeled Marchand on his penalty shot marker
Boston’s second-line center has provided dazzling moments ever since his promotion to skate with Pastrnak and Taylor Hall. He continued his stellar stretch since January with Sunday’s pair of tallies.
Yet, Haula nearly became the butt end of the joke after overskating the puck on his penalty shot attempt. But he never touched the puck, thus getting a redo. Haula promptly made the most of his second chance, firing off a slick wrister past Habs goalie Sam Montembault to give the Bruins a 2-0 cushion.
“Honestly, I was so flustered that I didn’t know what was going on. It was so loud that I didn’t know if the refs blew [the whistle] or not,” Haula said of his penalty shot. “I just grabbed the puck and said, ‘I guess I’ll take it down.’ And thank god I scored, so we could move on quicker.”
Brad Marchand almost developed deja vu watching Haula’s penalty shot. The talented winger provided endless amounts of laughter after overskating and whiffing on the puck in the final shootout attempt of a Bruins loss to the Flyers in Jan. 2020.
But Haula redeemed himself and got to share a few chuckles with his teammates.
“He was hoping I touched it because he had done it before and wasn’t going to be alone,” Haula said of Marchand’s reaction. “I didn’t and ended up scoring. There were a lot of laughs.”
A slumping Marchand had a few smiles. So too did his longtime partner in crime.
Bergeron decides to suit up for a late-season back-to-back
The Bruins inched closer to a first-round matchup with the top team in the Metropolitan Division following Sunday’s outing. Entering the playoffs with a healthy roster remains their top priority over potential seeding ramifications during their final week of the regular season.
Cassidy and the coaching staff asked Boston’s captain how he wanted to approach the latest back-to-back. Bergeron didn’t hesitate with his response, opting to suit up for another Bruins-Habs showdown in his hometown province of Quebec.
“It’s a long year when you get to be that age. It’s Game 79. We talked to him and asked, ‘would you like a night off?'” Cassidy said. “We have five games in seven days — it’s crazy, our finish. But he wanted to play. He’s obviously in front of his parents. And good for him. I’m glad he decided to.”
The future Hall of Famer bookended Boston’s win with the game’s first goal — set up by Marchand’s relentless work ethic behind the net — and the empty-net marker in the closing seconds.
Certainly, the Bruins can’t afford to lose Bergeron for any amount of time in the postseason. But on such an emotional night, they were more than happy to have his services.
More importantly, even with a scary moment involving Hall in the second period, the Bruins exited Montreal with a clean bill of health.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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