MONTREAL — Even after 19 seasons in the National Hockey League, scoring a game-winning goal at the Bell Centre is still special for Patrice Bergeron.
“I grew up a Nordiques fan coming from Quebec City but I do understand and recognize the tradition, everything has been through, and all the legends that have been wearing that jersey,” Bergeron said.
“For me, it's a lot of pride to play for the Bruins with that same kind of tradition and legends of the game and be a part of it. So I always try to enjoy and make the most of it.”
For Jeremy Swayman, who made 19 saves in Boston’s sixth straight win, it was “a special day.” The netminder added that he got emotional during the pre-game introduction when the Canadiens entered the ice to Coldplay’s Fix You.
“It's just something special and when you hear that and how it's been happening for a while,” Swayman said. “Literally tears almost to my eyes and that's what I love about this game.
“Being part of the Original Six rivalry like that. You know, it's more than just the game itself. So that was pretty emotional. But other than that I was just focused on the game.”
Taylor Hall and David Krejci also scored for Boston (38-5-4) in the first game between the storied rivals since April 24, 2022. David Pastrnak scored an empty-netter in the final minute and also collected three assists.
With the win, the Bruins become the first team to reach 80 points and the fastest team in history to reach the mark, in only 47 games. The Canadiens and Flyers held the joint record with 49 games.
“A lot of it is confidence. We keep winning, right?” said Pastrnak about the feat. “But at the same time, we are all going every single night. All four lines are there for each other and they are all playing together and we are a tight group, so that's probably the big one.”
“I'm proud of the resilience every night to find ways to win games,” Bergeron added. “Ultimately, that's the business we're in. We try to win hockey games and sometimes you don't necessarily ask how.”
“I’m proud of the guys tonight,” said Habs coach Martin St. Louis. “We fought, we played a good game. They’re tough to play against but we were there, we were engaged. We didn’t get the result but you need to be careful with how you measure success.”
Samuel Montembeault made 25 saves and allowed three goals. Despite the loss, the netminder continued on an impressive stretch, playing eight straight games and claiming wins against the Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets.
“I feel confident, obviously playing a lot of games. I did what I had to do to get ready,” Montembeault said. “But we did a really good job. The last few games, the guys really helped me, they blocked a lot of shots again tonight. So when everybody's working like that that’s going to make my job a lot easier.”
The Canadiens opened the scoring on the power play at 9:11 of the second period. Dach hopped on a shot that deflected in front of the net and beat Swayman with a wrister.
Boston scored on a power-play goal of their own at 14:12. Montembeault saved a shot deflected off of David Savard but Hall pounced on the rebound to tie the game 1-1.
The Bruins took their first lead of the game midway through the final frame when Kreijci deflected Pavel Zacha’s shot from the point.
Montreal battled back to tie the game at 11:31 of the third. Swayman seemed to have saved Justin Barron’s shot from the point but Alex Belzile freed the puck loose and Dach bagged a career-high 10th goal of the season.
Bergeron gave Boston the win with 2:55 remaining in the game. Following a faceoff in the offensive zone, the Bruins captain hopped on a loose puck in the slot and beat Montembeault with a wrist shot.
Pastrnak sealed Boston’s 38th win of the season with an empty-netter.
HABS EUROPE GAME?
In a visit to the Bell Centre, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman expressed interest in the Montreal Canadiens playing a game in Europe.
“There's a real appetite to take the Montreal Canadiens abroad,” Bettman said. “But it's got to be the right circumstances, the right market and the cost element is something we have to deal with but it's something that I believe is on the horizon.
“I'd very much like to take the Canadiens to Europe.”
Bettman added that Canadiens owner Goeff Molson is co-chairman of the league’s international committee.
The NHL’s 2022 Global Series saw games played in Germany, Finland, Switzerland and Czechia at the start of the 2022-23 season.
The Canadiens will cap off a five-game home stand on Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings.
The Bruins continue their road trip with a visit to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2023.
Tristan D'Amours, The Canadian Press