Late Patrice Bergeron goal lifts Bruins over Habs, 4-2

The Montreal Canadiens, injury-riddled and undermanned as they may be, seemed poised to hand the Bruins a little comeuppance on their historic journey.

The Habs had beaten Toronto, Winnipeg and the Rangers over the last couple of weeks and, with goalie Sam Montembeault (25 saves) playing extremely well, they gave the B’s all they could handle for much of the night Tuesday at the Bell Centre.

But in the end, even the B’s age-old tormentors could not derail them. Led by veteran leaders Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, the B’s scored three third-period goals to knock off the Habs, 4-2, and push their record to 38-5-4. They became the fastest team to 80 points in NHL history. The B’s are now a league-leading plus-44 in the third period.

The B’s are running away from the rest of the league and the Habs are still in rebuild mode, but these meetings — the first one of the season — always have a buzz about them.

“It was a classic rivalry game,” coach Jim Montgomery, a Montreal native, told NESN. “I thought the Canadiens played hard and we had to fight for every inch. But typical Boston Bruins. The spoked B found a way.”

As they’ve done so often, the B’s had to dig deep in the third period to secure the victory – and no one dup deeper than their captain. Bergeron had a rare off night in the faceoff circle, winning just 10-of-23 faceoffs. He even went 0-for-8 in the first period.

But with game deadlocked at 2-2 in the waning minutes, Bergeron yanked an offensive draw back to David Pastrnak and he gathered the rebound that deflected off Brad Marchand and buried it past  Montembeault with 2:55 left in regulation. It held up as the game-winner.

“I think it was our depth,” Bergeron told NESN regarding their third-period dominance on Tuesday. “Every line was going over the boards and we were playing simpler hockey. I think in the first period we were forcing plays. Sometimes it’s pretty but on the road especially you want to keep things simple and bring it on net. Tonight, once we started doing that, we got some good looks. (Montembeault) made some good saves, he kept them in the game many times, but we found a way.”

Pastrnak (37th goal, 1-3-4 on the night) then finished off the Habs with an empty netter.

The teams had traded goals earlier in the period.

The B’s took their first lead of the game at 9:46 of the third period when Krejci (12) deflected home Pastrnak’s long-distance shot into traffic to give the B’s a 2-1 advantage.

Indicative of how the Habs battled, the B’s could not hold that advantage.

Montreal evened it up at 11:31 after Alex Belzile dug out a rebound at the top of the crease and fed it over to Kirby Dach, who was able to beat a helpless Jeremy Swayman for his second goal of the game.

But Swayman (20 saves) would not be beaten again and, after Bergeron recaptured the lead, he improved his record to 6-0-2 in his last eight games with a .938 save percentage. The 24-year-old Alaskan got in the spirit of things.

“It’s an historic rivalry and I absolutely love being a part of this,” said Swayman. “It goes back to the guys who wore the jersey before us, so we wanted to make our alumni happy and continue our tradition of winning against these guys … we knew it was going to be a tough game. It’s a great building to play and it was fun to get the two points.”

After a scoreless first period – thanks to Montembeault, primarily – the Habs broke the ice on a second-period power play.

With Derek Forbort in the box for interference, Mike Hoffman sent a puck through the slot intended for a Evgeni Dadonov deflection but it went straight through to Dach on the left wing and he was able to beat Swayman at 9:11.

But the B’s evened it up on their next power play from a very welcome source. Taylor Hall entered the game with a 16-game goal-less streak dating back to Dec. 17 and his frustrations were showing in his game at times. But after Montembeault made a save on a Bergeron re-direct off a Pastrnak pass, the rebound sat on the doorstep for Hall to tap home at 14:12, his 14th of the season.

It remained deadlocked into the second intermission, despite the B’s outchancing the Habs 27-10 through 40 minutes. But like so many goalies before him, Montembeault could not hold the B’s at bay forever.