The Bear Cave

August 27, 2009 7:59 AM

Top Game #5: Bruins Complete Season Series with Overtime Win

The difference that one year makes can be mind-boggling at times. The 2007-08 version of the Boston Bruins had a successful season for the most part, posting a 41-22-11 mark against 23 of their 24 opponents. Unfortunately, that final opponent was the one that caused the most trouble, as the Montreal Canadiens only allowed Boston one point during their eight-game season series, before eliminating the Bruins from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in round one.

The 2008-09 season series began with yet another Montreal victory, as the Canadiens were able to squeak out a shootout win during Boston's first road trip of the regular season. However, that would be the Habs' last laugh of the year, as the Bruins completely turned the tables around with five straight regular season wins and four playoff wins for a perfect 9-0 run against their biggest rivals.

As the calendar turned to April, it was becoming very apparent that the Boston Bruins would be entering the playoffs as the top seed in the Eastern Conference. In fact, they clinched that spot on April 4th with a 1-0 win over the New York Rangers that was featured as the sixth game on our countdown. At that point, the Montreal Canadiens had a few different options, ranging as high as seventh or as low as tenth. Because of the historic rivalry, it was pretty clear that the two cities would be in favor of another postseason series if Montreal could finish in eighth place.

Although the Bruins had known where they were going to finish in the conference, that potential playoff series gave them all of the motivation that they needed for the sixth and final head-to-head meeting with the Canadiens. For Boston, this was a game that allowed for one final message to be sent before postseason play. For the fifth game on our countdown, we head to the TD Banknorth Garden for the April 9th tilt between the Black and Gold and the Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge.

The first part of this contest was pretty much business like usual for two teams who don't typically appear on each others' Christmas lists. Both squads got a number of solid hits in, while players exchanged potential dinner plans for later in the evening. However, the energy got cranked up even more in the latter part of the opening stanza. Patrice Bergeron picked up a loose puck in center ice, and skated in on the right side of the offensive zone. As he crossed the blueline, Bergeron dropped a pass off for Recchi, starting a gorgeous display of puck movement. Recchi passed over to Matt Hunwick, who slid a pass through the crease to Bergeron for the game's first goal. After scoring, Bergeron got shoved into the net by Josh Gorges, drawing a response from the home team.

As the seconds ticked away in the first period, emotions got high again. Mike Komisarek put a hit on David Krejci along the boards, ultimately setting off Zdeno Chara and the rest of his Boston teammates. Multiple players from each side got involved, but the only two that received penalties were Komisarek and Chara. Komisarek picked up two minutes, while Chara got four, as he definitely got the upper hand on his turtling opponent. Unfortunately, that extra minor resulted in a power play goal for the Canadiens in the early stages of period two. Mathieu Dandenault stole the puck in the neutral zone, before handing off for Alex Kovalev on the right side. Kovalev held onto the puck, got Shane Hnidy to commit down, and proceeded to lift a shot into the top part of the net.

The tie lasted for less than two minutes, as the Bruins regained the lead. Tim Thomas stopped a close opportunity by Glen Metropolit, knocking the rebound into the slot. Although Mark Stuart fanned on his clearing attempt, Phil Kessel was there to help out. Kessel grabbed the loose puck, and raced up the ice into the offensive zone. Using Roman Hamrlik as a screen, Boston's leading goal scorer quickly cut to the left, beating a surprised Carey Price high to the stick side.

More physical play was in store shortly after the goal. Ryan O'Byrne tried to engage Shawn Thornton in a fight, but ended up with 12 more penalty minutes instead. That gave the Bruins a chance to double their lead on the power play. Boston set up the play at the top of the offensive zone, with Zdeno Chara coming up empty on two straight one-timers. However, the second missed attempt went to Patrice Bergeron, who thought that the third time might just be the charm. Sure enough, Mark Recchi got his stick on Chara's third one-timer, sending it through Price and in.

A little less than three minutes later, the momentum pendulum began to swing in Montreal's favor. With Byron Bitz off for goaltender interference, the Canadiens' dangerous power play went to work. Yannick Weber sent the puck around the boards to Matt D'Agostini on the right side. D'Agostini tapped the puck over to Andrei Kostistyn, before setting up in the slot for a return feed. Working as a unit, the pass to Kostitsyn also allowed Tomas Plekanec to set up shop in front of the crease. Once D'Agostini got the return feed from Kostitsyn, he used Plekanec's screen to put a wrist shot past Thomas on his glove side.

Once again, rough stuff followed a goal. Milan Lucic got hit hard from behind by Mike Komisarek, obviously drawing a reaction. After Shawn Thornton put his glove into Komisarek's face, Lucic jumped the Montreal blueliner from behind. Although Lucic certainly deserved an extra minor for the scuffle, it was a bit surprising to see that Komisarek only got a penalty for interference on the hit. Thornton also picked up a minor, giving the Canadiens another chance with the man advantage. Saku Koivu got knocked down in the slot, but still managed to force a pass back to Roman Hamrlik at the left point. Hamrlik sent a pass across the blueline, setting up Mathieu Schneider for a one-timer from the right side. Schneider went against the grain, sneaking his shot inside of the left post along the ice.

Before the period came to an end, the Canadiens took their first lead of the night. Aaron Ward was unable to keep the puck in at the right point for Boston, allowing Matt D'Agostini to come in and poke it free. With Ward caught behind, D'Agostini rushed up the left side of the ice and into the offensive zone. Although he had a teammate with him, the Montreal forward kept the puck to himself, beating Thomas low to the stick side. All of a sudden, the visitors had a one-goal lead heading into the dressing rooms after a four-goal outburst.

In the third period, justice was served for the Bruins, who knotted the game with a power play marker of their own. Mathieu Dandenault was the guilty party on the play, as he sent the puck into the seats, earning a trip to the sin bin for delay of game. After a quick exchange with Dennis Wideman at the point, Marc Savard gathered in his return pass and fired a slap shot on goal. Price made the save, but left a rebound in the slot. Although Price also stopped Mark Recchi's rebound attempt, he was unable to come up with an answer for Zdeno Chara. Chara used his backhand to lift a shot over the fallen goaltender.

With one minute remaining in regulation, Boston got a bit of a scare, as Steve Montador got sent off for holding Glen Metropolit. Luckily, the penalty killers did their job, sending the contest into overtime tied at four. When Montador's penalty expired, it was his turn to produce a scare, as he came out of the box with the puck on his stick and a clear path to the net. Unfortunately, Montador put his wrist shot high, keeping the game going.

At the 2:42 mark of the extra session, a former Canadien sent the fans home happy. Maxim Lapierre attempted to start a breakout for the visitors, skating up the left side of the ice. He was met by Patrice Bergeron, who made solid contact, interrupting Lapierre's stride. Bergeron carried the puck deep into the offensive zone, before dishing across the crease to Mark Recchi. All Recchi had to do was redirect the pass into the left side of the cage, and the Bruins were able to put the exclamation point on a 5-0-1 season series against Montreal.

Tim Thomas picked up the victory in goal for Boston, making 35 saves on 39 shots. Carey Price was the losing netminder for the Canadiens, as he allowed five goals on 33 shots.

Despite the fact that this game didn't have any impact on the Bruins' position in the standings, it was a classic battle between two historic rivals. Both teams recorded over 30 shots on goal, nine pucks found the back of the net, gloves were dropped, plenty of hits were dished out, and the intensity inside of the TD Banknorth Garden gave off the feeling of a playoff game. Little did those fans know that Boston and Montreal would end up returning to that same ice surface seven days later to begin a best-of-seven series.

In game number four on the countdown, two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference end up needing extra time to decide a winner.

2008-09 Boston Bruins Top Ten Games:
5. April 9th- Montreal 4 @ BRUINS 5 (OT)
6. April 4th- New York R. 0 @ BRUINS 1
7. March 7th- Chicago 3 @ BRUINS 5
8. February 1st- BRUINS 3 @ Montreal 1
9. November 12th- BRUINS 2 @ Chicago 1 (SO)
10A. October 27th- BRUINS 1 @ Edmonton 0 (OT)
10B. October 28th- BRUINS 1 @ Vancouver 0 

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