BOSTON (CBS) — Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk took a swing with his right fist at P. K. Subban late in the second period Monday and the Montreal Canadiens defenseman ducked it like he was an actor in an old Western.
Subban threw his arms up to pronounce his innocence the way the best wrestling heels do and then waited for the referee to look away before delivering a retaliatory blow to Boychuk. When the dust settled, Boychuk landed in the penalty box, the last in a long line of Bruins that let the Canadiens goad them into undisciplined play. Boston had to kill off 44 seconds of a 5-on-3.
The Bruins killed off that disadvantage and then took advantage of four consecutive penalties against the Canadiens to eventually tie the game 1-1, but saw their 12-game winning streak snapped in a shootout by forward Alex Galchenyuk and goaltender Peter Budaj at TD Garden.
For the game, the Canadiens were 1-for-6 on the power play. The Bruins knew that discipline cost them a golden opportunity to earn a season-series split with Montreal.
“Well, yeah. I mean especially me, I’m usually better than that and I need to be better than that,” Boychuk said. “Obviously it wouldn’t happen again. And just grateful that they didn’t score on the 5-on-3. The killers did a great job.”
Boston gained a point in the standings even though they came up two shy of tying the franchise record for consecutive victories. And other than some bragging rights on their archrivals from Quebec, the Bruins lost little else because they’re ensconced 17 points ahead for first place in the Atlantic Division and seven points up for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
With the playoffs now just a few weeks and 10 games away, we know that when the Bruins start playing games that mean something again they’ll be able to keep their cool. This season they’ve struggled at times and are 15th in the league in times shorthanded. But they’ve come a long way from the days of Milan Lucic skated with his stick up into Maxim Lapierre’s face and earning a playoff suspension. The Bruins and Canadiens have been going at it for 90 years and the script has always been the same. It took Lucic, Brad Marchand and the rest of the core of this current Bruins group to learn their lesson and not let any non-hockey antics jeopardize the team’s pursuit of its goals.
But when they’re basically playing a glorified exhibition game and just tuning up for the postseason, maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world if Boychuk takes a swipe at Subban or Marchand gets his stick up into Subban’s face or Carl Soderberg makes contact with Budaj. Oftentimes pain is a great way to discourage someone from teasing you. Should the Bruins and Canadiens meet in the playoffs, Montreal would undoubtedly stick to its dastardly tactics. Recent history, however, has proven the Bruins are smarter now when there’s a lot on the line. There is no doubt in my mind that if the Bruins’ lead on the Canadiens was seven points and not 17, there would’ve been less retaliation penalties and more smirks and headshakes by the Bruins as they skated away from the taunts.
“But after we stayed out of the box, I think we played much better hockey and we had a lot of opportunities, some really good ones their goalie made some good saves on,” Marchand said. “It’s an emotional game any time we play them. They know that and they poke at us a bit and try to get us to take penalties and push them back. It worked a little bit tonight, so we’ve got to make sure that we have a little more discipline next time.”
The only way Boston and Montreal will meet again this season will be through a playoff matchup. The Bruins’ tolerance for the Canadiens will be greater because the stakes will be higher, you can count on that as sure as you can count on Rene Rancourt belting out two anthems at the Garden.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.
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