MONTREAL – Tim Thomas remembers all too well how his last shootout in Montreal ended, and this time the Boston Bruins netminder made sure history didn’t repeat itself.
Blake Wheeler scored while Thomas stopped all three shots in the shootout as the streaking Bruins earned a 3-2 victory Saturday night to spoil Patrick Roy night for the Montreal Canadiens and a sellout crowd of 21,273 at the Bell Centre.
Thomas stopped Habs captain Saku Koivu on the final shot of the shootout to preserve the victory, while Koivu was the one who scored the winner in a 3-2 Montreal shootout win March 22.
“To come in here and get a win feels really good, especially in a shootout,” Thomas said. “I’ve seen Saku score on that last shot and him being the one walking off the ice with his arms raised and all happy. I was happy to be the one with my arms raised and all happy.”
Milan Lucic – who won a fight with Mike Komisarek on Nov. 13 that left the Canadiens defenceman with a suspected shoulder injury that will cost him at least another month – was a target of the crowd and Habs enforcer Georges Laraque all night.
“I told him that he’s 220 pounds, he’s a big guy,” Laraque said. “I tried everything.”
But rather than fight the Canadiens tough guy, Lucic scored his sixth goal of the season while Matt Hunwick added another as the Bruins (14-3-4) reeled off their fourth straight win and ninth in their last 10 games (9-0-1).
“It’s fun if they’re on you like that or they’re not on you like that, this is a fun building to play in,” said Lucic, who didn’t want to comment on Laraque. “Our mindset is that we’re going to take one game at a time, not looking too far ahead and not dwelling on what we did in the past. That mindset has helped us thus far.”
It was the Bruins second straight win over the Canadiens after a 6-1 pounding in Boston ended a run of 12 straight regular-season losses against their Original Six rivals.
Andrei Kostitsyn and Tom Kostopoulos scored for the Canadiens (11-5-3), who have only three wins in nine games.
Montreal has scored only 17 goals in that span.
“It’s just a matter of time,” Habs coach Guy Carbonneau said. “We have too much talent to just keep scoring one goal or two goals a game.”
Wheeler scored as the first shooter of the shootout when he appeared to lose the puck while trying to deke Carey Price and it slid in.
“He kind of did the no-move move,” Price said. “He lost the puck and psyched me out and himself out.”
Thomas then stopped Alex Kovalev, Andrei Markov and Koivu to seal the victory.
On a night the Canadiens honoured Roy by retiring his No. 33 jersey, both Thomas and Price were excellent in goal. Thomas stopped 33 shots, including 17 in the third as Boston was outshot 18-5, while Price made 25 saves for Montreal.
Carbonneau put Laraque on the ice against Lucic four times in the first period, and Laraque followed him around the entire shift each time trying to goad him into a fight, but Lucic would not bite.
His goal in the second was one of the few times up to that point in the game Lucic was not on the ice with Laraque, which may be why Carbonneau felt his tactics were effective.
“I think it had an effect on Lucic, I don’t think he was as involved as he was in Boston,” Carbonneau said. “There’s more games to come, we’ll see how he keeps playing. But he was a lot quieter tonight than he was in Boston.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien was not particularly impressed with what Carbonneau was trying to accomplish.
“I bet you Milan never thought he was that good that he’d have a shadow on him,” he said. “We’ve got a good hockey player, he’s 20 years old, a first line player, it’s as simple as that. Do you think we’re going to send him against probably the toughest guy in the league? I know Georges Laraque was doing that because he was told to. Georges is not that type of guy.”
With the game tied 1-1 in the third, Kovalev had a great chance to put Montreal ahead early in the period when he was sent in alone on Thomas by Tomas Plekanec, but he lost the puck as he deked to his backhand.
Kovalev then saw a deflection and a rebound stopped by Thomas, and as the Bruins brought the puck up ice David Krejci found Hunwick for a one-timer in the slot at 9:41 for the defenceman’s second of the year and a 2-1 Boston lead.
But Kostopoulos evened things up with only 3:05 to play in regulation when he tipped a Patrice Brisebois point shot just under the crossbar for his second goal of the season.
While the subplot involving Laraque and Lucic dominated a scoreless first, the Canadiens grabbed the lead early in the second.
Markov made a great play to keep the puck in the Boston zone and the puck eventually made it to Josh Gorges at the point, whose shot was blocked in front but buried by Kostitsyn at 1:31 for his third of the year.
Lucic tied it at 11:11 when Kessel danced around Ryan O’Byrne and fed him alone in front for his sixth of the season.
The Bruins appeared to have a go-ahead goal at 18:07 of the second when Petteri Nokelainen put one in off a scramble, but referee Rob Martell waved it off because he ruled that Kessel fed him with a hand pass.
NOTES: Canadiens defenceman Roman Hamrlik left the game late in the third period after taking a puck near the face and did not return. Komisarek missed his fifth game since suffering the injury. Habs winger Guillaume Latendresse, who missed practice Friday with an undisclosed ailment, did not dress, while Mathieu Dandenault was a healthy scratch. Bruins winger Marco Sturm missed his third game with an upper-body injury, while recent call-up Matt Lashoff was a healthy scratch. The Canadiens power play – tops in the league the past two seasons – went 0-for-4, and has now scored only twice in its last 31 chances.