MONTREAL – Max Pacioretty scored a game-winning goal, but wasn’t exactly in the mood to celebrate.
The Montreal winger sent Boston defenceman Johnny Boychuk to hospital with a check into the boards in the first period and then got the go-ahead goal in the second frame of the Canadiens 2-1 victory over the arch-rival Bruins on Thursday night.
It was Pacioretty’s ninth goal in the last nine games, and helped stretch Montreal’s unbeaten run to nine games (8-0-1). It also put Montreal (18-9-3) into first place in the Atlantic Division, a point ahead of Boston (18-8-2), which has two games in hand.
But Pacioretty wasn’t smiling.
“It wasn’t really a strong game for me,” the big left-winger said. “I got the life sucked out of me when that injury happened. I just felt awful.”
Only 4:28 into the teams’ first meeting of the season, Pacioretty checked Boychuk into the end boards in the Montreal zone. The Bruins’ defenceman went face first into the top of the boards and fell to the ice.
He was on his knees, taking heavy breaths, for several minutes before trainers and medical staff got him onto a stretcher and off the ice.
After the game, coach Claude Julien said Boychuk was released from hospital and would travel with the team back to Boston. He had no details about the injury, which Bruins players said appeared to be a back problem.
The hit wasn’t hard, but it was somewhat from behind. Pacioretty was given two minutes for boarding, which both teams felt was the right call.
“I felt terrible about it because I didn’t really know what happened,” said Pacioretty. “I was just battling for the puck. I’ve been in that situation before. I had no intent to injury anybody.”
The Bruins seemed to agree, as no one rushed in seeking vengeance as often happens when a player is hurt. It quieted the Bell Centre crowd and took some steam out of the play on the ice for the rest of the period, however.
“I think they gave me the benefit of the doubt,” said Pacioretty.
And the Canadiens, outshot 10-3 in the opening frame and down 1-0 on a goal by Gregory Campbell, jumped on Boston in the second with an 18-7 shot advantage and goals from Tomas Plekanec and Pacioretty.
The Bruins stormed back in the third, but couldn’t beat Carey Price, who made 32 saves for the night. Montreal shot 27 times on Tuukka Rask.
Boston had not played since Saturday, while Montreal was coming off a 4-3 shootout win Wednesday night in New Jersey. The Canadiens were in their third game in four nights and their sixth in nine nights.
They should have been easy pickings for the Bruins.
“The second period was atrocious,” Julien said. “It was unacceptable.
“There are no excuses about playing with five defencemen. We have to look in the mirror.”
Boston got the first goal at the 17:35 mark. Andrei Markov cleared the puck to the Boston blue-line, where Dennis Seidenberg kicked it forward, sending Milan Lucic in on a two-on-one break. The big winger slipped a pass to Campbell for a shot into an open side.
Plekanec tied it 9:16 into the second when he beat Rask from a tight angle with a medium speed wrist shot.
A burst of speed from Brendan Gallagher caused confusion in the Boston defence and Pacioretty backhanded a Raphael Diaz rebound in from the slot at 17:42. Pacioretty’s last nine goals have all come in five games on home ice.
“The first one was off to the side of the net and I gave (Plekanec) too much net to shoot at,” said Rask. “The second was a high rebound and he scored.
“But if you look at how we played in the second period, you can’t be happy with that.”
Montreal has now beaten Boston four straight times dating to last season.
“I’m proud of my players,” said Montreal coach Michel Therrien, whose team plays again Saturday night at home against Buffalo. “Even if we had a slow start, we adjusted well in the second period.
“My players emptied the tank and they were rewarded.”
The teams meet again Jan. 30 in Boston.
Notes: Montreal dressed Douglas Murray and George Parros and sat out Francis Bouillon and Ryan White, who both played Wednesday in New Jersey. Rene Bourque remains sidelined with an upper-body injury. . . Parros got his first shot on goal in seven games as a Canadien. . . Adam McQuaid (lower body) was out for Boston, while Jordan Caron and Kevan Miller were healthy scratches. . . As in other NHL rinks, a moment’s silence was held for Nelson Mandela.