As the hockey Gods would have it, it was only fitting that the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens squared off in the first game at the Bell Centre in Montreal since hall of famer, Montreal Canadiens legend and an icon in the province of Quebec, Guy Lafleur passed away Friday from cancer at the age of 70.
After a moving and one for the ages pregame ceremony for Lafleur, the Boston Bruins beat the Canadiens 5-3 with two goals from Quebec native and Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron and from winger Erik Haula, who scored on a penalty shot in the first period. Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy scored what proved to be the game-winner for the Bruins 18:09 into the second period. Brad Marchand had two assists for the Bruins but his goalless streak reached 11 games.
Josh Anderson, Mike Hoffman and Nick Suzuki scored for the Canadiens and Jeff Petry had two assists.
Boston Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman made 23 saves and Canadiens goalie Samuel Montembeault stopped 37 of the 41 shots he faced.
With the win Sunday, the Bruins pulled ahead of the Washington Capitals by three points for the top Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference but with the Tampa Bay Lightning beating the Florida Panthers, they remained three points back of the Bolts for third place in the Atlantic Division.
The Bruins host the recently crowned Atlantic Division Champions, Florida Panthers on Tuesday.
GOLD STAR: Montreal Canadiens fans may not want to read this but if there was one player on the ice for this game that was meant to shine – in this moment, with one of the greatest French Canadian hockey players ever being honored pre-game – it was Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron, 36, born on July 24, 1985 just outside of Quebec City in L’Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec may not have been alive for the glory days of Lafleur’s career with the Canadiens in the 1970’s but he definitely heard about them as he pointed out before the game Sunday morning:
“He finished his career in Quebec with the Nordiques and that’s kind of what I remember,” Bergeron admitted. “I was too young to remember his Montreal days. But I do remember his last game in the NHL in Quebec and the ceremony in Quebec. It’s vague in my memories but I still do remember it. He was my Dad’s favorite player growing up. So I heard a lot about him when I was coming up and playing hockey and some of the stories, some of the things he was able to do during his career.
He was an icon and someone that was, whether you were a Nordiques fan or a Montreal Canadiens’ fan, it didn’t matter. He was an icon. He was someone who was extremely respected throughout the province and I think in Canada as well, so it didn’t matter that he was on the other side of the rivalry.”
So what did Bergeron – who according to Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy declined a night off to play and be there for this moment – do?
#NHLBruins head coach Bruce Cassidy just told media that they offered captain Patrice Bergeron the night off but he wanted to play for #GuyLafleur and having his family there.#GoHabsGo #Rivalry@BOSHockeyNow @MTLhockeynow
— MurphysLaw74 (@MurphysLaw74) April 25, 2022
He opened the scoring at 15:03 of the first period and sealed the deal with an empty-netter with seven seconds left in the game. With those two goals, Bergeron pulled into fourth in goals cored for the Bruins with 396 lamplighters behind Rick Middleton (402), Phil Esposito (459), and Johnny Bucyk (545).
Patrice Bergeron opens the scoring for Boston.
Good effort from Brad Marchand to set up that chance for Boston.
1-0 Bruins. pic.twitter.com/TIXGU3SEI4
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) April 25, 2022
BLACK EYE: If you’re the Montreal Canadiens players after that pre-game ceremony how do you not come out of the gate like a bat out of hell? In my BHN Preview for this game I took the Canadiens in the first period for the fact that I knew how amazing and emotional the Lafleur tribute would be and as expected it was. I was ready to run through a wall but apparently the Habs really want Shane Wright and the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft July 7-8 in Montreal. Ouch!
TURNING POINT: If not for so many monster seasons from defensemen this season, Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy would easily be a top 3 Norris Trophy candidate (he has my vote as three by the way), but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve that mention. While the Canadiens made a late rally to pull to 4-3 Bruins, McAvoy’s goal at 18:09 of the second period of the second period proved to be insurmountable. McAvoy now has 10 goals and a team-leading 45 assists. He led all skaters with 22:06 TOI and finished second overall behind Canadiens center 24:04. He also had four shots, five hits and four blocked shots.
Charlie McAvoy. This kid’s fucking jacked. Thick, dense, built whatever you wanna call him he's got it. Legs thicker than my chest, and shoulders wider than my wingspan. Making full use of his frame and with the golden flow to top it off. Bonafide stallion pic.twitter.com/9jySG9FoeB
— Petrov McGuire (@McguirePetrov) April 25, 2022
HONORABLE MENTION: Erik Haula had quite a night stats wise and performance wise, but he won’t remember this night because he scored two goals, one on a penalty shot, but rather for how he almost got Brad Marchand off the hook for one of the more forgettable and comical moments of his career. On January 13, 2020, Marchand whiffed, but touched the puck, to start off on a shootout shot at center ice, and as a result the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Boston Bruins 6-5.
On Sunday, Haula whiffed as well on a penalty shot at 18:03 of the first period but thankfully didn’t touch the puck. He retreated and then took it home for a 2-0 Bruins lead.
THE HAULA FAMER WITH THE GREATEST PENALTY SHOT GOAL OF ALL TIME pic.twitter.com/6YgG1xyNDI
— Spoked Z (@SpokedZ) April 25, 2022
“[Marchy] was hoping I touched it because he had done it before and wasn’t going to be alone…thankfully I didn’t and ended up scoring. There was a lot of laughs,” Haula said postgame.
"[Marchy] was hoping I touched it because he had done it before and wasn't going to be alone…thankfully I didn't and ended up scoring. There was a lot of laughs." — @EHaula on his penalty shot goal pic.twitter.com/HcfwQ8Ozs2
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) April 25, 2022
BY THE NUMBERS: 10 – The minutes it took to finally quiet down the Bell Centre crowd after the Guy Lafleur tribute video for the national anthems. Bruins fans can hate the Habs all they want but if that video and that moment didn’t move you as a hockey fan and a human being, you need to check your pulse!
QUOTE TO NOTE: “There is such a rivalry but there’s a mutual respect for the person tonight. Each team probably doesn’t like the sweater but the person who was in it deserves all the accolades he’s going to get coming forward and all the ones he’s received in the past.” – Cassidy on Guy Lafleur and the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry