BOSTON — TD Garden fans probably figured they'd have to wait years to see anything close to the craziness of last Thursday's fight-filled start to the Bruins' game against Dallas.
They certainly never figured that display would be topped less than a week later as the Bruins engaged archrival Montreal in a wild affair Wednesday night at the Garden.
This one featured 14 goals and six sets of fighting majors out of a seemingly endless run of scrums, melees and all-out brawls highlighted by a rare goalie bout between Tim Thomas and Carey Price. When the dust finally settled, the Bruins took an 8-6 decision to further solidify their hold on first place in the Northeast Division before a sell-out crowd of 17,565 that loved every minute of it.
As did the players involved.
"It was great, especially when Timmy went down and him and Price squared off," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. "That was a lot of fun. You feel like a fan when you're sitting there watching on the bench and all this stuff is going on. So much emotion and energy, it's a lot of fun."
Marchand was in the middle of a lot of the action, scoring the first goal of the night and engaging nemesis P.K. Subban in a running battle all night long. Subban had delivered a devastating hit on Marchand in Montreal earlier this season. Marchand got in a good shot on him on Wednesday, but still not as much as he would have liked. A few other Bruins wanted a piece of Subban as well, but invitations to dance from the likes of Adam McQuaid, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic were all declined.
"I think four in that one shift there," Marchand said when asked how many times Bruins asked Subban to fight. "But they were tough guys. I don't blame him for not fighting. Quaider, Horty and Looch all jumping in, I wouldn't have fought them either."
Marchand also avoided his first fight, turning down an offer from James Wisniewski in the closing seconds to avoid the wrath of Claude Julien.
"At the end there, Wisniewski was like, 'You want to do this?'" Marchand said. "But Claude was screaming at me right before that not to do anything stupid when I was out there, so I figured I better not."
Other than the Canadiens, Julien was about the only one in the building who wasn't completely overjoyed at the extracurricular displays.
"[It's] a good win for us," Julien said. "We needed that, and we went out and got it. You know whatever happened, happened and I guess there is a rivalry that exists between these two teams and it's still there.
"It's not something you like to see," Julien added of Thomas' bout. "You never like to see your goaltenders get into those kinds of things, but I'm certainly not sitting here condemning him for doing that. It's the heat of the game. They were both willing combatants, and you live with that."
Thomas will also have to live with some grief from his friends back home in Flint, Mich. Last week after Rick DiPietro and Brent Johnson squared off in the first NHL goalie fight in four years, Thomas talked about not ever having a fight with another goalie, but knowing plenty about fighting from growing up in Flint.
After not getting in a punch in his quick scrap with Price, which saw both goalies lose their jerseys without landing any real blows, Thomas had hoped the boys back home would have missed the show.
"I don't know, this game wasn't on Versus, was it?" Thomas asked, and was informed that it was shown to a national audience on Versus as well as the NESN broadcast in New England. "Well, then they probably saw it. I was going to say they couldn't afford the NHL package, so they probably did see it."
Even after all the talk about goalie fights following last week's bout, Thomas still was shocked he actually ended up in one of his own.
"To be honest with you, I didn't think it was going to happen," Thomas said. "I've been playing here a lot of years and I'm never even really come close."
Thomas and Price ended up patting each other and smiling after their brief bout in a rare moment of civility on this night.
"We're on opposing team but we spent some time together at a hockey camp a few summers ago and we were just at the All-Star Game together," Thomas said. "We're on friendly terms. It was business, but once business is done, it's done."
It wasn't done for the rest of the players though. Another melee saw David Krejci and Benoit Pouliot break away from the pack and square off, only to have Krejci dropped with a big punch. Andrew Ference and Travis Moen later exchanged blows in a spirited scrap, and while that was being broken up three other fights broke out simultaneously.
The Bruins had the decided edge in each of those bouts, with Shawn Thornton fighting through the refs to pound on Roman Hamrlik after a shot from Hamrlik ignited that powder keg. Johnny Boychuk worked over Jaraslav Spacek and Greg Campbell won a one-sided decision over Tom Pyatt during the same line brawl.
Between the punchups, the goals came fast and furious, with Boston matching a season-high output with eight goals to make it a truly enjoyable evening for the Bruins faithful.
"I'm sure we could have been better defensively," McQuaid said. "We don't want to give up that many goals, but at the same time we were able to create a lot of offense and it was a pretty physical game, so I guess that everyone can agree that it was a more exciting game to watch."