The Bruins and Canadiens added a new chapter to their hostile history when they last met. That game in Boston on Feb. 9 featured 14 goals, 12 fighting majors and 182 penalty minutes. It was also the Bruins' first win over Montreal in four tries this season.
So with the Bruins taking on the Habs for the first time since that eventful night, will there be more of the same Tuesday in Montreal?
"We'll see," said Bruins forward Milan Lucic, who had two goals, an assist and 16 PIMs in that 8-6 win on Feb. 9. "Time will tell. There's not much more you can say than we'll see from the drop of the puck how the emotions are going. We know the fans are going to be into it and we'll see how the game goes."
Most of the Bruins don't expect a repeat of last month's wild affair, with neither the nets nor the penalty boxes likely to be filled nearly as frequently.
"The points are important for both teams," Bruins center Greg Campbell said. "It's always a physical game [against Montreal]. That's how we have to play. But it's not something I don't think anybody in here focuses on whether it's going to be a carryover or not. For us it's about winning the game and I'm sure it's the same for them."
Campbell was the center of controversy in that last matchup, as he pounded out a one-sided decision against Tom Pyatt in a late line brawl. Pyatt was left a bloody mess and some in the Montreal media were outraged that Campbell continued to fire away after his elbow pad slipped down over his hand, as if Campbell could somehow have called timeout in the middle of the bout to adjust his equipment.
That fight, which coincided with Shawn Thornton and Johnny Boychuk hammering out wins over Roman Hamrlik and Jaroslav Spacek, respectively, has many expecting, or at least hoping, for more donnybrooks on Tuesday. But the Bruins don't anticipate another wild night of fights and brawls.
"Sometimes it's blown out of proportion," Campbell said. "I don't think those things are planned. Sometimes it just happens. They have a team where they have a few agitators. Whatever happened last game was just part of the game. It was a good game, back and forth, lot of intensity. I don't think anything is going to go on [Tuesday]."
What will happen Tuesday is a game with huge implications on the standings. The Bruins go into the night just two points back of Philadelphia for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers host Edmonton on Tuesday, while Pittsburgh, which is tied in points with Boston after ending the Bruins' seven-game win streak on Saturday, hosts Buffalo.
Montreal is five points back of Boston in the Northeast Division. A Canadiens' win put them right back in the mix, but a regulation loss will create a seven-point gap that will be difficult to overcome with just over a month left in the season.
"I think from here on in they're all big games," Lucic said. "Obviously that's especially true [Tuesday] night. They're the ones behind us trying to catch us for the divisional lead. They're on a bit of a winning streak, so they've been playing well. It always seems every time we go in there they play a good hard game against us. So we're going to have to play hard, but most of all we're going to have to play smart."
The Bruins will have to avoid spending so much time in the penalty box this time around. They survived four power-play goals by Montreal in February's win, but aren't usually going to be that fortunate. The Canadiens have the eighth-ranked power play in the league with a 19.9-percent success rate, and Boston can't afford to them too many chances to use it.
"Discipline is a key to winning all the time," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "They've got a pretty decent power play that you have to respect. They've got a team that seems to thrive on that kind of stuff. The good penalties we seem to kill, the bad penalties end up costing us at the end. So that's what you've got to do here, stay disciplined and make sure you stay out of the box or if you're going to go in there, [make sure it's] for the right reasons."
Those right reasons keep a sliver of hope alive for fight fans, as there's nothing wrong with going to the box if you're bringing someone with you. Julien even fanned the flames a bit by commenting on the Habs' penchant for inciting opponents, even when they lack the muscle to back up their antics.
"You have to turn the page and go game by game here," Julien said. "There was a lot of frustration the last time we played. Part of it was us sticking up for ourselves, and they have a tendency to want to try to stir the pot and look innocent in those situations. We know what it's all about and we've got to do what we have to do here, but the bottom line is at the end of the night you've got to come out with the win and you've got to be smart enough to do it."
Getting the two points is paramount. Cracking a few heads along the way is just a bonus, albeit a bonus that could reap long-term rewards.
"You look back at games like that and the Dallas game and it's just a great feeling knowing your teammates have your back," Lucic said. "I think that's what we've shown a lot this year and it creates that chemistry and brings that family feeling into the dressing room."
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