FOXBORO, Mass. — The Boston Bruins will remember the 2016 NHL Winter Classic for all the wrong reasons.
In front of a crowd of 67,246 at Gillette Stadium, the Montreal Canadiens steamrolled a Bruins team that was playing without injured center David Krejci and suspended winger Brad Marchand, opening the scoring just 74 seconds after puck drop and never looking back in a 5-1 rout.
Paul Byron scored twice, Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty each tallied a goal and an assist, and Holliston, Mass., native Mike Condon finished with 27 saves to lead Montreal to victory.
IT WAS OVER WHEN …
Gallagher, playing in his first game since Nov. 22, scored one of the most impressive goals of the season in the final minutes of the second period to give Montreal a commanding 3-0 lead.
The Bruins got a goal from Matt Beleskey early in the third to pull within two, but the Canadiens responded with their fourth tally, this one from Pacioretty off a Gallagher feed, to shut the door.
Byron’s second goal of the night closed the scoring.
THAT WAS QUICK
After a lengthy pregame ceremony that included fireworks and a flyover, the Canadiens wasted no time in putting the scoreboard operator to work.
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask began the game by making a nice save on Jeff Petry to shut down a Montreal 2-on-1, but a juicy rebound just seconds later allowed David Desharnais to pot the first goal of the afternoon.
Dale Weise and Alexei Emelin assisted on the tally, which came 74 seconds into the first period. Montreal dominated possession in the opening frame, outshooting Boston 14-3 and holding the Bruins without a single shot on goal during a 14:50 span.
Had it not been for the play of Rask, who excelled early despite some leaky defense in front of him, the game might have gotten out of hand before the first intermission.
The Canadiens picked up right where they left off in the second period, with Paul Byron scoring exactly two minutes in to add to their advantage. The highlight of the goal would not be a fun one to watch for McQuaid and Max Talbot.
Byron’s goal made it 2-0 Habs, but the Bruins seemed to gain a bit of momentum midway through the second. An interference call on Lars Eller gave Boston its first power play of the game, and the puck ended up in the Montreal net after a wild scramble in front of Condon.
Officials quickly waved off the goal, however, ruling that it came after the whistle was blown.
Condon went on to shut down the Bruins for the remainder of the period, capping it off with robbery of Ryan Spooner in the final seconds.
ON THE BOARD
Trailing 3-0 after Gallagher’s goal, the Bruins mounted a rally early in the final frame.
Beleskey tipped an Adam McQuaid shot past Condon at the 3:56 mark of the third, assuring Boston would not be the first team to be shut out in a Winter Classic. The goal was the fourth in four games for Beleskey.
The Bruins has several additional scoring chances over the following few minutes but could not capitalize.
OUT OF THEIR DEPTH
The Canadiens abused the Bruins’ bottom six forwards and second and third defensive pairings. Talbot was on the ice for four of Montreal’s five goals, and he, Zac Rinaldo, Seth Griffith, Alex Khokhlachev and Frank Vatrano all failed to record a shot on goal.
Boston desperately missed Krejci and Marchand, while the return of Gallagher gave Montreal a significant boost.
NOT ON THE GOALIE
Despite allowing five goals in a game for the first time since Nov. 17, Rask was the Bruins’ best player for much of the night. He almost singlehandedly kept Boston within striking distance until the final period with a number of stunning saves, including using his elbow to block a wide-open shot by Weise.
Rask received medical attention after taking a shot off the throat during the third period, but he remained in the game and finished with 25 saves.
The Bruins return to their usual home Tuesday night for a date with the Washington Capitals at TD Garden. Puck drop is 7 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images