A tight, physical game between old rivals came down to a shootout and there, the Boston Bruins were all-but certain to win.
Tyler Seguin had the only goal in the shootout as the Bruins recovered from blowing a two-goal lead to defeat the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in a hard-hitting NHL game on Wednesday night.
The Bruins are 7-1 this season in shootouts, and their goaltender Tim Thomas is 5-0, while the Canadiens dropped to a woeful 2-8, which may be why their goaltender Carey Price slammed down his locker door in anger after the game.
"I have had some success in shootouts, never the type of success that l've had this year so far," said Thomas. "I'm just lucky so far, but I'll take it."
The victory kept Boston (35-18-2) a perfect 23-0-0 when leading after two periods, although Montreal gave them a scare as they outshot the Bruins 10-2 and tied the game to force overtime in the third frame on goals from Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole.
Thomas stopped Rene Bourque, Pacioretty and Lars Eller in the shootout, while Seguin beat Price with a quick low shot to secure the victory.
It was a big win for Boston, who are in a bit of a rough patch at 4-5-0 in their last nine games. The defending Stanley Cup champions were coming off a 3-0 loss at home to the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.
"We needed a big effort here," said Thomas, whose team won its season series with Montreal 4-2-0. "We haven't played with great consistency lately.
"We wanted to have a strong game and gain some pride back and get headed in the right direction."
Andrew Ference, Benoit Pouliot and Patrice Bergeron scored in regulation for the Bruins, while Mathieu Darche also scored for Montreal.
It was intense hockey with plenty of hitting and some unexpected twists.
Darche's goal on a feed from P.K. Subban at 1:39 of the second frame was the first short-handed goal scored against the Bruins this season.
An oddity that period saw goaltender interference calls against both teams on the same play at 1:52 of the middle frame, as a ref's arm was raised when Louis Leblanc bumped Thomas but the whistle didn't go until Dan Paille plowed into Price at the other end of the ice. A moment later, Cole was called, which put three players in the box at once for goalie interference.
There had been speculation that Scott Gomez, who was shouted at by assistant coach Randy Ladouceur at practice on Tuesday, and Andrei Kostitsyn, who was benched in a 5-3 loss to Carolina on Monday, would be scratched. But both skated regular shifts.
"We're not forgetting, but they're both competitors," said coach Randy Cunneyworth. "They add elements we need on our team.
"When they play the way we expect and within the system, they're effective players."
Despite the loss, Cunneyworth was not displeased with how his team battled back and stood up to the Bruins' physical play.
"We're looking for accountability," he said. "It comes from us (coaches) and the players.
"There's a lot of pressure to play the way we expect and this was a good example. We were ready to play against a very good team that competes hard. We're disappointed at the finish, but if you take the game in itself, with the (six) penalties we had to kill off, I think we did a great job."
There was some nastiness. When a clearing attempt by Tomas Plekanec hit Chara in the face at the end of the first period, some in the Bell Centre crowd cheered as the unpopular Boston captain bled on the ice. Chara was able to return in the second frame.
There was also a dangerous-looking low hit by Brad Marchand on defenceman Alexei Emelin that drew a clipping call. The Montreal defenceman stayed in the game.
But rough games are common between Boston and Montreal, even if they hadn't previously been as much in evidence this season.
"It's always high energy to play here," added Thomas. "Pretty much out of any building in the NHL this one has the most energy.
"It makes it fun to play in that atmosphere. Hopefully we can carry it over to the next game."
Boston still has much to play for as it leads the Northeast Division, but Montreal's playoff hopes have faded to close to nothing.
They haven't given up playing with intensity, however.
The teams playing four-on-four at 17:09 of the first when Marchand won a battle for the puck with Hal Gill behind the Montreal net and fed Ference in the right circle for a shot that Price never saw through a thicket of bodies in front of the goal.
After Darche scored, Pouliot showed his skill as he turned Chris Campoli inside out on a rush and beat Price from in close at 5:07. Bergeron found a hole with a high shot from beside the net on a power play at 14:33.
Pacioretty closed the gap to 3-2 with his fifth goal in the last four games as his quick shot from the high slot trickled through Thomas' pads 3:34 into the third frame. Cole tied it at 11:12 after a giveaway from Chara, whose soft pass into the front of his own net was picked off in front of Thomas.
Ryan White played his first game of the season after returning from a sports hernia, and it took only until 14:15 of the first period for him to drop the gloves with Boston defenceman Adam McQuaid. Score the lively bout a draw.
Notes: Aaron Palushaj was scratched for Montreal, which went with seven defencemen and 11 forwards. Palushaj was returned to AHL Hamilton after the game. . . Nathan Horton missed a ninth game with a concussion for Boston, which has lost only 40 man-games to injury this season. . . It was the first of six straight road games for Boston.