BOSTON — This was one of those games where a lot of players took advantage of their opportunities.
Let’s start with Peter Budaj.
The Canadiens’ backup goaltender was a surprise starter — at least to those who aren’t on the inside — and ran his perfect career record at the TD Garden to 4-0 as he stopped 34 shots Thursday night to lead Montreal to a 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins.
“These are games you want to play,” said Budaj, who was at a loss to explain why he plays so well in this building.
“Maybe it’s just the atmosphere,” he said. “It’s easy to get up for these games. The coach told me a few days ago that I was going to play. After Carey (Price) had that great game against Carolina (winning 3-0) we wanted to play well tonight. The guys were ready.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Boston, they’re a great team, but we battled tonight.”
Budaj said he got a lot of help from his teammates.
“They had a lot of shots, but most of them were from the outside,” said the goaltender, who improved his record this season to 6-4-2 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. “There weren’t any from the back door and we didn’t give up many rebounds. We blocked a lot of shots. You had (Alexei) Emelin sliding to break up a two-on one. There were a lot of plays like that where the guys pitched in.”
Budaj wan’t the only unheralded player to come up big in this game. Daniel Brière, who has been relegated to the fourth line, made the most of his 7:39 of ice time as he scored a goal and added an assist, finishing the night plus 2.
“I can’t control my ice time, all I can control is what I do on the ice,” said Brière, who has eight goals and eight assists in 41 games and is minus-2 for the season.
While the 36-year-old Brière might have lost a step or two, he still has a sweet pair of hands and showed that when he delivered an insurance goal to put the Canadiens up 4-1 at 13:46 of the second period.
“I wasn’t even sure it went in,” said Brière, who tucked the puck under the crossbar against Bruins goalie Chad Johnson, who had come into the game in relief of Tuukka Rask. “If you look at most of my goals, they’re scored in close like that.”
Brière was also on the ice when Emelin opened the scoring with his first goal of the season at 2:16 of the first period.
Coach Michel Therrien was so pleased with the work of his fourth line — Brière, George Parros and Travis Moen — that he even gave them some power-play time in the third period.
“They played really well for us, and when you can give them some candies you take that opportunity,” the coach said.
“The only problem was when I told Parros to get out there, he said he wasn’t sure how we work the breakout,” Therrien added with a laugh.
After taking a 2-1 lead in the first period, it appeared that the Canadiens were sitting back to start the second period. The momentum swung back in Montreal’s favour when the Canadiens went on the power play and captain Brian Gionta scored his ninth goal of the season at 11:54.
“We did a good job of being responsible with the puck,” Gionta said. “Lately we’ve had too many turnovers and we’ve had problems with the transition. We eliminated that and took what they gave us.
“It was a pushback from them after the first period and that’s what you expect from a team like that,” the captain added. “They wanted to get some energy. It’s a rivalry, and the energy speaks for itself.”
But most of the energy generated by the sellout crowd of 17,565 dissipated when Gionta took a puck out of the air and directed it beyond Rask. That was the end of the night for Rask, who gave up three goals on 18 shots.
Boston coach Claude Julien was reluctant to go into the reason for pulling his goaltender, but said he was hoping he would get a lift from his team.
“You’re always looking for something to give your team a lift,” Julien said. “We just didn’t get it tonight.
“We didn’t skate, we didn’t execute, we just didn’t play very well.”
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