The current edition of the Montreal Canadiens may be a far cry from the legendary teams of the past but, for one night at least, they looked like world-beaters in a pasting of Boston on Friday night.
Mike Cammalleri scored a second-period hat trick as the Canadiens romped to a 5-1 win at Bell Centre to celebrate the organization's centennial in fine style. The result snapped a four-game losing streak.
Cammalleri now has 15 goals to lead the club after having just one assist to show for the previous four games. The veteran forward was getting scoring chances over that span, but they finally started going in on Friday.
"It’s a special night that I will never forget," he said afterwards. "What else can I say?
"This was a special night for sporting world."
Montreal clearly fed off the celebratory mood established by the presence of dozens of former Montreal greats, and they were also motivated after a dreadful showing in Buffalo on Thursday night. The Sabres beat Montreal 6-2.
"We really wanted to play well for them, but I think even after last night we wanted to come out and play well for ourselves," defenceman Hal Gill told Hockey Night in Canada in the second intermission, by which time it was already 5-0.
Special teams were the difference. Montreal got on the board in the first with a de facto power-play goal — just four seconds after a Boston penalty expired — and turned the game around by going up 2-0 in the middle period 36 seconds after killing off a full two-minute 5-on-3 advantage for the Bruins.
Then in the third, after Montreal took a rash of penalties to give Boston a chance to cut the lead down to two goals, goalie Carey Price made a tremendous pad save with big Zdeno Chara breathing down on him.
Glen Metropolit had a goal and an assist for Montreal (13-14-2), with Jaroslav Spacek opening the scoring.
Price made a number of big saves among his 37 stops while the outcome was still in doubt.
The earliest was a right-pad save in the first period on Marco Sturm's short-handed breakaway.
The stop gave the Canadiens a lift, with Spacek blasting a point shot just inside the right post at 8:30 of the first.
Price stood firm on Byron Bitz later in the period and frustrated Michael Ryder and Marc Savard as the Bruins enjoyed a late-period power play.
Boston goalie Tim Thomas prevented a two-goal lead at the other end on Josh Gorges's shot, a play set up by a Sergei Kostitsyn drop pass.
Montreal came out with a jump in the second. Max Pacioretty and Marc-Andre Bergeron each had scoring chances from nearly the exact spot inside the left faceoff circle.
At the other end, Dennis Wideman's shot went off Price and over the Montreal net, with the Canadiens netminder getting his body in the way of a Blake Wheeler shot he didn't even see.
Spacek and Maxim Lapierre each took penalties from the same scrum just over five minutes into the second but Boston couldn't capitalize. Wideman missed the net and Price was there for a Mark Recchi deflection.
Montreal forward Tomas Plekanec took off on a breakaway not long after the penalties expired, and while he missed the net, the sequence ended with Cammalleri taking a loose puck in the slot to beat Thomas.
"That was huge for us, killing that penalty," Metropolit said. "Carey played great and the penalty killing unit stepped up. Josh [Gorges] had a couple big blocks."
It was the first of four goals in just over nine minutes. Thomas couldn't corral an easy shot, and Cammalleri was there to take the puck and backhand it into the net.
The Canadiens fed off the 3-0 lead and kept coming against the rattled Bruins. Gill took a slapshot that Metropolit deflected in at 16:07, and just 82 seconds later Cammalleri completed the hat trick with a wrist shot.
Thomas finished with 18 saves in two periods for Boston (16-8-2), replaced in the final period by rookie Tuukka Rask.
Price lost a shutout bid on Vladimir Sobotka's deflection of a Matt Hunwick shot just under five minutes into the third.
Montreal gave the Bruins every chance to end the game with a measure of pride by beginning a parade to the penalty box in third, but Boston wouldn't oblige, finishing an unsightly 0-for-7 on the power play.
The Habs took four penalties in a span of 3:40, including a four-minute penalty to Maxim Lapierre for cutting Andrew Ference with his stick.
Rask was forced to make just six saves, half as many as Price's total for the third.
The Canadiens don't play on the weekend, returning Monday at Bell Centre against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Boston won't have time to lick their wounds, returning for a home game Saturday against Toronto (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET).
Current Habs revel in presence of greats
All the Canadiens enjoyed themselves on the big night, but defenceman Ryan O’Byrne and centre Metropolit were extra excited being involved. O’Byrne was told in the morning that he had to give up his sweater No. 3, so they could retire Emile Bouchard’s sweater. But he couldn’t tell anybody that he was going to be part of the ceremony and eventually change to No. 20. His other two options were No's. 8 or 28.
"[Scott] Gomez was saying ‘What’s going on, what’s going on’ this morning," O’Byrne recalled. "I told him it was a secret. But I think the guys knew something was up when I sat with the goalies at the end of the bench, so I could skate over and help them hang the banner."
The centennial celebrations seemed like a distraction over the past year. The Habs record while wearing a sweater from yesteryear was an ordinary 3-3-1.
Metropolit was seen walking around with old Sports Illustrated covers trying to get autographs from the Canadiens greats.
"I grew up watching these guys, I can’t believe I’m meeting them," Metropolit told Cammalleri.
Metropolit was solid once again, killing penalties and chipping in a goal and an assist.
"Was Stevie in the building?" said the 35-year-old Toronto native, joking about whether Canadian Olympic team executive director Steve Yzerman was scouting him.
"Growing up I just loved hockey," Metropolit added. "There I am in the group photo at the end and Serge Savard and Larry Robinson are right in front of me and just over a little bit was Patrick Roy. It was so cool telling these guys that it was an honour meeting them."