On Thursday morning, Brad Marchand was all smiles, just about performing a stand-up comedy routine as he mimicked coach Jim Montgomery, joked about teammate Nick Foligno’s age and baldness, and explained why he deleted his Twitter account.
On Thursday night, there was no more joking around. Marchand was deadly serious, bordering on possessed, when he saw Montreal Canadiens forward Rem Pitlick deliver a late, high hit on his captain, linemate and longtime friend, Patrice Bergeron, during the first period of a 4-2 Boston victory.
Bruins double up Canadiens, win fifth straight
Marchand immediately jumped Pitlick, tackling him to the ice and landing a couple punches before officials and other players broke up the brawl. The message was clear.
“You don’t hit our captain late,” Montgomery said after the game. “That was a three-second-late hit, and I loved the fact that Marchand made the guy pay a price for doing it.”
So did Marchand’s teammates. His actions sent the Bruins to the penalty kill, but they didn’t care. Marchand’s skate to the penalty box was accompanied by the sound of the Boston bench banging their sticks on the boards in approval. This was a penalty they wanted to kill. As it turned out, the kill would only last 36 seconds anyways before Charlie Coyle drew a holding penalty on Mike Matheson. Bergeron, fortunately, was fine after the hit.
The Canadiens, who have little to play for at this point in the season other than agitating their rivals and the best team in the league, continued to try to get under the Bruins’ skin. Marchand was not the only one to let them know that Boston was in no mood to deal with their crap.
A few seconds after Jake DeBrusk made it 2-0 Bruins -- a seemingly insurmountable deficit when you have one of the league’s worst offenses facing its best defense -- Jake Evans raced in on Jeremy Swayman as he covered the puck and snowed and bumped the Boston goalie. This time it was Charlie McAvoy who was closest, so he was the one who body-slammed Evans.
Eventually, the temperature of the game rose a little too high. Towards the end of the first period, A.J. Greer responded to a love tap from Mike Hoffman with a crosscheck to the face that drew blood. Greer, deservedly, was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct. The Canadiens scored on the ensuing power play, cutting Boston’s lead to one, but that was as close as they would get.
Montgomery wasn’t about to rip Greer after the game, but he did draw a line between what Marchand and McAvoy did and what Greer did, acknowledging he had gone too far and would have to keep his emotions in check if and when he plays in the playoffs.
“We talk about playing with emotion, which is great, but not getting emotional,” Montgomery said. “Unfortunately, Greersy, his stick rode up. I don’t know if it rode up his stick or his shoulder pad, but it cut him. It’s something we can learn from in the playoffs. You can’t take those kinds of penalties in the playoffs.”
Some of the energy and emotion dissipated from the game after that, with both teams seeming to recognize that a line had been crossed and it might be time to tone it down a bit. David Pastrnak restored the two-goal lead early in the second with his 49th goal of the season, a new career high. The Habs cut it to one again with another power-play goal late in the second, but then the Bruins went on to close out the win with a professional, defensively sound third period and an insurance goal from David Krejci.
Marchand had a chance to end his eventful day with an empty-net goal, but with the Bruins already up by two, he elected to try to set up Pastrnak for his 50th goal of the season instead. No Bruin has reached that milestone since Cam Neely in 1993-94. The pass got broken up, though, so Pastrnak will have to wait at least until the weekend to get there.
Asked after the game about Marchand’s unselfishness as a teammate, Pastrnak almost immediately pivoted back to Marchand’s defense of Bergeron as the better example of how good of a teammate he is.
“That’s Marchy. He’s aware of these kinds of situations every time, it seems like. … It’s nice, but what I would point out is him sticking up for Bergy,” Pastrnak said. “It’s obviously outstanding. It’s been kind of our motto in the team. It’s great to see when a guy like Marchy sticks up for our captain. It definitely gets going everybody on the bench.”
With such a big lead in the standings, so little to play for on a game-to-game basis, and a jam-packed schedule, the Bruins might need someone to provide a spark here and there to keep them on track down the stretch. On Thursday, Marchand provided it.