Hidden Game: Canadiens battle hard, but suffer yet another one-goal defeat

Montreal is 16-11-11 in games decided by one goal this season, after falling 2-1 in overtime to the Bruins at the Bell Centre on Thursday.

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We dedicate this edition of the Hidden Game to the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry, once great, although somewhat diminished while Montreal spins its wheels in rebuilding mode.

And we specifically dedicate this one to the late John H. Hallahan who, on Dec. 9, 1924 in the Boston Globe, wrote the game story from the first game between these two teams, according to a hockey historian at NHL.com.

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The Canadiens defeated Boston 4-3, displaying, in Hallahan’s words, “blazing speed and fine shooting.” Indeed, he referred to the “Flying Frenchmen” as a “cognomen that does them justice.”

Even we had to look up the meaning of the word of cognomen — a name or nickname.

History will note Aurèle Joliat paced the Canadiens with a hat trick, with Howie Morenz adding a single. The winning goaltender was Georges Vézina. Carson Cooper scored twice for the Bruins, with Stubby Rowe adding a single.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

News you need (Part I): Boston defenceman Andrew Peeke, acquired from Columbus at the trade deadline, made his Bruins debut against Montreal. Peeke, 25, had fallen out of favour with Blue Jackets management and appeared in only 23 games this season.

But what’s truly interesting was this quote in the Boston Herald from Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery: “The good thing is … there are a lot of similarities with the way they played in Columbus and the way we play.”

Say what?

The Bruins (39-14-15) are second in the Atlantic Division while Columbus (22-33-11) is last in the Metropolitan Division with a goal-differential of minus-44.

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You’d love him if he played for the Canadiens: Predictably, Bruins captain Brad Marchand was booed each time he touched the puck.

And the Oscar goes to: Canadiens defenceman Kaiden Guhle appeared to barely touch Marchand slightly more than seven minutes into the game. Marchand hit the ice as though he had been shot, earning Guhle an interference minor.

He likes playing Montreal: When these teams last met on Jan. 20 in Boston, Danton Heinen scored three goals in the Bruins’ 9-4 victory. Guess who opened the scoring less than five minutes into this contest? Yeah, and it was only his 12th goal this season in 60 games.

How not to backcheck (Part I): Juraj Slafkovsky, not the most reliable player in the defensive zone, let Pavel Zacha get away from him early in the game. Zacha hit the post.

How not to backcheck (Part II): Slafkovsky again, on Heinen’s goal, scored as he was falling to the ice. At least Slafkovsky attempted to hit the Boston player.

Father knows best: Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki’s goal at 14:37 of the opening period was his 26th this season, tying his career-high from the 2022-23 campaign. Suzuki’s father was in attendance.

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Pass of the night (Part I): Slafkovsky to Suzuki on the goal.

Hit of the night: Marchand absolutely destroyed Jordan Harris with an open-ice check at centre ice late in the first period. It reminded us of some Montreal intersections at rush hour.

Close, but no cigar: Back in the 1960s, when there were only six NHL teams, numerous defencemen made careers out of hip checks. Sixty years later, it’s almost a lost art. However, in the sixth minute of the second period, Johnathan Kovacevic deserved kudos for attempting one against Jesper Boqvist. He missed connecting by a split-second. It would have been beautiful to witness.

Save of the night: Samuel Montembeault got his stick in the way of a David Pastrnak breakaway in the 15th minute of the second period, the Boston player attempting a backhand deke. The sequence was started by a Cole Caufield giveaway.

That’s how you kill a penalty: The Bruins had a man advantage for nearly three minutes after Suzuki received a double-minor in the third period for high-sticking Charlie McAvoy. Not only did Boston fail to score, it basically had a brief two-man advantage after Canadiens’ defenceman David Savard broke his stick.

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Pass of the night (Part II): That guy Marchand, again, to Jake DeBrusk on the winning goal in overtime. If we had a team, we’d take Marchand any time.

News you need (Part II): Would this be a good time to mention DeBrusk, who was the subject of trade rumours, is seeking a contract extension? He has 16 goals and 34 points in 66 games.

Strange, but true: The Canadiens have been involved in 38 one-goal games this season. Their record — 16-11-11.

Next time, decline the penalty: The Bruins were 0-for-4 on the power-play.

Stats of the night: Joel Armia can play, when the mood strikes him. He had a team-high three shots for Montreal. … Mike Matheson logged a team-high 28:43 of ice time. … Montembeault stopped 22 shots for a .917 save percentage.

They said it: “My guy scored the goal,” Slafkovsky said. “I’ve got to do a better job of boxing him out. That’s about it.”

“I think we’ve had the most one-goal games in the league,” Matheson said. “We’re learning to play a smart game, but not a nervous game, under those circumstances.”

“It’s frustrating, especially the way we’ve been playing,” Montembeault said. “I’m proud of the guys. They really competed tonight. I’m really happy with the effort we did defensively.”

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