On New Year’s Day, Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, was transformed into an official National Hockey League rink for the eighth annual NHL Winter Classic.
As soon as the gates opened, eager fans poured into the stadium and quickly filled the 68,756 seats. The two teams playing, the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens, were old rivals. They came into the game with Boston trailing Montreal by one point in the Atlantic Division for first place.
For the Canadiens, that excitement lasted a little longer. They defeated the Bruins, 5-1, to pad their lead in the division.
Heading into the game, the Bruins were 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. The Canadiens had been going in the opposite direction, going 2-8-0 in their last 10.
But recent history was soon dismissed when Montreal’s David Desharnais scored the first goal only a minute and fourteen seconds into the game. The Canadiens dominated the ice from the start, outshooting Boston 14-3 in the first period. The Bruins struggled to find a groove, and having to kill two penalties early didn’t help.
“It was one of those nights we couldn’t get going in the first period,” said Boston head coach Claude Julien. “They were all over us.”
It might have been worse for Boston if not for Tuukka Rask’s exceptional goaltending. Audible sighs of relief could be heard from the Boston fans after multiple saves.
Montreal carried its momentum into the second period, scoring just two minutes into the frame. Left wing Paul Byron swatted a loose puck past Rask to put his team ahead 2-0. Six minutes later, it looked like the Bruins had cut the lead in half when Matt Beleskey put the puck in the Canadiens’ goal. But Boston was disappointed when the goal was waved off as the referee determined Condon had covered the puck prior to the shot.
The Canadiens increased their lead to 3-0 when Brendan Gallagher skillfully batted the puck out of midair over Rask’s outstretched glove.
It was then the Canadiens’ goalie, and Boston area native, Mike Condon’s turn to steal the show.
With 0.1 second left in the second, he made the stop of the night, sliding across the crease and made a spectacular wind-mill glove save robbing Ryan Spooner’s wrist-shot.
Four minutes into the third period, the Bruins finally got on the board after a redirect by Beleskey. The goal lit a spark for Boston fans. For about five minutes, it seemed Boston had gotten back on its feet. Alas, a two-on-one goal by Max Pacioretty restored the Canadiens three-goal lead. Byron scored again, running the score to 5-1 and extinguishing hope for Boston.
“We didn’t just want to participate in the Winter Classic,” Montreal coach Michel Terrien said after the game. “We wanted to win. And it was important for the standings.“
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