Here's hoping there's never another NHL season without a matchup between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens again
Due to the temporary realignment brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the B's and Habs never crossed paths in 2020-21, the first time in their storied rivalry they never played on another.
Finally facing each other for the first time since Feb. 12, 2020, the renewed rivalry didn't disappointed -- unless you're a Montreal fan.
Trailing heading into the third period, the Bruins got the tying goal from Charlie McAvoy -- his second of the night -- at 2:14 on the power play and two more from Charlie Coyle to take the lead and never look back in a 5-2 win over the Canadiens at TD Garden.
Taylor Hall, celebrating his 30th birthday, added an empty netter for the B's.
Here are some takeaways from Boston's win, which improved its record to 8-5-0 on the season:
Swayman getting chance to prove he's No. 1
Given the Bruins had played Saturday afternoon, it seemed as though a puck drop 30 hours later in another city would be an obvious spot to swap goalies if all things are equal.
Instead, it was Swayman's crease once again over Linus Ullmark, marking the first time in his pro career he's started on consecutive days.
After turning aside 27 shots in a 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils Saturday, the second-year backstop made 27 more saves to remain unbeaten for his career at TD Garden (8-0-0).
Swayman has been a rock since getting lit up by the Philadelphia Flyers to the tune of five goals on Oct. 20. He's 4-1 since with a 1.81 goals against average and a .927 save percentage since and hasn't given up more than two goals in any start.
With five days off coming up, needless to say, it will be telling if Swayman has the net again.
McAvoy catching fire
A day after matching a career-high with three assists, McAvoy had the first two-goal game of his career.
The goals were McAvoy's second and third tallies of the season and his first since Oct. 30 against the Florida Panthers.
Boston is 5-2 over its last seven games, with McAvoy recording at least a point in each of the five wins and getting held off the scoresheet in both losses.
With much of the rest of the Bruins' D corps a work in progress, McAvoy's presence can't be understated. His talent in his own end has never been a question; the more he contributes on offense, the higher Boston's ceiling rises -- not to mention the sooner his eight-year, $76 million contract extension develops into a bargain.
Shouldn't have come down to third period
Yes, the Bruins were playing the second game of a back-to-back...but so were the Canadiens, who flew in from Detroit following a 3-2 overtime loss to the Red Wings.
Last season's run to the Stanley Cup Final notwithstanding, this isn't a very good Montreal team at the moment. The Habs (4-11-2) entered Sunday with just 10 points; only the Ottawa Senators, Arizona Coyotes and expansion Seattle Kraken had fewer.
Carey Price wasn't in goal for the Canadiens, either, as he deals with a personal issue. The Bruins were flummoxed by Sam Montembeault for much of the first two periods, he of a 3.69 goals against average and .885 save percentage this season.
Must the NHL schedule so many Bruins games on NFL Sunday?
To be fair, this was only the second such instance of the Bruins playing on Sunday this season. And at least it didn't go head-to-head with the New England Patriots this time around, like it did on Oct. 24 when the puck dropped at 1 p.m. -- in Boston, no less -- while the Patriots were beating up on the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium.
The scheduling issue is exacerbated by the fact that entering play Sunday, the Bruins had played only 12 games -- 29 NHL teams have played more -- and their first game against the Canadiens in 641 days deserved a more exclusive window.
Wouldn't you know it, the B's are once again idle for days, this time until Saturday. Montreal is playing in New York against the Rangers on Tuesday but is off Monday; given the Habs played on Saturday, just as the Bruins did, the NHL could easily have given the teams a day off Sunday and scheduled the game for Monday night at the TD Garden. Montreal's back-to-back games would've been Monday-Tuesday instead of Saturday-Sunday, and the Bruins wouldn't have had quite as long a layoff.
There's nothing happening at the TD Garden Monday; the Boston Celtics will be on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and there are no concerts, etc. on the schedule. Make it make sense, NHL.
The Bruins will face the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday at 7 p.m. on the road.