Montreal Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec eyes a loose puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins in Boston on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
BOSTON - It doesn't matter who is coaching the Canadiens or how many points separate them from Boston in the standings, the Bruins never take it easy against Montreal.
David Krejci scored off his skate to break a second-period tie, and Tim Thomas stopped 33 shots on Monday night to lead Boston to a 3-2 victory over the slumping Canadiens. Montreal lost its third straight game—two of them since firing coach Jacques Martin and replacing him with Randy Cunneyworth.
"It's like a wounded animal," said Bruins forward Andrew Ference, who assisted on Krejci's goal. "They become pretty dangerous when they're backed into a corner.
"You don't take people for granted. Fired coach or not, you prepare for every team like they're dangerous, because that's the reality."
Benoit Pouliot and Brad Marchand also scored for the Bruins, who have won 19 of 22 since losing back-to-back games to Montreal at the end of October.
"I don't even look at the standings," said Thomas, the defending Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophy winner. "I don't think too much about who the coach is and who the coach isn't. That's a distraction."
Carey Price made 28 saves and Tomas Plekanec scored for the Canadiens, who have lost nine of their last 12—a streak that cost one of the NHL's winningest coaches his job and left them in last place in the Northeast Division.
The Canadiens fired Martin on Saturday, cutting loose a coach who earned his 600th NHL victory last year—ninth on the career list. Cunneyworth was an assistant on the staff; his promotion has caused controversy in Quebec because he doesn't speak French.
"Whoever's on the bench it's always tough to lose two games," Plekanec said. "And it's not fun at all."
Boston led 3-1 when Montreal pulled Price and cut the deficit to one.
After a turnover in the Boston zone, David Desharnais shot from the right circle and Erik Cole tipped it past Thomas. The Canadiens, again with a 6-on-5, put pressure on for the final minute but Chris Campoli's shot on an outnumbered Thomas hit a Montreal player in front.
"Thank God we got another goal because we needed it," Bruins coach Claude Julien said.
Dennis Seidenberg hit the post of the empty net with less than a second to play.
The Bruins took the lead with 7:47 left in the first period when Rich Peverley won a faceoff and moved in on Price. He slid it across the slot to Pouliot, who also broke for the net off the faceoff and redirected it into the net.
But Montreal scored just 73 seconds later when Michael Cammalleri backhanded a pass through two Bruins in front of the net and found Plekanec for the goal.
It stayed that way until early in the second Ference centred it and Krejci, sliding toward the crease, gave the puck a nudge into the net. The play was reviewed, but the goal stood.
The Bruins made it 3-1 with just under six minutes left when Patrice Bergeron forced a turnover at the Canadiens' blue-line and Tyler Seguin picked up the puck in the zone. He found Marchand all alone in front of the net for a backhanded, falling-down wrist shot for his 12th goal of the season.
"It's important that we make fewer mistakes," Cunneyworth said. "The few mistakes we did make were costly and you can't make them against a team like Boston."
Notes: The Bruins were without F Milan Lucic, who served a one-game suspension for hitting Philadelphia F Zac Rinaldo from behind and into the boards on Saturday. Boston D Joe Corvo's played in his 600th career game. ... Montreal is 2-2 against Boston this season. ... The Bruins improved to 17-0 when leading after two periods. ... Montreal began a season-longest six-game road trip.