Montreal Canadiens center Maxim Lapierre celebrates his goal as Boston Bruins left wing Marco Sturm, right, skates by during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Boston on Tuesday, March 2, 2010. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Elise Amendola
BOSTON - The Canadiens picked up where the Canadians left off.
In their first game back after watching the home team win the gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics, the Montreal Canadiens scored four times in the third period to beat the Boston Bruins 4-1 on Tuesday night.
Montreal, which had lost three of four before the break, improved to seventh in the Eastern Conference and dropped the Bruins into a tie with the New York Rangers for the eighth and final spot in the playoff race.
"We knew this stretch was going to be really important, and we knew we needed to start it off right," said Canadiens goalie Carey Price, who stopped 23 shots. "I think after the break everybody realizes how important the games are."
Former Bruin Glen Metropolit tied the game early in the third period, and Maxim Lapierre scored the go-ahead goal with 12:36 left. Mathieu Darche had a goal and an assist for Montreal, scoring to make it 3-1 with 2:30 left; Benoit Pouliot added an empty-netter 63 seconds later, scoring before Tuukka Rask could even get to the bench.
Rask made 28 saves for Boston, which had won four straight before the Olympics.
"We took it to them in the third period," said Metropolit, who joked about the uncertainty of Wednesday's trading deadline. "My stock rose, I guess. Maybe they can get a seventh-rounder for me now. A bag of pucks and a seventh-rounder. Are there still seven rounds?"
Although there are no Canadian Olympians on the Montreal roster, there was a large contingent of red Habs jerseys in the stands. And the Boston fans who broke into intermittent "U-S-A!" chants went home disappointed.
"You could tell we hadn't played in a couple of weeks," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Somehow, we started to fade after they scored that first goal. Going into the third period with a 1-0 lead, you never expect to see your team give up four goals."
Both teams welcomed back their Olympians, and the Bruins had a display case set up in a luxury suite with Patrice Bergeron's gold medal and backup Team USA goalie Tim Thomas' silver, along with their national team jerseys.
But that was the only sign of the players from the gold medal game, which Canada won 3-2 in overtime on Sunday.
Bergeron was out with a sore groin, and Thomas was serving as backup, as he has for the past seven Bruins games - and in every game of the Olympic tournament.
Germany's Marco Sturm, Slovakia's Zdeno Chara and Miroslav Satan and David Krejci of the Czech Republic played for Boston; Sergei Kostitsyn of Belarus, Russia's Andre Markov and Tomas Plekanec of the Czech Republic played for Montreal, with Slovakia's Jaroslav Halak backing up Price in net.
The pro-American chants that broke out sporadically across the TD Garden didn't have the same resonance, two days after the Olympic gold medal game.
And it finished the same way: With the team from Canada on top of the one from the US.
The Bruins opened their post-Vancouver stretch by taking a 1-0 lead with Sturm's first-period goal.
Montreal tied it 2:40 into the final period when Darche sent a full-ice pass ahead to Tom Pyatt, who centred it to Metropolit for the score. The Canadiens made it 2-1 when Travis Moen outhustled defenceman Andrew Ference to a loose puck at the bottom of the left faceoff circle and sent a soft shot at the goal.
Lapierre got the rebound in front and flipped it over Rask.
NOTES: Montreal improved to 4-1 against Boston this season. ... It was the 704th meeting between the Original Six teams. ... Rask shut out the Canadiens in his last start against them, then blanked them for two more periods Tuesday night. ... Metropolit also assisted on Darche's goal. ... Pyatt had two assists, his second career multipoint game.