BOSTON - Zdeno Chara turned a grudge match against the rival Canadiens into a blowout, and he did it with his stickwork instead of his brawn.
A bete noire in Montreal - and the subject of a police investigation -- since the hit that sent Max Pacioretty to the hospital, Chara had three assists to lead Boston to a 7-0 victory over the Canadiens on Thursday night. The win left the Bruins five points ahead of second-place Montreal in the Northeast Division; Boston has nine games left, and the Canadiens seven.
"I don't know if there were any scores to be settled," Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said. "We came to play. All the other stuff didn't matter. We did a good job all week staying away from all the bull."
The highly anticipated game between the Original Six rivals came 16 days after Chara banged Pacioretty into a padded stanchion, leaving him on the ice with a broken vertebrae and a concussion. The hit prompted Montreal fans to call police and demand criminal charges; authorities say they have opened an investigation.
The NHL chose not to suspend the Bruins captain. Chara said he has tried unsuccessfully to contact Pacioretty, who was released from the hospital after two days and is expected to be out at least until the playoffs.
Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell scored twice, and David Krejci and Milan Lucic also had three assists to help the Bruins beat Montreal for just the second time in six games this season. Tim Thomas stopped 24 shots for his career-best eighth shutout and 25th of his career.
Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid and Tomas Kaberle also scored for Boston.
"I never thought we would do this," Bruins forward Mark Recchi said "(I) thought it would be close."
Carey Price allowed five goals on 33 shots before he was replaced with 15:31 left following Adam McQuaid's goal that made it 5-0. Price is 2-5 in his last seven starts, allowing 21 goals in his five losses. He was replaced by Alex Auld, who allowed two of eight shots.
It was Montreal's second consecutive shutout. Coach Jacques Martin said he didn't expect his team to come out fighting to avenge Pacioretty's injury; he just wanted them to play better.
"The response is you want to win the hockey game and battle with the Bruins when you are trailing them by three points," he said. "I wouldn't say (it was) a lack of emotion -- more a lack of execution."
Fans were scanned with metal detecting wands when they came through security -- a routine measure, according to TD Garden General Manager Hugh Lombardi. Although he would not comment on specific measures, he said security was "heightened."
"Typical Montreal and Boston," he said before the start of the third period. "We like to make sure we're on our toes."
The Boston fans taunted the Canadiens fans among them, waving signs that said "Call 911" and mocking the cheers usually heard at the Bell Centre. But there were no obvious problems in the stands, and just one short fight on the ice between Campbell and Paul Mara.
The Bruins quickly made sure there wasn't any suspense over the outcome -- thanks largely to Chara, who has three goals and eight assists in his last nine games.
Boychuk scored 61 seconds into the game on the rebound of Chara's shot, then Chara assisted on Campbell's goal that made it 2-0 with 6:17 left in the first. Horton had his first of the game to give the Bruins a three-goal lead after one, then, after a scoreless second period, the Bruins erupted for four goals in the third to chase Price from the net and turn it into a rout.
With under seven minutes left in the game and the Bruins giving up a 5-on-3 advantage, Campbell poked the puck out of the zone and split the defenders to break free, beating Auld to make it 7-0. Tyler Seguin put the puck in the net just after the final buzzer, but the goal did not count.
Notes: The Bruins signed Boston University junior D David Warsofsky, a fourth-round draft pick who was a former captain of the U.S. under-18 team and a star of BU's 2009 NCAA championship. He was assigned to Providence of the AHL. ... Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky was at the game as an ambassador for TD Bank. ... Marck Recchi had one assist to tie Paul Coffey with 1,531 points -- 12th on the NHL's career list. ... The last time Montreal visited Boston, the Bruins won 8-6 in a game with 187 penalty minutes and a fight between goalies Thomas and Price.