Bruins come up big in early showdown; Boston takes lead in Northeast Division.


Byline: Bud Barth

BOSTON - They can score, they can defend, they backcheck, they forecheck, they hit you, and they outskate you. The Bruins might not have it all, but they're doing it all so far this season.

In a first-place showdown fraught with all the emotion of a playoff game in November, the streaking Bruins continued their domination of hockey's top teams, jumping to a 3-0 lead in the first period and breaking the Montreal Canadiens' regular-season stranglehold on them with a dominating 6-1 victory before 16,816 charged-up fans at the Garden.

It was Boston's fifth win in a row and eighth in nine games, and gave the Bruins (10-3-3) sole possession of first place in the Northeast Division. They lead Buffalo by two points and Montreal by three, although the Habs have two games in hand.

The Bruins' last three wins have come against teams with a combined record of 25-7-8, including the iron of their division, the Sabres and the Canadiens. If they were knocking on the door to contention before this week, they have now kicked it in.

"It's scary, isn't it?" quipped Marco Sturm with a broad grin after scoring two goals, giving him five in the last five games and three in the last two. "I've seen a lot of ups and downs with this team. It's great to see we're going in the right direction, but there's a long way to go."

"What can I say? Winning's fun," added Milan Lucic, who scored a goal and even got to beat up Montreal's hated Mike Komisarek in the third period, although he got some badly skinned knuckles for his trouble after hitting the Canadiens defenseman's helmet several times. "Everything's a lot better when you win."

"I'm having a blast. It's fun when you're winning," said goalie Manny Fernandez, who was outstanding when called upon, although the Habs were limited to 28 shots by a suffocating Boston defense. "It seems now we're getting on a roll."

After being humiliated by 15 consecutive regular-season losses to the Habs, the B's turned what they hope is a new page in the series, riddling Montreal goalie Carey Price, who came into the game unbeaten against Boston in his career (6-0-0 with a 2.27 goals-against average).

"That was last year," snapped B's defenseman Zdeno Chara. "We're not...

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