Rapid Reaction: Canadiens 2, Bruins 1

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens gained control of the top spot in the Atlantic Division with a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night at Bell Centre.

Prior to the game, the Bruins had four days off between games, while the Canadiens have played four games in six days and showed no ill effects of their recent schedule. Montreal won many of the physical battles, especially in the third period, and did not allow Boston a chance for a comeback.

Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty scored for Montreal, while goaltender Carey Price made 32 saves.

Gregory Campbell scored Boston's lone goal, and goaltender Tuukka Rask made 25 saves.

With the win, the Canadiens have won four straight and are 8-0-1 in their last nine games.

The Bruins gained the early lead when Campbell scored at 17:35 of the first period. Boston defensemen Dennis Seidenberg made a strong play in the neutral zone as he intercepted a pass and kicked it to teammate Milan Lucic. In transition, Lucic created a burst of speed in the midst of a partial 2-on-1 before passing to Campbell, who finished for his second goal of the season. The Canadiens managed only three shots in the opening period.

"I thought our first period was still good, we had no issues there," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Our second period was atrocious and embarrassing and that cost us the game. If we would've played the middle period like we did the first and third, we'd be standing here with a win right now."

Montreal took over in the second period and scored a pair of goals to gain a 2-1 lead.

Plekanec beat Rask to the short side, top right corner with a shot from a tough angle near the bottom of the right faceoff circle to tie the game at 1-1 at 9:16. Montreal gained its 2-1 lead at 17:42 of the second when Pacioretty's backhander from the high slot made its way through a scramble in front and beat Rask, who was sprawled out. Montreal registered 17 shots in the second period. Boston managed only seven, but not one quality scoring chance.

Boston was much better in the third period and created opportunities, but Price served as Montreal's closer in this one and denied the Bruins.

Julien refused to blame the loss on the Bruins' long layoff, or anything else, for that matter.

"All excuses that aren't acceptable," Julien said. "You've got to take the blame for what you did and didn't do and we didn't show up for the second period and we allowed them to score two goals on us. That's the only place that cost us the game. I liked our third period. We had lots of chances and Carey stood tall for his team and we weren't able to finish. At the same time, we didn't need to be in that position. It turned the whole game around and what they did to us in the second we were supposed to do to them and we didn't do it."

SCARY MOMENT: Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk was injured and taken off on a stretcher early in the first period and transported to an area hospital. He jumped into the rush and was hit behind the Montreal net by Pacioretty and crashed into the end boards at 4:28 of the opening period. Pacioretty received a boarding penalty on the play. Boychuk got to his knees but remained in that position as trainers from both teams, EMTs and Montreal's team doctor tended to him. Boychuk was taken off the ice with his head and neck securely locked onto the stretcher. It's the fourth time this season the Bruins have been forced to play with five defensemen due to an injury in the first period. On Thursday, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara played nearly 30 minutes, finishing with 29:50 of ice time.

DROP 'EM: It was inevitable the Bruins' Shawn Thornton would drop the gloves with someone from Montreal. At 10:18 of the second period, he squared off at center ice with Brandon Prust. The Montreal forward took exception to an earlier hit by Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton on the same shift, so Thornton obliged and the two went toe-to-toe for at least a minute. The Bruins entered the game with a 50-21-10 record when Thornton registers a fighting major.

SCRATCHES: Bruins forward Jordan Caron and defenseman Kevan Miller were the healthy scratches. Fellow blueliner Adam McQuaid (lower-body injury) did not make the trip and remained in Boston.

MOMENT OF SILENCE: Prior to the game, the Canadiens honored the life of Nelson Mandela, who passed away Thursday, with a moment of silence and showed his picture on the video board.

UP NEXT: The Bruins will host the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night at TD Garden. It's the last game at home before the Bruins head out for a four-game road trip through Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.