BOSTON -- It's always fun for the players and fans when the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens get together for the latest renewal of one of the great rivalries in sports.
It's even better when both are healthy and playing well, which is the case for their first 2016-17 meeting Saturday night at TD Garden.
Both got their most important player back for Thursday night's fourth game of the season, with the Canadiens getting goaltender Carey Price back while Bruins center Patrice Bergeron made his return.
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Both were factors in wins as Montreal moved to 3-0-1 with a 5-2 home win over the Arizona Coyotes and the Bruins to 3-1-0 with a 2-1 home decision over the New Jersey Devils.
"In our mind, and I think most people in the league, he's the best goalie in the world, and you just can't replace that," Brendan Gallagher said after Price made 27 saves in his first regular-season game with the Habs since last Nov. 25. He missed the rest of last season with a knee injury and the first three games of 2016-17 with the flu.
In Boston, Bergeron, out for the first three games with a lower-body injury, scored with 1:15 left to give his team the win in his first game back.
"He does so much for our team ... having Bergy back is great," linemate Brad Marchand said after setting Bergeron up for the winner. "He brings so many things to the table."
Both Price and Bergeron were keys to Team Canada winning the World Cup of Hockey. Both returned to their teams, Price playing one preseason game before getting sick and Bergeron two for the Bruins, before going down.
Their respective teams did well without them, but are clearly better off than they were before Thursday.
"He was good, as good as always," said newly acquired Montreal defenseman Shea Weber, who played his first game in front of Price. "He made some big saves at key times, and obviously we know what we're going to get with him. He's a great player, he's a great competitor, and he's going to give us a chance to win every night."
Bergeron was replaced during his absence by the newly signed David Backes, who centered Marchand and David Pastrnak -- and the line didn't miss a beat. Backes slid down to right wing on the line centered by David Krejci on Thursday.
Marchand scored the first goal and both he and Pastrnak were a plus-2 in the win -- raising both to an NHL-best plus-9 through the first four games. Marchand, armed with a new $49 million contract, has three goals and nine points while Pastrnak owns four goals and seven points in four games.
The Canadiens have had the better of the rivalry in recent years, but the Bruins did win two of the last three between the two last season -- Montreal's win in that span a 5-1 outdoor drubbing of the Bruins at Gillette Stadium in the Winter Classic.
Tuukka Rask, who has allowed just five goals in his 3-0 start to the season, was declared out against the Canadiens after battling soreness. Rask was held out of practice Friday and missed Saturday's morning skate.
Rask was just 5-15-3 lifetime against the Canadiens, while Price is an impressive 22-8-3 against Boston.
The Bruin recalled Zane McIntyre from Providence on an emergency basis and to serve as Anton Khudobin's backup against the Canadiens.
One major change in the rivalry involves Weber, acquired from the Nashville Predators in an even swap for P.K. Souban, the latter the No. 1 villain of the TD Garden crowd. No one in Boston hates Shea Weber.
The Bruins opened last season with three straight home games, losing all three en route to 17-18-6 season home record (25-13-3 on the road) and missed the playoffs for the second straight season. That's what made it important for them to win Thursday in the opener of a three-game homestand.
"We talked about our home record in the last few years and we wanted to do the job early, especially in the first game -- and it's one step but we're happy with it, said Bergeron.
The Canadiens are 1-0-1 on the road.