Bruins explode to beat Canadiens in Northeast showdown

BOSTON (Reuters) - The Boston Bruins unleashed an offensive outburst and a slew of punches as they retained sole possession of first place in the Northeast with an 8-6 victory over division contender the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.

Milan Lucic and Michael Ryder scored two goals each as Boston (31-16-7) defeated Montreal for the first time in six games and powered to a four-point advantage over the pursuing Canadiens (30-20-5).

In a bitter contest, Boston's All-Star Tim Thomas got into a second-period fight with fellow goaltender Carey Price during a wild scene that saw both teams rush the ice. The incident resulted in five Bruins and four Canadiens given penalties.

"It was getting into an outnumbered situation. That's when I was thinking when I was getting down there (to challenge Price)," Thomas told reporters. "He was more than willing to fight."

Thomas quickly fell to the ice during the confrontation that saw the netminders do more pushing and shoving than exchanging punches.

Eight players also squared off with 41 seconds to go as the teams combined for 187 penalty minutes.

Brad Marchand and Dennis Seidenberg gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead in the first period before both teams scored four goals each in a second period full of fireworks.

Max Pacioretty pulled Montreal to 6-5 at 7:06 in the final period but Ryder and Nathan Horton added goals down the stretch to put the game out of reach. Pacioretty capped the scoring with his second goal.

Brian Gionta, P.K. Subban, Yannick Weber and David Desharnais also scored for the Canadiens.

"Today was a big game. A lot of points were on the line. Important points," Gionta said. "It's just an emotional game, and that's what you saw out there."

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Rex Gowar/Greg Stutchbury)