It’s become a rarity to see the Boston Bruins not come away with two points when leading after forty minutes of play, but that’s precisely what happened in front of a packed house at TD Garden last night. With captain Zdeno Chara in the box for 17 minutes after responding to an Alexei Emelin cross-check to Tyler Seguin’s rib cage, the Montreal Canadiens scored two goals in the first ten minutes of the third to earn a big victory over the Black and Gold, retaking first place in the Eastern Conference.
It was actually the Canadiens who struck first as part of a goal scoring flurry midway through the opening stanza, with a Tomas Plekanec power play goal ten minutes in. But Boston’s red hot line of Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand would respond just 50 seconds later, with Seguin burying a nice Bergeron feed out front to tie the game. But any momentum from that quick response would quickly vanish, as the Habs struck again just 16 seconds after Seguin’s goal to regain the lead after some sloppy defensive zone play by the Bruins, as a David Desharnais cross-crease pass deflected off Johnny Boychuk and into the net.
In the second period though, the story was much different. The Bruins came out with far more energy and were able to draw the game square once again with a Patrice Bergeron goal just four minutes into the period after a nice rush with Seguin. Then just five minutes later, rookie Dougie Hamilton knocked a bouncing puck by Habs goalie Peter Budaj to give the Bruins their first lead, 3-2. After a Milan Lucic/Brandon Prust scrap and the aforementioned Chara/Emelin incident, the B’s had the momentum, the crowd was into the game and things were looking good heading into the third.
But just five and a half minutes into the final frame a Max Pacioretty wrist shot through a heavy screen beat Tuukka Rask to tie the game, and less than four minutes later Desharnais would score his second and the eventual game winner after the Bruins once again failed to clear the front of their own net despite having all five skaters in close proximity. Boston actually carried play for most of the third, outshooting Montreal 10-4, but could not puck another puck past Budaj, who earned his third victory of the year.
It was a disappointing ending to an exciting game, but hopefully this game will serve as one of those ‘well-placed losses’ that Andy Brickley likes to harp on. The Bruins are beginning a very tough month of hockey and need to realize that some of the subpar efforts that they’ve given so far this year will no longer cut it against more elite teams in the East. Not that this game was one of those subpar efforts necessarily, but there is clearly more room for improvement. The B’s are back in action on Tuesday night against the Capitals in Washington.
- Seguin/Bergeron/Marchand - this line is on a tear, and was really the only forward unit to show up at all last night. A goal and two assists for Bergeron (7 pts in last 5 gms), goal and assist for Seguin (6 pts in last 5 gms), and three assists for Marchand (6 pts in last 5 gms). Created the best chances and nearly tied the game in the closing seconds. Bruins need this line to keep it up while the others get going.
- Zdeno Chara - appropriate response to Emelin cross-check on Seguin. Taking the full 17 minutes in penalties was obviously not a great trade off, but it was what everyone expects of the captain and he was there to have his teammate’s back. Also had a team high five hits and a shot block, and though he was running around little on some of those hits, overall was probably the Bruins best defenseman when he was on the ice.
- Claude Julien - had Chara’s back after the game, and also let loose on the Canadiens, embellishment (calling out P.K. Subban specifically), and the fact that the Bruins seem to getting penalties based on reputation and not actual guilt. It was the type of emotion and frustration that we rarely see from the Bruin boss, and on top of being refreshing to hear, he has some valid arguments.
- Pretty Much Everyone Else – Aside from maybe Dennis Seidenberg and Shawn Thornton, I didn’t like the effort from many other Bruins. The “top” line (quotes because I now consider the Bergeron/Seguin/Marchand line the Bruins’ #1 line) of David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic didn’t generate much. The third line (Paille/Kelly/Peverley) got a few chances (two posts hit by Kelly) but surrendered the two third period Habs goals. Adam McQuaid and Andrew Ference were turnover machines all game, and Tuukka Rask looked a little shaky in net. Just not a great team effort from one of the deepest rosters in the league, one good line isn’t going to get the job done.
- Turnovers - so, so many. Sloppy play in the defensive zone directly led to at least two of Montreal’s goals.
- Inability to Clear the Front of the Net - the game winning goal was yet another instance of the Bruins inability to locate and clear loose pucks around their own net, despite having numerous bodies there to do so. They had a similar situation against the Senators, and last night it cost them even more. There’s really no excuse for this with the defensemen that the Bruins have in their lineup, and Tuukka Rask needs to bear some of the responsibility as well by doing a better job eating up some of these.