Boston, MA -- The Boston Bruins fell to the Montreal Canadiens, 4-2, Thursday night at the TD Banknorth Garden. Christopher Higgins, Kyle Chipchura and Tomas Plekanec each scored in the first period to give the Habs a commanding lead, and Montreal goaltender Carey Price stopped 24 shots in the victory.
"Our guys did not have a good start," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien. "We were sluggish. We weren’t very sharp. We weren’t alert.
"We weren’t a lot of things that we should have been."
The Boston Bruins had a tough finish to Wednesday night's road game against the Devils.
A heartbreaking 4-3 overtime loss to New Jersey that happened after the B's jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period, coupled with the loss of Tim Thomas to a lower body injury made Thursday's start by rookie goalie Tuukka Rask feel downright pivotal.
After all, the Bruins arch rival Montreal came into the TD Banknorth Garden just one point behind the Bruins in the Northeast Division. And, of course, the Habs brought their own highly touted rookie goalie in the person of Price.
At just 3:03 of the first period Price was given a 1-0 lead by his teammate Higgins when the latter scored from right outside Rask's crease, off a rebound, on the Habs first power play.
Instead of collapsing, the Bruins continued to press, and with their young goalie making some difficult saves early, obviously felt confident enough to attempt to play the wide-open game of their free wheeling opponents.
That strategy may have bitten them in the collective foot as the Canadiens began to run roughshod over their Black & Gold counterparts.
Chipchura found a seam through the neutral zone and followed it right to Rask's net, where he put the puck through the goalie's legs to make the score 2-0 Habs.
Again, Boston fought to reclaim its composure, but a CH goal put Boston in real trouble -- Bear killer Tomas Plekanec put Boston down by three at 18:18.
Shortly thereafter, the Bruins Jeremy Reich attempted to find a dance partner. When he was unsuccessful, he pressed the issue and after Francis Bouillon finally obliged his invitation to fight, Reich garnered -- not only the requisite five-minute major -- but also a ten-minute misconduct penalty.
Boston left for the locker room having allowed seven straight goals to their opponents and down 3-0 in the contest.
"They came out flying and we came out flat," said P.J. Axelsson. "They got the lead...and we tried to come back."
Boston began the second period calmly and slowly reverted to true form
With Andrei Kostitsyn in the box for Montreal, sophomore sniper Phil Kessel tipped a rocket launched from defenseman Dennis Wideman's stick past Price to make the scoreboard read 3-1 Canadiens at 6:10 of the middle session.
Remaining even-keeled, the Bruins scored again at 8:41, when the Habs lost track of Axelsson who took a crisp pass while stationed on Price's immediate right and deposited it into the goal. All-star candidate Marc Savard earned his league leading 28th assist on the play and scored for the 12th straight game.
The rest of the period was non-stop action from end to end, and several physical confrontations brewed, but neither team was able to finish their offensive chances and the Habs went to the room for the second break clinging to a 3-2 lead and with a man in the box to start the third period.
In the third, both Rask and Price continued their own fine play, with Tuukka, in particular, flashing a leg and a glove in Sportscenter-calibre fashion.
"I definitely played better as the game went on," said Rask. "The first period was sloppy.
"I let up three goals and I might have had one of those.
"But just like the team bounced back, I bounced back too," he said.
However, hopes for a come from behind victory for the Bruins were dealt a severe blow when Matheiu Dandenault finally beat Rask on the backhand at 13:15 to make the score 4-2 Habs.
"I give the guys credit for battling back in the second period and made it a game," said Julien. "They went out there in the third with good intentions, but I think their tank was empty at that stage."
Montreal garnered the remaining momentum in the contest and continued to pour shots on Rask as the seconds ticked off the clock.
After the game, Coach Julien chose to be philosophical about the loss.
"It’s easy to criticize your team when you lose a game like that," said Julien. "(But) we just came off a road trip, five games in eight nights and this was our third in four.
"You add on the injuries that we’ve run into (and) guys that are definitely tired (because they) have been on the road for a week.
"So all of that put together made for a poor performance tonight," he said.
Boston returns to action Saturday night in Toronto versus the Maple Leafs.
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1 - 0 MTL
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2 - 0 MTL
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3 - 0 MTL