MONTREAL — The Boston Bruins came out flying Saturday night, with Pavel Zacha tipping Charlie McAvoy’s shot attempt past Canadiens netminder Sam Montembeault just 36 seconds in.
If only they could sustain that energy from the opening shift.
The Bruins felt fortunate that their 1-0 lead remained intact through the first 40 minutes. The Habs, usually the more skilled team of the two, outmuscled the Bruins along the walls and in open ice. The Bruins, meanwhile, struggled to generate chances off the rush and had a difficult time clearing pucks away from Jeremy Swayman’s crease.
With the ice tilted in their favor at the end of two, the Habs pounced early in the third.
Nick Suzuki quickly tied things up in the third, converting on a power play snipe just 24 seconds in.
Brendan Gallagher buried a rebound past Swayman a mere 27 seconds later to put the Habs ahead for the first time.
The Bruins generated a handful of looks in their push for the equalizer. And they even thought they had tied it up when Oskar Steen tipped Ian Mitchell’s shot from the point past Montembeault, but a head-scratching decision on Montreal’s interference challenge negated the tally.
Amid another rough night with the officiating, the Bruins had a trio of power play chances to net the coveted tying marker. But Boston’s man advantage struggled to generate much traffic or shooting opportunities with their 4-on-3 and 5-on-3 chances midway through the final frame.
The Bruins persevered, ultimately forcing overtime after Brad Marchand notched a power play tally off a double deflection. But they couldn’t carry over their momentum into the 3-on-3 overtime session as Kaiden Guhle lofted a slap shot past Swayman to give the Bruins their third loss of the season.
“At the end of the day we got a point, and that’s what matters this time of year,” Marchand said following Boston’s 3-2 setback. “We’ll take what we can from the game, watch some video and improve on some things. But, yeah, definitely things we can look at, and that we’re going to rectify for the next game.”
Here’s what we learned as the Bruins dropped their first decision to the Habs since Nov. 5, 2019.
Bruins relinquish another lead in losing effort.
In the very first shift, the Bruins seemingly had everything going for them.
A returning McAvoy made an immediate impact on his initial shift partnering with Mason Lohrei. Zacha parked himself in the slot for the timely tip.
Yet, the Bruins struggled to generate similar shifts consistently in a heavy back-and-forth tilt. The Habs, meanwhile, pushed back, using their speed and muscle to win puck battles and establish extensive zone time in their attacking end.
The mental lapses piled up for the Bruins. Within the first minute of the third, they faced an uphill battle.
“They played a really good game. They never gave up, and completed all the way through,” Marchand said. “We were sleepy at times and didn’t execute the way we can and the way we should. That’s where we have to get better.”
Was Saturday just a blip? Or did the OT loss highlight more of a troubling trend?
The Bruins relinquished leads in each of their three losses. A pair of those blemishes came from third-period comebacks, with the Ducks coming back from two goals down in the final minutes during a late October matchup and the Habs erasing Boston’s slim advantage on Saturday.
Unlike their self-inflicted loss to Anaheim, the Bruins were pretty fortunate to enter the third period with a lead. A timely equalizer from Marchand and a consistent outing from Swayman, however, allowed the Bruins to leave Montreal with one point.
“The first minute of the third was a microcosm of the first two periods. We’re lucky to be in the position when we were up 1-0. And again, Swayman puts us in position to get us a point.”
Swayman got testy while keeping Boston afloat.
The fourth-year Bruin didn’t have his usual support in front of his crease. Yet, even with his rebound control looking slightly more off than usual, Swayman remained composed and square to the puck.
Sure, he may have wanted another chance to stop Suzuki’s power-play blast or Guhel’s game-winner. Yet, the former University of Maine star kept a sleepwaking Bruins bunch in position to steal two points.
“It’s not good enough, though,” Swayman said after dropping his first decision of the season. “I think we’re a team that needs to get two points almost every night. A lot of learning tonight. Going into the third with the lead, you want to close that out. I want to have a couple of saves there, and it’s just not good enough.”
Swayman even tried to drag his teammates into the fight during a third period scrum.
A testy exchange with Gallagher prompted a smile out of Swayman as the two teams engaged in post-whistle activity. After coming out of the pile of humanity, Swayman looked directly on the other side of the rink at Montembeault, hoping the Habs goalie would accept his challenge.
Montembeault didn’t bite. But Swayman, who encountered a similar exchange with Stars captain Jamie Benn during his last start, has accustomed himself to the net-front scrum.
“Hockey play,” Swaymana said. “You see it 10 times a night, so nothing different.”
Yet, even though he’s more than capable of taking control of the matter, Swayman’s teammates don’t want him to have to defend himself regularly. Nor do they want Linus Ullmark in a similar predicament.
“That was kind of funny,” McAvoy said of the Swayman sequence. “But we’ve got to have his back. We don’t want him fighting. We want to protect him at all costs, and the same with Linus, too. It’s our utmost priority making sure those guys stay safe and feel protected.”
Marchand’s emotions get the better of him.
With the league cracking down on arguments, Marchand earned the wrath from the men in stripes during an inopportune time.
Indeed, the Bruins felt they didn’t get the benefit of the doubt from the officials on a few occasions. They frequented the penalty box over a roughly 10-minute stretch between the second and third periods, giving the Habs multiple opportunities on the man advantage. And they felt robbed on a goaltender interference review involving Steen, where it looked as if the fourth-line forward avoided the Montreal crease altogether before tipping Mitchell’s shot past Montembeault.
Eventually, Marchand’s frustrations boiled over after the officials failed to call an infraction when he took a slash to the wrist early in the third. Boston’s captain sounded off as he skated away toward the visiting bench, only to earn himself an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“I don’t know how it gets more obvious over the call that he missed there, but I can’t let the emotions get the better of me there,” Marchand said. “It is what it is.”
“You can’t take those type of penalties; it’s inexcusable,” Montgomery added. “The refs ref games, and the players play games.”
Marchand redeemed himself after netting his seventh goal of the season at 12:58 of the final frame, allowing the Bruins to salvage a point during an off night.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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