Again, Bruins come away with nothing
MONTREAL -- As his teammates scrubbed off the disappointment of a crushing 1-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens last night, Tim Thomas sat at his stall and tried to explain the Bruins' inopportune disappearance of offense.
"I'm not in the scoring business," said Thomas, who stopped all but one of the 32 shots he faced before 21,273 fans at the Bell Centre. "I'm in the saving business. Just have to try to do the best I can to keep the game as close as possible. I'd like to have a tie game, 0-0, if I could have saved one more."
Thomas did everything in his power to keep his teammates aloft. It just so happened that on Montreal's second-period goal, a 19-year-old rookie made a sweet move around a 34-year-old defenseman.
On the other end, the Boston attack couldn't solve a 21-year-old first-year netminder who was making only his ninth NHL appearance. The Bruins were blanked for the second game in a row.
Under assault in a 13-shot second period, the Bruins buckled just once -- and that was enough. Late in the period, they cleared their zone, but they turned the puck over at the far blue line, allowing the Canadiens to counterattack.
Defenseman Mike Komisarek sent a two-line pass up the ice to rookie Guillaume Latendresse. Aaron Ward charged the forward, trying to separate Latendresse from the puck.
But the Montreal winger dragged the puck around Ward, sending the defenseman flying out of the play. With no Bruins between him and the goal, Latendresse took his time and snapped a wrister past Thomas's glove with one minute left in the period, scoring for the 16th time and giving the Canadiens the only goal they needed.
"Pretty nice move around Ward there," said Thomas. "I moved out and had a good angle on him. But he was shooting and put it in a real good spot."
Thomas was fortunate not to have to fish several more pucks out of his net. On the same shift as his goal, Latendresse spotted linemate Alexei Kovalev joining the rush and fed the puck to the winger. But Kovalev fired over the goal and into the glass. As he skated around the net, Kovalev looked up to the ceiling in frustration.
Earlier in the period, Kovalev sent a puck into the slot for forward Steve Begin, who had Thomas beaten. But Begin's shot zinged past a diving Thomas and rattled off the right post, allowing the goalie to scramble and cover the puck at 15:35.
The Bruins never answered with similar danger-area action. While the Canadiens controlled the puck, set up their offense, and crashed the net, Boston's sputtering offense rarely kicked into gear.
Coach Dave Lewis acknowledged the absence of traffic in front of the Montreal net -- if only Storrow Drive could be so wide open -- and blamed it on his club's failure to control the neutral zone. The Bruins couldn't control the puck in the middle of the ice, so their forecheck never got rolling, allowing Jaroslav Halak to get a good look at most of the 30 shots they threw at him as he recorded his first career shutout.
Top-line centers Marc Savard (22:15 of ice time) and Patrice Bergeron (17:22) were not at full strength; both missed the morning skate and did not address their ailments.
"They weren't 100 percent," said Lewis. "That's as far as I'm going to go."
With Boston's two best players off their games, the dirty work was left to the fourth line of Jeremy Reich, Ben Walter, and Jeff Hoggan, who made the most of their limited ice time by attempting to challenge Halak and the Montreal defense. Hoggan had four shots, tying him with Savard for most by a Bruin.
Tomorrow, the wounded Bruins (now 7 points behind the eighth-place Canadiens) return to TD Banknorth Garden for their second-to-last clash with Montreal -- a game whose outcome now will matter little in Boston's all-but-over postseason chase.
"It hurts a lot," Bergeron said. "It's against a team that we want to beat to get to the playoffs. They're ahead of us, so those 2 points hurt. It's a tough loss for us."