MONTREAL -- When the Bruins got outworked and ultimately beaten by the Buffalo Sabres in their second game of the year, coach Mike Sullivan was irritated because the effort was so lacking.
Last night, the bench boss said his club's 4-3 loss to the Canadiens was even worse. After a good start by the Bruins, who had leads of 2-0 and 3-2, Montreal turned on the jets and scored a pair of power-play goals in the third period to earn the victory.
''They were the better team tonight," said Sullivan. ''They outworked us and they beat us in a lot of areas. We didn't deserve to win.
''We just have to be a better team. This was the most frustrating one from my standpoint because you choose to control certain things out there that help you win or you choose not to.
''Sometimes great players are going to make great plays and the puck is going to end up in your net, but we've got to do a better job of being thorough in areas so we make it harder for teams to establish scoring chances and I don't think we helped our cause tonight."
The loss overshadowed a milestone night for Brian Leetch, who with a goal and an assist became just the seventh defenseman in NHL history to score 1,000 points.
The Bruins took a 2-0 first-period lead on the strength of goals by left wing P.J. Axelsson, who converted a turnover by Habs center Tomas Plekanec at 5:38, and Leetch, who scored on the power play at 8:20.
The Canadiens rallied in the middle period to tie it. Their first goal came at 5:17 during the man advantage, as right wing Michael Ryder drove the left circle and beat goalie Andrew Raycroft with a high backhander into the short side.
The Bruins had an opportunity to pull away when Montreal defenseman Sheldon Souray was whistled off on a double minor for high sticking forward Pat Leahy. The closest they came to cashing in, however, was a nice move down the slot by Brad Boyes, who was corralled by defensemen Mathieu Dandenault and Francis Bouillon and wound up in the box himself for holding Dandenault's stick.
Instead of increasing their lead, the Bruins lost it when they allowed one too many odd-man rushes. They escaped the first two-on-one break with Saku Koivu and Alexander Perezhogin but paid the price for the second one, on the same shift.
Only seconds after Raycroft had turned back Perezhogin's bid, the two came flying down again, sprung by a pass from Alex Kovalev. Koivu, atop the right circle, relayed the puck to Perezhogin in the left circle. He relayed it back to Koivu, who cashed in just inside the post to make it 2-2 at 13:52.
Boston went back on top just five seconds into a power play at 15:43 on defenseman Nick Boynton's first goal of the year, set up by Leetch, whose assist took him to 1,000.
But that was the end of the happy news for the Bruins, who watched their lead evaporate in the third period. The Habs pulled even at 3-3 just 2:02 into the period when center Mike Ribeiro batted a rebound out of the air and into the net from outside the right post.
The winner came at 9:12 on a rebound by Perezhogin, only 18 seconds after defenseman Hal Gill was whistled off for hauling down Koivu, who would've had a breakaway.
After that, the Bruins squandered a two-man advantage for 1:13, and it was all over.
Boston is 0-4 against Northeast Division opponents and finished the six-game trip 3-3 (they're 3-4 overall).
''We really didn't play that well, we have to play better," said Boynton. ''We played most of the time in our end and it's really tough to score goals.
''I didn't think they were playing that well tonight but we didn't really put any pressure on them. Tonight should've been our game easily and, for whatever reason, we didn't finish them. We have to get a killer instinct. A team like that shouldn't beat us and we let them back into the game and we let them beat us."
Leetch said it was a disappointing way to end the long trip.
''Overall, we got outskated," he said. ''They beat us to a lot of pucks.
''Their first two lines were able to kind of really have their way with us for big chunks of the game and that can't happen. We've got to be able to match the other team five-on-five."