MONTREAL - Boston against Montreal? Or was that Washington against Harlem?
Last night, in the latest installment of 2007-08 laughers against the Canadiens, the Bruins bumbled through their worst showing yet.
The Bruins, playing the Generals to Montreal's Globetrotters, lost their sixth straight match to their hated rivals this season, dropping an 8-2 decision before 21,273 at the Bell Centre, giving up the most goals they've allowed all year. The hammering came on the heels of a two-game sweep of the Rangers over the weekend.
"Disappointing. Thoroughly disappointing," said Aaron Ward. "We go into the Rangers - obviously a pretty potent team, a team that's similar with the capability of putting the puck in the net - and stifle them. We come into Montreal, a division foe, and more or less lay an egg."
In their six losses to the Canadiens - nearly a third of their total setbacks (19) this season - several things have become clear. The Canadiens have more skill. More speed. Better goaltending. And a whole lot more swagger.
At no time was this more evident than during a four-on-four stretch in the second period. Alex Kovalev lost his glove behind the Boston net, but the winger, while stickhandling through the traffic cones known as Boston defenders, retrieved his mitt and continued to cycle with the puck, delighting the home crowd.
"There haven't been too many positives that we can pull from in the games against these guys," said Andrew Ference. "Not even really any great stretches of hockey. We're not exactly learning our lesson, it seems. There's not much positive stuff to pull from the video clips anyways."
As early as the second period, the cackling Montreal crowd showered the Bruins with refrains of "hey hey hey, goodbye," when, in fact, the game was over even before then.
Instead of going with Tim Thomas, who yesterday was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team, coach Claude Julien tapped Alex Auld as his starter.
The game was 14 seconds old when Auld fished the first of four pucks out of his net. To start the game, Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau sent out his fourth line of Steve Begin, Bryan Smolinski, and Tom Kostopoulos against Boston's top line of Marco Sturm, Marc Savard, and Phil Kessel and the top defensive pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Wideman.
Julien didn't like the matchup, so off the opening faceoff, he called for a five-man change. That move backfired as Peter Schaefer, who had replaced Sturm, failed to clear the puck from the defensive zone, allowing Begin to take a shot from the left wing. The puck deflected off traffic, but Auld had overplayed it, leaving the net wide open for Kostopoulos to bang home the rebound.
"When that happens, you just forget about it and move on," said Auld. "As a goalie, you have to forget everything. Whether it's a save or a goal, you just have to worry about the next one."
Two of the next three first-period goals that Auld allowed skimmed off sticks - forward Michael Ryder, after outmuscling Shane Hnidy (a minus-4 in 16:27 of ice time), tipped a pass from captain Saku Koivu, and forward Andrei Kostitsyn deflected a shot by defenseman Mike Komisarek - but the starter didn't do himself any favors at the end of the first period.
Up, 3-1, (Marco Sturm made it a 2-1 game at 12:09) the Canadiens scored their fourth and final goal on Auld at 19:57. Forward Sergei Kostitsyn hammered a slapper that went wide of the net, but the puck ricocheted off the end boards to the stick of linemate Maxim Lapierre. Auld, who had overcommitted on Kostitsyn's shot, was out of position and couldn't recover to stop Lapierre's slap shot that stamped an exclamation point on one of the ugliest periods of the year.
After 20 minutes, Auld gave way to Thomas, who also was beaten four times, including twice on the power play.
"Not even close to the effort and result we wanted," said Auld. "At the same time, we can't forget about all the good stuff we've done leading up to this. You've got to accept it and accept responsibility, but we can't make more out of it than it is."
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.