Return to inaction
Olympic break ends, Montreal skates rings around Bruins
Seemingly before the puck off Benoit Pouliot’s stick hit the back of the empty Boston net, bottles and cups floated onto the TD Garden ice, flung by fans who appeared to have more invested than the players in last night’s showdown against the Canadiens.
It was the first game back after 23 days without hockey at the Garden. It was Bruins-Canadiens. It was a battle between seventh- and eighth-place clubs, with just 1 point separating the two.
For all that, the Bruins played with little emotional engagement in a forgetful third period that served as their downfall.
Up, 1-0, on their archrivals after 40 minutes, the Bruins saw four third-period shots find the back of their net as the Canadiens handed the humbled home club a 4-1 spanking before 17,565 fans. The Bruins, who have one more home match tomorrow before leaving for a seven-game road swing, have yet to win on Garden ice in 2010.
“When you go into the third period with a 1-0 lead, you expect your team to not give up four, counting the empty net,’’ coach Claude Julien said. “We were losing races and losing battles there at the end. Part of it is them wanting it more than we did at that point. The other part is we’ve got to be better and we’ve got to be smarter.
“Some of those goals they scored were obviously mistakes in outnumbered situations. On the first goal, we lost our man. They tied it up and got some momentum off that.
“I didn’t think we were very sharp in our decision-making, whether we were hesitating or mentally not sharp. As the game went on, we seemed to get worse.’’
The Bruins’ only offensive highlight took place in the first period when they made Dominic Moore pay for taking an interference penalty. After Marc Savard won a puck battle from Tomas Plekanec, the center shuffled a pass to Zdeno Chara at the point. As Chara walked the puck to the middle, Marco Sturm set up in front to tip a puck that came through.
Sturm didn’t get his stick on Chara’s wrister, but the left wing was in position to find the rebound. Even with Josh Gorges pushing him backward into goalie Carey Price, Sturm spotted the puck and one-handed a shot over the goal line at 12:11, giving his club a 1-0 lead. It was Sturm’s team-leading 19th goal.
But aside from that goal and a handful of other chances, the Bruins looked like a team that hadn’t played in more than two weeks. Savard (round peg) and linemate Mark Recchi (square hole) had zero offensive chemistry. Price turned aside the best chance between Michael Ryder and Blake Wheeler when he slid from right to left to stuff Wheeler’s shot (the two had broken out on a two-on-one rush in the first). The Boston defensemen didn’t get many pucks through from the point to help out their forwards.
“We never really got anything going,’’ Savard said. “They went to the net and they got rewarded. It seems like when they tie it, it’s a little deflating to us. It never was before. We always used to go out there knowing, sitting on that bench knowing that we’re still going to come back. It doesn’t seem like that mentality is there with a lot of us.’’
The Bruins are considering this 22-game stretch run a new season. But last night, it was the same old theme: a spitball offense that relies on flawless goaltending.
“We’ve said all along that we’ve really been challenged at scoring goals this year,’’ Julien said. “It hasn’t been because we haven’t tried or haven’t encouraged our team to do it. It’s that we’ve had a lot of guys whose numbers have been down this year. It’s as simple as that.’’
Rask, making his seventh straight start (longest streak of his career), was perfect for 40 minutes. Rask turned aside all 18 shots that came his way, making the textbook stops as well as the athletic, last-ditch saves.
But Montreal’s hard-hatters went to work in the third. After Tom Pyatt got past Derek Morris and saw Glen Metropolit shake off Shawn Thornton’s backcheck, he found the ex-Bruin for a bang-bang goal-mouth score to tie the game at 2:40 of the third.
After Rask couldn’t handle a short-range Travis Moen attempt (the left wing had gotten around Andrew Ference), Maxim Lapierre found the puck lying in the crease and banged it home at 7:24. During a delayed penalty, Metropolit found a seam in the slot, then dished to Mathieu Darche for a goal at 17:30. Pouliot capped off the rout with the empty-netter at 18:33.
“That’s how you score goals in this league,’’ Rask said of the Canadiens’ blue-collar strikes. “You’ve got to go to the net. You’ve got to create traffic. Bang those rebounds in.
“I think we’ve just got to be sharper around the net and bang those bodies. It’s just one game after the break. [Tomorrow] we’ve got to get back.’’