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Canadiens 3, Bruins 2

Double loss for Bruins

Canadiens triumph, skip 4 points ahead

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / March 14, 2010

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MONTREAL — Harmless play, really.

Puck glances off the end boards near the net. Goalie leaves the crease to play the puck. He settles it and starts the breakout the other way.

Last night at the Bell Centre, it was hardly so routine.

When Tuukka Rask left the crease to chase down Hal Gill’s dump-in off the wall, he failed to settle the puck, which skittered out into the slot. Rask dived to get in front of Sergei Kostitsyn’s shot, but he arrived a hair after the puck hit the back of the net at 1:41 of the third period. Kostitsyn’s goal gave the Canadiens a 3-1 lead and turned out to be the winning strike in the Bruins’ 3-2 loss last night before 21,273 people.

“I think I just misread it,’’ said Rask, who made 24 saves. “I went to play it with my forehand. To me, it seemed like it came faster out of the boards than before it hit the boards. Just tough when your goalie makes a mistake like that. It shows on the scoreboard. Today, it cost us a game. Not much you can do.’’

The moral victory in last night’s gut punch of a loss — Montreal extended its lead over Boston to four points in the Eastern Conference playoff chase — was that instead of tucking their tails, the Bruins stepped on the gas after Rask’s gaffe. Milan Lucic trimmed Montreal’s lead with his seventh goal of the season at 11:46 of the third.

In the last five minutes of regulation, the Bruins had a chance to tie the score when Marco Sturm played give-and-go with Mark Recchi. The sequence led to a two-on-zero rush that ended with Sturm taking a cross-crease dish from Recchi for a point-blank scoring chance. But Jaroslav Halak (21 saves) read Recchi’s pass, exploded to his left, and got in front of Sturm’s shot to keep Montreal’s one-goal lead intact.

“We had an opportunity to tie it,’’ coach Claude Julien said. “Their goaltender made a great save on that. I thought our team got better as the game went on.’’

The Bruins’ legs and heads were invisible at the start. In the first 30 seconds, a Zdeno Chara turnover led to Benoit Pouliot humming a slap shot that rang off the right post. Then after Mark Stuart was sent off for holding, Andrei Markov wristed a shot from the point that skimmed off Dennis Seidenberg and floated over Rask at 6:02 for the game’s first goal.

A bad start turned even worse when Kostitsyn gave his club a two-goal lead in the final minute of the first. Markov jumped up in the offensive zone and started to wheel around the net with the puck. Before completing his wraparound, Markov sent a pass across his body to Kostitsyn. With Rask anticipating the maneuver and hugging the far post, Kostitsyn rapped the puck into the open net at 19:20.

In contrast, the Bruins put only six shots on Halak in the first.

“It was obvious out there that we didn’t have the greatest first period,’’ Lucic said. “Getting down, 2-0, didn’t help us win. We battled hard for the second and third. Obviously an unlucky play ended up in our net. But all in all, with the way Montreal’s been playing thus far, we didn’t put in a full 60-minute effort. I think that’s what hurt us today.’’

At 1:12 of the second, Blake Wheeler gave the Bruins hope. As Michael Ryder carried the puck down the left wing, Wheeler charged to the far post in hopes of a dish. Ryder obliged, sending a backhand pass that Wheeler tipped past Halak to make it a 2-1 game.

Then in the third, Lucic took a pass from Vladimir Sobotka and turned on Mathieu Darche, using his back to protect the puck from the backchecking forward. As Lucic curled into the high slot, Brad Marchand went to the front of the net, engaged Hal Gill, and set a screen on Halak. Lucic winged a wrister that beat Halak at 11:46 to close the gap to a goal.

But aside from Sturm’s shot, the Canadiens prevented the Bruins from getting any other good looks on goal.

“We did a great job in Philly and put in a full 60-minute effort,’’ Lucic said, referring to Thursday’s 5-1 rout of the Flyers. “We controlled that whole game. After an effort like that, we can’t come and think it’s going to be easy. It shouldn’t take us a period to get going and get back to our game. We’ve got to know that we’ve got to bring that same kind of mentality every game and to the start of every game. The first five minutes of every game are real important. That should be our goal from here on in — that we have a great start and a good five minutes to start the game. Then we can build some momentum off that.’’

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com.

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