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Canadiens 4, Bruins 3

Bruins can’t catch Canadiens

A solid right by David Krejci knocked Michael Cammalleri’s helmet off. A solid right by David Krejci knocked Michael Cammalleri’s helmet off. (Graham Hughes/Associated Press)
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / December 17, 2010

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MONTREAL — Last night, practically before Tim Thomas could scrape up the ice in his crease, Milan Lucic had coughed up the puck, Michael Cammalleri had pulled away for a chance, and the Montreal sniper had been awarded a penalty shot 64 seconds into the game.

The way the Bruins’ luck was, Cammalleri deked Thomas into Nova Scotia and tucked the puck in the net. Cammalleri’s goal gave the Canadiens the jolt they needed — conversely, it rattled the Bruins for the rest of the first period — to score a 4-3 win before 21,273 at the Bell Centre.

With a victory, the Bruins could have tied the Canadiens for the Northeast Division lead with 38 points. Instead, they’re stuck in a three-game skid.

“It’s a pity that the game has to ultimately be decided by a penalty shot call in the first two minutes where I didn’t even see the penalty, let alone the penalty shot,’’ said Thomas. “When I was mentally preparing for the game, I didn’t foresee that.’’

Cammalleri had a stride on Zdeno Chara and Steven Kampfer. From Thomas’s view, both defensemen went stick-on-stick with Cammalleri to foil his partial breakaway.

“It’s debatable whether one guy got his stick on his hands a little bit,’’ Thomas said. “It looked like to me that it was stick-on-stick contact. Certainly not a penalty shot. It changed the whole outlook of the game. Totally. From beginning to end.’’

It didn’t help, however, that the timid Bruins didn’t show up for most of the first. Maxim Lapierre scored a short-range goal later in the period to double Montreal’s lead. At 15:52 of the first, Blake Wheeler got a gift when Carey Price flubbed a bad-angle shot. It was the first of three times the Bruins would cut a two-goal deficit to one.

But as has often happened this season, the year of sputtering starts, the Bruins ran out of clock at the end. Listless legs, flagging emotion, and lack of bite early have come back to boot them in the rear end regularly.

Nathan Horton didn’t land a single shot. Shawn Thornton and Brad Marchand, usually good for several scoring chances, combined for zero shots. On defense, only Andrew Ference (assist) figured in the scoring.

“You come out of the gate and I think we felt good as a team,’’ Marc Savard said. “All of a sudden, you’ve got a questionable penalty shot. Then they kept coming. Timmy held the fort for us and we got one before we went out. We kept battling all night. We never gave up. It was a good effort by us. Just not enough.’’

Late in the first period, the speedy Canadiens showed they were the tougher team, too. As Marchand carried the puck into the offensive zone with speed, P.K. Subban launched himself at the forward. With Marchand failing to see the defenseman approach, Subban cleaned his clock with an open-ice hit. Marchand staggered back to the bench, while Subban fended off challenges by Thornton and Gregory Campbell. Campbell was docked two minutes for roughing.

Following Subban’s hit, the Bruins didn’t respond with any clobbering of their own. The only time tempers flared was when David Krejci, upset with Cammalleri for what he thought was an elbow in the second period, threw down with Montreal’s sharpshooter. It was Krejci’s first NHL fight.

“These little guys, they play like that — little elbows,’’ Krejci said. “The ref, it’s hard for him to see. It’s no big deal. I don’t like when they do that. I don’t like when they do it on me. That’s what happened.’’

The Bruins finally got some sustained offensive pressure in the second, starting with a solid shift by Savard and his third-line mates. First, Savard sprung Tyler Seguin for a goalmouth chance that Price turned aside. Seguin stayed with the play and found Ference open at the point. As Ference wound up, Savard entered the shooting lane, then tipped the defenseman’s shot when it arrived. The deflection beat Price at 6:54, giving Savard his first goal and making it 3-2.

But Brian Gionta gave the Canadiens a two-goal cushion again at 16:54 of the second when he deflected a shot past Thomas (37 saves). At 15:10 of the third, Lucic got his stick on a Patrice Bergeron one-timer and angled the puck around Price for his team-leading 16th goal. It was the closest the Bruins would come.

“It threw us off there a little bit,’’ coach Claude Julien said of the early penalty shot. “That second goal as well. One of those games where it seemed to hit us and end up on their sticks or in our net. Tough night with the goals against, no doubt. The second period, we were better. The third period, we were probably at our best. It’s unfortunate because we needed all three periods like that third period tonight.’’

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