MONTREAL – The Bruins had done a pretty good job of bottling up the Canadiens speed and skill in the first two games, but it all came crashing down in Game 3 at the Bell Centre. The Bruins lost only the second playoff Game 3 in the seven years Claude Julien has been head coach in Boston, and had way too many defensive breakdowns in a 4-2 loss to Montreal at a raucous Bell Centre.
The Bruins were 14-1 in Game 3’s headed into Tuesday night, and had a 12 game winning strike in the pivotal best-of-seven game dating back to the second round of the 2009 playoffs.
Tomas Plekanec scored a goal wide open on the backdoor to open the scoring for the Canadiens midway through the first period, and then things got worse from there. P.K. Subban was called for a roughing penalty after taking a run at Reilly Smith, but scored on a breakaway out of the penalty box after a sloppy power play for Boston.
The goal was Subban’s third of the second round series, and his sixth point in a best-of-seven playoff where he’s been Montreal’s biggest weapon in the three games against Boston. Things continued to get worse for Boston as they watched Carey Price once again turn away all their best offensive chances, and a B’s defensive breakdown set up a Dale Weise breakaway goal.
Both Andrej Meszaros and Johnny Boychuk fell asleep and somehow allowed the fourth line winger to get behind them for the solo scoring chance, and that just can’t happen in a tightly played postseason game. The Bruins scratched for one at the end of the second period when Patrice Bergeron tipped a Torey Krug shot past Price.
The Bruins made things interesting when Andrej Meszaros scored a goal with 2:16 remaining to make it a 3-2 game.
Lars Eller tallied an empty net goal in the closing seconds of the game.
GOLD STAR: P.K. Subban did enough early in the game to give the Canadiens exactly what they needed for victory, and that included playing a role in the two first period goals that got Montreal off and running. The first play was a secondary assist on the Tomas Plekanec backdoor goal that energized the crowd, and the second was the backbreaking breakaway goal after Subban stepped out of the penalty box. He caught the entire Bruins team by surprise, and threw one fake on Tuukka Rask all alone while scoring on the Finnish netminder. Subban finished with a game-high 27:50, the two points created in the first period and now has three goals and six points in three playoff games vs. Boston in this series. He’s been a game-changing force for the Habs against the Bruins.
BLACK EYE: The entire defenseman corps for the Bruins let them down in this game: Kevan Miller was way out of position on a backdoor play with Tomas Plekanec, Andrej Meszaros twice lost track of forwards behind him and the second time it accounted for the game-winning goal for Dale Weise, and Dougie Hamilton lost track of P.K. Subban coming out of the penalty box for his breakaway in the first period. They got a bit better as the game went along, but they allowed way, way, way too many Grade A offensive chances, and breakaways to a speedy Montreal attack.
TURNING POINT: The Bruins were only outshot by a 10-9 margin in the first period, but it was a series of self-inflicted gun shot wounds that ended up crushing the Bruins in the end. A blown defensive assignment left Tomas Plekanec wide open on a backdoor play, and the entire B’s penalty kill unit fell asleep in allowing P.K. Subban to score on a breakaway after stepping out of the penalty box. When the dust settled it was a 2-0 deficit and the Bruins were once again playing from behind against a Montreal team that’s created an uphill battle for the Bruins throughout the series. The first period mistakes doomed the Bruins, and that’s no exaggeration.
HONORABLE MENTION: Patrice Bergeron was a stud for the Bruins in this game. He led the B’s with six shots on net, had 10 generated shot chances, blocked three shots and won 17-of-28 face offs while also scoring what could have been an important goal at the end of the second period. He did it all in just a shade under 20 minutes of ice time, and was clearly Boston’s best player on the ice. Bergeron tipped a Torey Krug shot past Carey Price in the closing minutes of the second period that gave the Bruins life, but it was way too late by that point. It had to be maddening for a smart, savvy player like Bergeron to watch so many brutal mental mistakes happening around him in an important hockey game.
BY THE NUMBERS: 14 -2 – the B’s record in Game 3’s under Claude Julien after the loss to Montreal, which snapped a 12-game winning streak in Game 3 playoff settings dating back to 2009.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “They played a better game tonight than they did in Boston. Our team wasn’t good enough at the start to give us a chance here. We need to rebound, and make sure we’re ready to start from the drop of the puck.” –Claude Julien, not happy with the way the Bruins are starting the game vs. Montreal.