BOSTON – The end of a winning streak in hockey can sometimes get a little ugly and that’s exactly what happened against the hated Montreal Canadiens.
The Bruins had far too many defensive breakdowns and pulled Tuukka Rask in the second period in a 4-1 loss at TD Garden that ended a strong 5-0-1 run in their past six games.
The victory also gives the Habs two straight victories after bottoming out with a four-game losing streak. It pulls them to eight points back of the Black and Gold in the Atlantic Division.
It was apparent early that the B’s defense was experiencing some trouble containing the David Desharnais-Brendan Gallagher-Max Pacioretty line, which generated a number of scoring chances. Alexei Emelin started things off with a point shot that looked like it deflected off a Bruins stick on its way to the net, and a defensive breakdown by Dougie Hamilton/Loui Eriksson turned into a Pacioretty breakaway goal.
The Bruins seized back some of the momentum on a Dougie Hamilton sizzled shot from the point just 1:06 later, but the Habs potted two more goals in the decisive second period.
Brian Gionta popped in a rebound for a power-play score that chased Rask and Daniel Briere beat Chad Johnson high to the glove side on another breakaway to give Montreal a 4-1 lead. Rask allowed three goals on 18 shots and drops to 2-10-2 in his career against the Canadiens.
Meanwhile, Montreal backup Peter Budaj made 34 saves in a surprise start and picked up his first victory since Dec. 4.
GOLD STAR: Alexei Emelin scored the game’s first goal on a point shot, played a game-high 23:33, had five shots attempts, threw six hits and blocked four shots while also registering a pair of takeaways in a dominant performance for the Habs. Emelin also got under the skin of Jarome Iginla when he finished off a hit after Iginla blew a tire while going head-first into the side boards. He played with a high motor and intensity throughout the game. For much of the 60 minutes of hockey, Emelin was the best player on the ice. It makes sense given that he was knocked out last season while injuring his knee trying to throw a hit on Milan Lucic, so he had plenty ready for the Black and Gold this time around.
BLACK EYE: The talk of pregame was the improved play and skating of Gregory Campbell as of late. That won’t be the talk after the loss to Montreal. Campbell finished a minus-2 with zero shots on net and an 0-for-5 in the face-off circle in a rough night all-around for the Merlot Line. Both Campbell and Shawn Thornton were on the ice for two goals against in their first game reunited with Daniel Paille after he’d spent a few games on the third line. Campbell had one goal, six points and a plus-4 in January before dropping the bomb against Montreal tonight.
TURNING POINT: The Bruins were only down 2-1 entering the first intermission, and still seemed to be within striking distance. But that all changed in the second period when the Bruins took some bad penalties, kept their skates unmoving and allowed two more goals to push the game out of reach. Claude Julien pulled Tuukka Rask after Brian Gionta’s power-play goal, but that led to a Daniel Briere breakaway goal on the second shot faced by Chad Johnson after he entered the game. The second period continues to be an issue for the Black and Gold.
HONORABLE MENTION: Peter Budaj hadn’t won a game since early December, and it seemed he was a bit of a head-scratcher as the goalie choice with Carey Price hot off a shutout of the Carolina Hurricanes. Still, Budaj has enjoyed pretty good success against the Bruins throughout his career, and finished with 34 saves against a team that couldn’t get anything going against him. Budaj made some big saves in the first 30 minutes of the game when it was still a contest, and then continued to flummox the B’s once they were desperately behind by three goals. Give some credit to Michel Therrien for making the right choice with the backup netminder against the Black and Gold.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2-10-2 – the record for Tuukka Rask against the Montreal Canadiens after the loss, the fourth time he’s been pulled from a game this season by Claude Julien.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “It gets a little bit frustrating for the coaches when they are telling us stuff, and we are not doing it. I guess we have to learn from it. I guess we got bored of winning, and we will learn from this.” –Dougie Hamilton, saying it all after the loss,