By Danny Picard
BOSTON -- The Bruins entered Thursday night's game against the Montreal Canadiens with the best penalty kill in the NHL. The Habs came into the TD Garden with the worst power play in the league.
If the Bruins were going to lose to the Northeast Division's first-place team, it certainly wasn't going to be by way of special teams, was it?
But indeed, that's the way Thursday's 3-1 loss to Montreal went down in Boston. Who would have thought?
The Canadiens' first two goals of the game came on the power play, and were enough to secure the win and keep the Habs ahead of the B's in the standings. They came off the sticks of P.K. Subban, 5:19 into the first period, and Brian Gionta, 29 seconds into the third.
"That's what happens, you know," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara after the loss. "You can't go a whole year without shutting teams down."
That much is true. The B's went from a league-leading 90.9 penalty-kill percentage to a fifth-best 87.8 percentage, while allowing two power-play goals in five penalty-kill attempts on Thursday night.
Subban gave Montreal a 1-0 lead after he received a perfect cross-ice pass from Andrei Markov and fired a one-timer slapshot past Tuukka Rask from the top of the left circle just 18 seconds after Bruins rookie Tyler Seguin was called for tripping.
Chara tied the game at 1-1 late in the first, but the Canadiens were able to take the lead once again on Gionta's power-play goal in the third.
Gionta took a nice saucer pass from Michael Cammalleri that sailed over a sprawling Dennis Seidenberg and one-timed it past Rask for the 2-1 lead.
"Their power play was, I think it was pretty good," said Seidenberg. "I mean, I tried to take away the shooting lane and passing lane, and Cammalleri made a real nice pass to Gionta, and kind of almost batted it out of the air. So it was a real nice play he made, and I think if you make plays like that, you get goals."
"I would kind of give them credit for doing a good job, too," said coach Claude Julien. "Not to say that our penalty kill should be excluded from that, but, you know, it wasn't a good night overall, and I think, again, sometimes fatigue and maybe decisions weren't the best at times, and it cost us a few goals."
It cost them the game.
What has been one of the Bruins' biggest strengths this season let them down on Thursday night in an important divisional game.
"We kept it simple," said Gionta about his team's power play. "When we got away from that, we weren't getting it in the zone there a couple times.
"On the power play and the penalty kill, we just took a shot," he added. "Got set up, got in position, and just took a shot. Same thing kind of with the other power-play goal. We won the battle down low, in off the dump, kind of supported each other, kicked it back out, and then some plays kind of opened up from there."
"Special teams was the difference in the hockey game," said Canadiens coach Jacques Martin.
It can't be put any better than that.
Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comdannypicard