Playing at even strength, the Bruins were just fine.
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Even down a man, Boston more than held its own against a desperate Montreal club facing elimination in Game 6 of their opening-round playoff series Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.
But short two men? Not even the Bruins could handle that. The Canadiens scored twice on 5-on-3 power plays — their only goals of the game — to edge Boston 2-1 and force a Game 7 back at the Garden on Wednesday.
"Two goals 5-on-3, that’s all that there was from their side," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "I thought 5-on-5 we did a great job tonight. Even killing 4-on-5 we did a great job. It was those 5-on-3 power-play goals that was the difference in the game tonight."
The Bruins will have less than 24 hours to shake this loss off, and when they meet the Habs again Wednesday both teams will be facing elimination.
"We played a good 5-on-5 game, we just lost on special teams," Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "They scored on two of their opportunities, and we couldn’t get anything going."
The Bruins were shut out once again on the power play. They were 0 for 4 on the night with just two shots on those four chances. For the series, Boston is now a horrid 0 for 19 with the man-advantage.
"Our special teams suck right now," Bruins center David Krejci said. "Our 5-on-5 game I think has been excellent. We just got to get a couple more goals, and we’ve got to stay out of the box.
"Some of the calls were questionable, but everybody makes mistakes, players and referees, too," Krejci added. "Maybe today it was more than usual, but we can’t blame them. We’ve got to play through it and we still had some power-play opportunities, too."
Montreal wasn’t much better with the extra skater, even though the Canadiens had plenty of practice as the Bruins spent much of the night in the box. The Habs didn’t score at all in five chances at 5-on-4 play lasting 7:35.
But the Bruins also gave them two opportunities with a two-man advantage, and Montreal converted both.
The first came at 10:07 of the opening period. After an earlier goal by Brian Gionta was waved off after a quick whistle when Tim Thomas lost control of the initial shot by Scott Gomez, there was no more help from the men in stripes. The Bruins were called for too many men — always a bad omen for a game in Montreal — at 8:54, then Seidenberg was sent off for slashing just four seconds later.
The Habs had a two-man advantage for 1:56, but needed just 1:09 as Michael Cammalleri put Montreal on the board with a one-timer from the right circle off a crossing pass by P.K. Subban.
Seidenberg made up for his penalty with a goal just 48 seconds into the second period when the teams were playing 4-on-4. He went in deep behind the Montreal net and came out front, jamming home the puck at the near right post.
"It was 4-on-4, you try to create confusion on their part," Seidenberg said. "I just got down there, somehow the puck landed on my stick and I wrapped it around."
But penalties cost the Bruins again just a few minutes later. First, Milan Lucic delivering a crushing hit on Montreal defenseman Jaroslav Spacek at 4:37. Spacek was driven into the boards in front of the penalty boxes and needed to go off for repairs with a cut to his head, but it was the Bruins who were really hurt when Lucic was given a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct.
Patrice Bergeron compounded the problem when he flipped the puck over the glass just 16 seconds later, drawing an automatic call for delay of game and handing Montreal another two-minute advantage for a full two minutes. Gionta converted this one on a second-chance rebound in front at 5:48, and that was all the Canadiens would need.
"Every time we were 5-on-5 we played them solid," Seidenberg said. "We had them in their zone and put pressure on them. We just have to take the good out of the game and look toward tomorrow."