BROSSARD, Quebec -- Like Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien and most of the players, general manager Peter Chiarelli on Wednesday didn't sound like he was losing any sleep over Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban knocking the net off behind goalie Carey Price with eight seconds remaining in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Second Round on Tuesday.
Down by one goal, the Bruins were pressuring the Canadiens with an extra attacker on the ice when the whistle blew to stop play and adjust the net. The Bruins didn't possess the puck for more than a second after the faceoff, and the Canadiens got an empty-net goal from Lars Eller to win 4-2 and take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.
Game 4 is Thursday at Bell Centre (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
Had the officials ruled Subban knocked the net off on purpose, the Bruins would've been awarded a penalty shot.
"Calls get missed. And they can say the same thing about stuff that our guys do," Chiarelli said to reporters gathered on a soccer field at Bell Sports Complex. "To me it looked like he knocked it off. But for every person that says he knocked it, you could get another person that says he didn't purposely knock it off."
The Bruins' problems through three games are much bigger than one play that could've gone either way at the end of Game 3. Even in victory, they have not played their best. They've trailed by at least two goals in every game, and it took four goals in the third period of Game 2 to prevent an even bigger series deficit.
Chiarelli knows what his Presidents' Trophy-winning team looks like when it's on top of its game and he doesn't see that on the ice right now. Defensive breakdowns are leading to goals, the Canadiens have blocked 57 shots through three games, and on offense players who connected on scoring plays in the regular season are fanning on shots or over-passing or turning over the puck.
"I think we just have to maintain more focus on details," Chiarelli said. "I was asked about finding lanes. To me, that's detail. You've got to be able to see the lane and move into where the lane is. You know the sustaining forecheck. To us, it's meat and potatoes. Sustaining a forecheck and wearing teams down, and when we're at the top of our game that's what we do. We haven't done it yet."
Chiarelli was given the opportunity to single out some people for their lackluster performances. Goaltender Tuukka Rask has a 2.97 goals-against average and .884 save percentage. He's been outplayed by Price, who has a 2.65 GAA and .920 save percentage. The GM didn't take the bait.
"[Rask is] one of the best two or three goalies in the world. And he knows where his game is and I'm not going to comment on his game," Chiarelli said. "I expect him to play well. And he's one of many that have to play better."
Chiarelli refused to expand on who the many others are. What he didn't say spoke volumes when asked about the Bruins' weakness at left defense on their second pair. Matt Bartkowski started there in Game 1; he took two penalties that led to Montreal power-play goals. Veteran Andrej Meszaros replaced Bartkowski for Games 2 and 3; Meszaros has two assists but was caught flat-footed and let Montreal forward Dale Weise break away for the game-winning goal in the second period of Game 3.
"You know what? I'm not going to comment on that. That's a lineup decision," Chiarelli said. "These guys have been good for us. [Bartkowski] has been good for us. He had to come in when [Dennis] Seidenberg got hurt. And he had to find his game and he had to fit in, and he's done that. He got sick and he got out of sync a little bit. [Meszaros] … I didn't mind his game [Tuesday] night. … I think everyone can make a mistake here or there. He made a good play on the goal [scored]. So my confidence level is really irrelevant."
Seidenberg has been skating with the Bruins for a couple weeks in his attempt to return from January surgery on his ACL and MCL. If he could come back, it would be a huge boost for the Bruins. Chiarelli refused to throw fuel on the speculation the Bruins could get the veteran back maybe before this series is over.
"I'm not going to comment on that. I haven't last series, this series," Chiarelli said.
One player's return wouldn't solve the Bruins' issues. They finished atop the NHL standings and defeated the Detroit Red Wings in the first round with the same personnel they've had against the Canadiens. The Bruins need to stay calm and collected in order to return to form, something a veteran-laden team which has been through a lot the past several seasons should be able to accomplish.
"Our last game for me was a game of frustration. And you can truly dissect it and you can get into all the details and you can say, 'Well, this detail wasn't taken care of. This detail wasn't taken care of.' It's a game of inches," Chiarelli said. "You can dissect the other team's game and you could say the same thing. At the end of the day, they scored more goals than we did and we lost.
"But it's a game of inches and … we have to be better at it. And we're good at that. I think we're a good team, we break out well. I think our neutral zone is good, I think our forecheck is good. It wasn't as good as it should be. But that happens. It's a long series and we'll see where it goes."