Playing with injuries up front to David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Chris Kelly, in addition the well-documented injuries on the back end, the Black and Gold worked hard. They didn't head into their second game of a back-to-back against the heated rival who's had their number already this season ready to fold.
In the end, the Canadiens took the 2-0 win and handed the Bruins their first loss in four games.
It wasn't a pretty game, but it also wasn't as ugly as Head Coach Claude Julien would have liked, around the front of the net.
"If there’s something we’re going to critique here it’s probably the fact that we didn’t put enough pucks on net and get some net-front presence," Julien told reporters postgame. "We tried in the third to rectify that and did a little bit better, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough and the goaltender was standing tall for them."
"We’re not scoring goals easily these days, so we’ve really got to get our noses dirty in front of the net and throw some pucks in areas where we can jump on those loose pucks."
The Bruins outshot Montreal 33-23, and had another 31 attempts that missed the mark or were blocked, and it takes plenty of bodies and jam around the net to beat Carey Price.
"But the rest of our game, I thought we played hard, we competed, we were smart, we didn’t give them much," Julien said. "You know, it’s unfortunate but this is where we realize that right now, when you play a team that’s healthy and that’s going extremely well, it almost takes a perfect game."
"I credit my players for just going out there and competing hard and well and giving ourselves a chance."
The Bruins started with a strong first period, but found themselves on the penalty kill with Torey Krug sent to the box for interference. With the penalty nearly killed, Andrei Markov beat Tuukka Rask right off a clean faceoff win by Tomas Plekanec. Rask never saw the puck through traffic.
Montreal's 1-0 lead came with 8:23 left in the first, and it came right after a Rask glove save on a power play bid by Lars Eller. Besides those chances, the Bruins hadn't allowed much.
In the second period, Loui Eriksson led an odd-man rush up ice for the Bruins and it appeared that they may catch a break, but Carl Soderberg's attempted pass to Milan Lucic was broken up and Alex Galchenyuk quickly broke up ice back the other way.
After give-and-go passing in transition, Plekanec put one past Rask for the Habs' 2-0 lead at 8:59 into the second. Rask had poked away the first bid, before sliding left to right and nearly getting his stick on the follow-up from Plekanec.
"Yeah, you have to be perfect in all areas to beat them," Lucic said. "I mean, you look at the two goals they scored, a faceoff loss that goes right to their defenseman and it goes in and the other one is a three-on-two rush for us that turns into a three-on-two rush for them and ends up in the back of our net."
"Other than that, we played a really strong game. There is still lots to build off of as far as our team game goes."
Neither team gave up much, and scoring chances were hard to come by. In their previous two meetings this season, the games unraveled for the Bruins and their coverage broke down in the slot, but they kept battling in this one.
Late in the second period, the Bruins were stuck in their zone for nearly two and a half minutes. Patrice Bergeron was without his stick for two minutes of it. Matt Bartkowski, Kevan Miller, Seth Griffith and Reilly Smith rounded out the five-man unit.
It wasn't pretty, but the Bruins kept the Canadiens to the outside for the most part, working hard along the walls and not allowing much to matriculate in front of Rask, despite not being able to clear the puck. Bergeron eventually blocked a shot on his knee and batted the puck out of the zone. In a bad break, he was called for concealing the puck.
Boston made the kill, and then had a chance early in the third, when Lucic spun around and wristed a drive on net from inside the blueline with Loui Eriksson planted in front of Price.
"You can lose games, feel somewhat good about yourself and your effort, and you can lose games and feel really bitter - and today I’m pretty proud, I’m really proud of our guys," Rask said. "We battled really hard and left everything out there."
"A tight game like that, we were there but we were not quite creating that many scoring chances, and then you just need that one bounce for that puck to go in and we didn’t get it."
The emotional rivalry type of game we've become accustomed to with Bruins-Habs matchups wasn't quite to its usual level, but there were still heated moments.
Gregory Campbell and Dale Weise squared off in a rematch of the short bout the two shared in Montreal earlier this month. Aggression also got the best of Torey Krug and Galchenyuk in the third period, after Rask wasn't pleased with the Montreal forward's proximity to him in the crease. The pair dropped the gloves and wrestled to the ice.
Lucic landed a team-high five hits, and Daniel Paille landed Alexei Emelin into the Canadiens' bench with a hit that excited the crowd.
"I thought that we played a real hard, competitive game," Lucic said. "We could have been hungrier around their net to find loose pucks and create more second chance opportunities. [We just need to] focus on playing a strong team game and know that if you do, it will give you success."
The Bruins looked like an exhausted, slightly down-trodden group in the locker room from the loss. But there were plenty of positives, however cliche, that they can carry over into their third game in four nights on Monday against the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden.
"I think it’s important for us as a coaching staff to really stay positive and upbeat and all that," said Julien. "But having said that, I think our players are doing a really good job of that as well. I don’t see anybody discouraged – I think, you know, obviously disappointed, we haven’t beat this team yet this year and you wish the circumstances were better."
"But again, we’re hopefully developing some players who are going to be better down the road because of what we’re going through, and that’s why you’ve got to stay positive, and that’s why you’ve got to stay with the program here."
"Our guys have got a great attitude and that’s why they deserve a lot of credit."
With Krejci, Marchand and Kelly all dealing with undisclosed injuries, there's no telling yet when they'll be back at 100 percent. Krejci has missed eight of the past 10 games, while Marchand has missed three straight. Saturday night marked Kelly's first game out of the lineup after suffering an injury during Friday night's game in Columbus.
In their places, Alex Khokhlachev played his second straight game and the third of his NHL career, while Matt Lindblad made his season debut, playing in his third NHL game.
"It’s part of the game, it happens and I thought we played really good even though there were some injuries and last minute changes," said Rask. "The guys coming up did a great job battling out there and we played a good game."
"I don’t think we can start thinking about when this guy’s coming back, when this guy’s coming back because then we can lose our focus and our focus needs to be playing our hockey and grinding it out."
Ultimately, this group isn't just looking to battle every night. They want the earned wins, not just the credit for "fighting through adversity."
"We’ve got to be better on Monday and find ways," said Bergeron. "I liked the effort that we’ve showed, but we’ve got to find ways to score goals and to get the result."