They could have. They could have talked about a second-period goal that was waved off due to questionable goalie interference. They could have talked about emotions that got away from both sides, particularly in the waning minutes of the third period, when 10-minute match penalties were assessed to each team.
But they didn’t. At the end of the day, the Bruins said, what mattered in the aftermath of a 4-2 loss to the Canadiens was that they got outplayed.
“Today, especially, I think we just played poorly,” said goaltender Tuukka Rask. “For the most part, we showed some good hockey, but it wasn’t anything special that they did, I don’t think, that gave us too many troubles. We just didn’t play consistent.”
It didn’t take long for the Canadiens to make good on their first power play of the game. Less than two minutes in, Matt Beleskey went to the box for an illegal check to the head, and David Desharnais struck just 11 seconds into the man advantage, burying his own rebound on Rask for the 1-0 lead.
In their 2015-16 debut, the Bruins seemed to fall apart in the second period. Coming into today’s game, Patrice Bergeron said the B’s would make it a point to play a full 60. But the demons seemed to haunt Boston again in this second frame, as Lars Eller capitalized on a neutral zone turnover to make it 2-0 just over two minutes in.
“For so long, defense has been our foundation, and we still look for that to be our foundation,” said defenseman Torey Krug. “So we’ve got to tighten up, for sure, whether it’s turnovers, [or] we’re not looking good on the backcheck, making sure we’re looking over our shoulders and finding that extra guy.
“It’s definitely not like us, but we’re going to work through that.”
The Bruins seemed to have regained some momentum a few minutes later, when Loui Eriksson banked in a Colin Miller bid from long range. But the goal was waved off due to goalie interference, as Patrice Bergeron made contact with Carey Price after being shoved by Eller.
Claude Julien challenged the call, but it was upheld.
“I think what people are going to realize in those kind of things is that on a lot of occasions, we’re going to agree to disagree, and that was the case tonight,” Julien said. “I really felt Bergy — first of all, when you look back at it, both his feet are outside the crease area; he got the inside position, and then I felt that he was being pushed into their goaltender and even made that effort to get out. I saw Carey Price sort of back off here, looking for the puck, with Bergy not even touching him at that point when the puck went in.
“But that’s why I say we’re going to agree to disagree at times. I don’t know what their reasoning is. They didn’t take the time to explain – I don’t think they need to – but I really thought we had ourselves a goal there.”
After the game, Bergeron admitted to being a bit surprised by the ruling. But in his eyes, there are plenty of other areas the Bruins have to worry about before they chalk up Saturday’s loss to the disallowed goal.
“I thought, you know, [the score is] 2-1 if it counts, so it would have been a good momentum, I guess, for us, in our favor,” Bergeron said. “But it didn’t happen. So we can’t hang our heads and feel sorry for ourselves because no one does. So we just have to go back out there and work harder.”
With Boston’s energy flagging after the disallowed goal, Eller capitalized again, netting his second of the game shortly thereafter.
For a little while, the Bruins picked it up. Beleskey got them started, striking for his first goal in Black & Gold when he took the puck hard to the net and created a 2-on-1 with David Pastrnak before sneaking the puck over the goal line.
But the third period was an uphill battle. It began 3 1/2 minutes in, when Ryan Spooner was assessed a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct for boarding Montreal’s Brian Flynn. When the Bruins were nearly finished killing that penalty, Brad Marchand went off for slashing.
But the Bruins killed that one, too. They fought, and they fought till the end, and if nothing else, their fight was admirable.
“We’re going through some growing pains, and the thing I liked is no matter what, we stayed with it,” Julien said. “We killed a lot of penalties in the third period. … I thought the guys kind of at least had the right attitude. Whether we did it right or wrong hockey-wise, we had the right attitude to try and at least keep ourselves in this game.”
But it wasn’t enough. Shortly after Tomas Plekanec notched an empty-netter to give Montreal a 4-1 lead, a melee broke out in Boston’s defensive zone. There was contact between Zac Rinaldo and Torrey Mitchell. Rinaldo went down after taking a slew foot. Max Talbot came to Rinaldo’s defense. Chaos ensued, and in the end, the Bruins were left with a five-minute power play with 37 seconds remaining in regulation.
They capitalized, as Bergeron netted his first goal of the season. But it was too little, too late.
“We’re giving them too much room, and teams like that are going to make you pay,” Bergeron said. “Any chance they’re going to get, they’re going to find a way to create something out of it. So we have to find a way to really bear down in our zone more.
“We [had] a lot of positive today and had a lot of chances. Again, we have to bear down and be better, but we have to learn from that. We’ve lost two games before, but obviously we can’t accept it, and we have to be better.”
Now, with the final challenge of this homestand awaiting them on Monday afternoon in the form of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Bruins know they have lots of work to do and not a lot of time to do it. There were still defensive miscues on Saturday, the same kind that haunted the Bruins on Thursday night against Winnipeg. There were too many picture perfect chances for the opposition.
When the B’s hit the ice for practice on Sunday morning, Krug said, their work will be cut out for them.
“We look at the mistakes that we’re making, and they’re all things that we can correct,” Krug said. “So if we think that we’re not good enough to win hockey games, then we’re in trouble. But I know this group in here isn’t going to get discouraged; that’s the leaders we have in here and the type of players that we have and the type of people that you bring into this locker room.
“So by no means are we discouraged. We’ve just got to go learn and work through this thing.”