And then, just like that, it disappeared.
David Krejci committed a cross-checking penalty on Tomas Plekanec with two minutes left in regulation, and with 68 seconds remaining in the game, David Desharnais gave Montreal its first lead of the game with a power play goal.
Coming off Thursday night’s 4-1 loss to Washington, the Bruins knew a lack of discipline had cost them a game they were capable of winning. Unfortunately, on Saturday night at the Bell Centre, it seemed like the same story all over again.
“It’s pretty obvious that we’ve lost the last two games because of that; the disappointing part is, it’s coming from our leaders,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. “If you’re going to go in the right direction, I think it’s important that our leaders lead the way the right way. Really, really bad penalties there.
“The team that we played tonight seems to find ways to win, and right now, I’d say we were finding ways to lose.”
Ultimately, what made this loss sting all the more was the fact that the Bruins competed hard throughout the majority of the first 58 minutes of action. Just like they have for most of this season, they came out of the gates strong. They refused to let their emotions get the best of them, something they have fallen victim to in years past in this building. They kept it simple and they were opportunistic.
In recent past, the Canadiens have been the ones to draw early penalties on the Bruins, and they have been on the ones to capitalize. But not on Saturday night.
The Canadiens committed a too-many-men penalty just a minute into the game, and the Bruins made them pay. Loui Eriksson tallied the power play goal, deflecting a Patrice Bergeron shot past Habs goalie and Needham native Mike Condon.
The Bruins would draw two more penalties in the frame — a roughing penalty on Tomas Plekanec stemming from a post-whistle scrum, and a tripping penalty on Andrej Markov, a retaliatory strike on Colin Miller — but were unable to capitalize on those.
Early on in the second period, however, the Canadiens returned the favor. Nineteen seconds into the frame, Krejci went off for a hook, and 50 seconds into the power play, the Canadiens struck for their first goal of the game, as a Tomas Plekanec wrister from the right circle that eluded Jonas Gustavsson.
It was the first of three penalties Krejci took in the game. But afterward, he stood in the visitors’ dressing room and accepted all of the responsibility.
“It’s extremely disappointing, especially when I thought guys did a very good job playing hard, and then you do something stupid and you let everyone down,” he said. “Not a very good feeling.”
For the remainder of that period, however — and for the bulk of the game — Gustavsson was excellent, particularly toward the end of that frame, when he robbed Dale Weise twice: once on the power play, and once at full strength.
“I’m never satisfied when you lose; you always look back at the game and see what you can do differently,” Gustavsson said. “But all in all, I felt pretty good out there. I felt like the whole team battled hard, and I think we had a solid effort overall.”
Aside from Gustavsson’s performance between the pipes, there was another bright spot for the Bruins on Saturday night: Frank Vatrano made the most of his NHL debut, scoring his first NHL goal, which stood as the go-ahead strike until 10 minutes remained in the game.
Midway through the second period, the rookie from East Longmeadow, Mass., carried the puck into the high slot, held it and then unleashed the lethal shot he’s known for. It evaded a screen by Eriksson and hit the back of the net to give Boston the 2-1 lead.
“It was an awesome feeling,” Vatrano said. “I didn’t really know if I got it or Loui tipped it in front, but to find out it was me was awesome. But wish we got the two points instead tonight.”
Julien was impressed by Vatrano’s performance in his first NHL game: He was levelheaded, he kept his game simple, and clearly, he took advantage of opportunities when he got them.
“I thought he competed hard,” Julien said. “He scored a goal because he shoots the puck so well, but he’s reliable on the walls, and he competed, he’s physical, he wasn’t intimidated, and I thought he played a real solid game for us.”
In the end, though, the Habs got the best of the Bruins. Shortly after a Plekanec goal was disallowed due to goalie interference on Brendan Gallagher — Julien challenged the goal and won the challenge — Lars Eller tallied the equalizer, punching the puck through Gustavsson’s pads as the goalie tried to squeeze and secure the puck.
Then, with time running out, Deshairnais came through with the game-winner on the power play, and Max Pacioretty added some insurance with an empty netter.
“[It was a] stupid penalty with two minutes left [in a] tie game,” Krejci said. “I know guys battled hard, and I do something like that. It was stupid, and it cost us the game.
“Now, I’ve got to live with that. I feel bad for letting my teammates and coaches down.”
The Bruins, for the most part, were disciplined throughout the bulk of this game — never an easy task when it comes to this rivalry. They worked hard enough to get at least one point, possibly even two if they could have stretched the game into overtime.
But as was the case on Thursday in Washington, they felt that they robbed themselves of the opportunity to cash in.
“I thought we played well enough to win a hockey game tonight, and the biggest thing probably would be the discipline part of it that really hurt us,” Julien reiterated. “Right till the end, it’s a 2-2 hockey game with a little over a minute left, and again, we blow an opportunity to get at least one, maybe two points.”
With the loss, Gustavsson — strong between the pipes for the fourth time this season — suffered the first defeat of his Bruins career.
“They got a couple breaks there in the third period and won the game,” he said. “When you’re on a roll like they are, you find ways to win, and we couldn’t do that tonight. It was two points that we could have found a way to get tonight, but you’ve got to give them credit, and we’ve got to work on stuff to get better.”
As difficult as it was to digest a painful loss to their most storied rival, the Bruins know they have to put it behind them — fast. They play again on Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn to close out this three-game road trip, and given the way the first two games have transpired, they need a win.
Somehow, they will need to come into the second leg of this back-to-back with fresh legs and a fresh mindset.
“Right now, it sucks we lost a game — a good game,” Krejci said. “We could have gotten at least [into] overtime, and then, you never know.
“Kind of have to get over it somehow and bounce back [Sunday].”