Afterwards, Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien didn't have much trouble explaining why.
"It was three things for me," said the bench boss, during his postgame press conference. "We didn't skate well tonight, we didn't make good decisions, and we didn't execute well. When you have none of those three things, you're not going to win too many hockey games."
"So that was absent in our game tonight, and we certainly didn't pick a good night to play that kind of game, but the results are from a lack of those three things."
The Bruins hadn't trailed in a game for four straight contests. All four of those ended in wins for the Black & Gold. They had been playing with speed, with a strong pace that had led to three consecutive six-goal games.
Just 2:16 into the first period, the Canadiens took a 1-0 lead off Alexi Emelin's shot from the slot with traffic in front that found its way past Tuukka Rask.
"I mean, basically everything," alternate captain Patrice Bergeron sited, on the team's main problem in the defeat. "Execution and our heads weren’t into it. They deserved to win. We didn’t play anywhere near where we need to play to have success in this league."
"I would say from what I remember, the worst game of the year."
The Bruins had pulled within one goal to make it a manageable 2-1 game just 1:06 after Max Pacioretty had given Montreal a 2-0 lead in the first.
Dougie Hamilton fired from the left point towards David Krejci and bodies in front. The puck deflected over Peter Budaj for the timely tally. With the game remaining at 2-1, Rask made back-to-back highlights stops that kept it a one-goal game heading to the middle frame.
The Bruins' received a brief boost, but couldn't find the usual compete level and emotion that helps them fight back, no matter the circumstances in games.
It became even more pronounced, that it came against the rival Habs.
"You should have emotion for any game you play – that’s the way I see things," said Julien. "So, tonight maybe with the lack of those three things it was hard to get excited."
"Guys just didn’t find their game and even in the third period we were hoping to be able to get a 20 minutes where we could be a little bit better but tonight was one of those nights that there was absolutely nothing happening on our side."
"Our message was clear," said Hamilton. "I think it's been a wakeup call for everyone. Our attitude needs to better in games like that, especially trailing early, and no one was willing to step up I guess and try to get everyone going."
Halfway through the second, Brad Marchand was assessed a double-minor for roughing, after Brendan Gallagher had been knocked down into the goal.
Habs captain Brian Gionta cashed in just 10 seconds into the man-advantage, with a shot that trickled through and ended Rask's night 11:54 into the middle frame. He finished with 15 saves on 18 shots. Chad Johnson replaced him between the pipes.
"I play as long as they tell me to play, so I try to battle out there as hard as I can, I stay out there as long as I possibly can," Rask said postgame. "And today it lasted a little over one period; it’s too bad."
The Bruins' line of David Krejci, Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic had a strong shift after the goalie switch, but the momentum shift fell short, when Montreal took advantage of a turnover and Daniel Briere finished off his breakaway on Johnson.
"Usually we get somewhat of a response, something happens. In no way was any of those Tuukka’s fault on those goals," said Lucic. "But it just wasn’t there from all of us."
"You’re hoping for a spark any time," said Julien, of not just looking for a spark after the goaltending change. "As frustrating as it has been for the team, it’s frustrating for a coach, too. I’ve made my analysis on our team about tonight…we didn’t skate, we didn’t execute, and we didn’t make good decisions."
Prior to the matchup, Julien had been asked what the first sign might be that the team's pace was starting to dwindle, having had such a strong push in their previous six games (in which they had a 5-0-1 record).
"When you get out worked, right?" Julien had said. "When you start losing battles, when guys start trying to get overly cute with their plays, you're seeing your team slip away from that."
"It happens in short spurts of the game and you just kind of reel them in on the bench area or in between periods. And guys have been pretty good at doing that like you saw in the third period of last game [in the 6-2 win over Florida."
Those small lapses during that strong stretch had been correctable. The lapse against Montreal ending up lasting until the final buzzer.
Still, the Bruins never truly counted themselves out.
About midway through the third, Boston began to create opportunities, the most notable coming off a Daniel Paille tip in front, after Matt Bartkowski took advantage of a turnover. But Budaj made the stop.
"As a coach, you don’t throw the towel in, you just keep trying to push these guys and find ways to see if you cant get your team going," said Julien. "I don’t know when you make that decision, like, ‘we’re not going’. Probably [not until] the last minute of the third."
The game never ended up going the Bruins' way.
"We can analyze this thing to death and you hear me say that often," added Julien. "When you don’t play your game, you can't win, no matter what."
"We thought we were ready, but obviously we weren’t," said Krejci. "It is what it is. We lost. We didn’t like the way that we lost, but we’ve got to move on, forget about this game, and try to get ready for Saturday."
The Bruins will hold practice Friday, before hosting the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden. They will, no doubt, be working for a strong bounceback game.
"Well you hope it’s just a one-game thing," said Julien. "I’m just looking at seeing our team bounce back on Saturday and move on."
"It’s adversity and we’ve been through it before," said Bergeron. "And it’s about looking forward."