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Bruins keep cool, but can't defeat Canadiens

by Arpon Basu /

MONTREAL -- It's not easy to pull a positive out of a 5-1 loss, particularly when it comes on the heels of a 6-1 loss.

But if there is one glimmer of good for the Boston Bruins coming out of another loss to the Montreal Canadiens, it would be that this time, they didn't beat themselves.

They just got beat. Badly.

The Bruins had a 1-0 lead after one period Thursday before the Canadiens scored the next five goals on the way to their eighth win in the past nine regular-season games against Boston.

"To play the first period the way we did and not be able to sustain it, it's not because your game plan isn't working. It's because of your focus," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We're not able to sustain our focus for 60 minutes right now."

That is only partially true. The Bruins were focused on not letting the Canadiens get under their skin and lose their heads, as they have in the great majority of their recent games.

The Bruins made a lot of glaring mistakes and took a number of lazy penalties, which are matters of great concern for Julien and his players. But at least they were successful in maintaining their composure at Bell Centre even though they had ample temptation to lose it.

Canadiens forward Dale Weise, playing his first game against the Bruins since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Second Round in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, did his best to poke the bear early in the game.

Weise hit Gregory Campbell along the boards, and when Campbell came over to see Weise after the whistle had blown, Weise quickly dropped the gloves before Campbell could react.

Weise was largely left alone by the Bruins after that; he scored a penalty-shot goal that tied the game and assisted on a Max Pacioretty goal that gave the Canadiens a 3-1 lead.

Near the end of the second period, Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban challenged Bruins forward Milan Lucic after a seemingly clean hit on Montreal forward Jiri Sekac. Boston was down 3-1 at the time and it might have been tempting for Lucic to go back at his longtime nemesis Subban, but he didn't.

Instead, Subban took the only penalty and the Bruins got a valuable power play. It was a rare moment of restraint for Lucic in this building, and it helped his team.

It is that type of level-headedness that could allow the Bruins to break the hex they seem to have against the Canadiens right now, but at the same time it might have contributed to this loss.

Lucic was asked after the game if he thought the Bruins might have been too composed, lacking the edge that typifies their play on most nights.

"I don't know. Maybe a little," Lucic said after pausing to think about it. "We're a team that thrives on playing with emotion, and maybe you're right, maybe we needed to play with more emotion and more bang. It wasn't there tonight. So next time we play them, hopefully we play with that emotion that gives us success."

There is a balance to be struck between recklessness and discipline, and the Bruins are apparently looking for it when facing the Canadiens. Not losing their collective heads in a blowout loss was a step in that direction, but that step might have gone too far the other way.

The Bruins can't let the Canadiens force them to change their identity just as much as they can't let the Canadiens get under their skin.

The Bruins have to remain the Bruins, and they didn't Thursday.

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