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Canadiens still searching for answers following loss to Bruins

Inability to protect one-goal lead in third has winless streak at eight games

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

BOSTON -- A door slammed as Montreal Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot started talking. It wasn't clear why, exactly, whether it was a stray gust of air, a fist clenched a little too hard on a doorknob, a sign of frustration in the visitor's dressing room at TD Garden.

Impossible to know, but it was hard not to think of the last, the anger and disappointment that came from a 46-minute lead that vanished as the Canadiens succumbed to yet another loss.

Their winless streak reached eight games (0-5-3) after the Boston Bruins came from behind with three goals in the third period to send the Canadiens to a 3-1 loss, back to the dressing room as a team that had traded the possibility of sweet relief for more of the same in a dispiriting final 20 minutes.

Because up until the 46th minute Sunday, there was reason to hope. Up until the 46th minute, there was reason to believe things were turning around. But then, suddenly, it all fell apart, the end result seemingly inevitable after David Pastrnak's highlight-reel one-timer at 6:16 of the third.

"We've got to find a way to win," captain Shea Weber said, his voice quiet and subdued. "It's not good enough. Yeah, we've improved defensively, but when it comes down to it, it's about getting wins and getting two points. And that's not happening right now."

The Canadiens haven't won since Nov. 15, a 5-2 victory at the Washington Capitals for their third win in a row. They sat second in the Atlantic Division, three points behind the Bruins. They have three points since then and have watched three teams pass them in the standings. They are fifth in the division, with two teams between them and a wild card.

The contrast between the rivals could not have been greater. The Bruins continued their run of comebacks and extended their winning streak to seven games. The Canadiens continued their run of disappointment, searching for answers, grasping at straws. That was what it felt like, as coach Claude Julien took out his frustration on the officiating, blaming a holding call on forward Nick Cousins for the loss, for the turn in their fortunes, as Boston center David Backes scored the game-winning goal at 10:29 of the third period, with nine seconds remaining on that power play.

Julien said he thought his team had played "really, really well," and the penalty changed the outcome of the game. He said he wanted his Canadiens to right themselves, and for a moment he thought they were getting there, that they were going to play the solid, boring, safe, defensively sound road game they needed to end the skid. They were going to ride Joel Armia's goal, which came at 1:58 of the first period, into two badly needed points.

Until they didn't.

"For 45, 46, 47 minutes, we were playing solid hockey," Julien said. "We needed that win, desperately. Now we've got to go back home and find a way to win the next one."

Video: Bruins rally in 3rd period for seventh straight win

But as this run continues, their frustration builds, their confidence sinks. Their minds are starting to override their skills, and that can be like slipping into quicksand.

"Yeah," Weber said. "I don't know. It's hard to try and find any confidence with what's going on right now, but we've got to find a way somehow, one way or another. We're the only ones that can dig ourselves out of this. We've got to find a way."

There are positive signs, which Julien acknowledged. The defense in front of Carey Price was better; the goalie gave up three goals on 34 shots, which stands as an improvement after he allowed at least five in four of his past five starts. It was not quite as bad as it had been.

"There are [positives]," Julien said. "There are. But I can't stand here and tell our fans that I'm happy, because we're not winning. They want wins. They don't care about these kind of positive things from our team."

The points, after all, are what matter.

Now it's left to the Canadiens to pick themselves up, to look ahead and not back, to try and somehow find some points against a slate of difficult opponents coming up, with the New York Islanders in Montreal on Tuesday and the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.

"You don't sit in there and feel sorry for yourself," Julien said. "Because we all know you can never get out of it that way. We need to just buckle down here and keep pushing. Like I said, maybe next time the break goes our way. And if it goes our way, then we win a hockey game."

So what can they do, moving forward? What are their options?

"Score more goals than the other team," Weber said. "It's pretty obvious."

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