Kevan Miller sighed when someone mentioned the point his team earned.
“Yeah, that’s always a silver lining,” the defenseman said, his expression and tone far more storm cloud than sunshine. “So you take it.”
Left unsaid: the Bruins (26-15-5) have been playing so well of late, they were anything but cheery about the way Monday’s game ended. David Krejci’s 6-on-4 goal in the final minute earned them that consolation point, but the Canadiens won, 3-2, by scoring an emphatic goal 15 seconds into overtime.
“I think we could have closed this game out earlier,” Patrice Bergeron said. “We didn’t find a way to do that.”
Boston closed the four-game season series with Montreal at 2-1-1, as they fumbled numerous quality offensive chances, allowed yet another shorthanded goal, and watched Carey Price grow taller by the moment.
Coming off a shutout Saturday against Colorado, Price saved 41 of 43 shots, and saw the Bruins fling 70 attempts his way, to the Habs’ 50.
Good as he was, the Bruins were primed to beat him. They entered Monday playing their best all-around hockey of the year, taking into account the midseason cranking of the intensity dial by most of the NHL’s 31 clubs. Boston had won six of its previous seven, a streak that began with Sean Kuraly’s OT winner in Buffalo on Dec. 29.
Price was half the frustration for a group of Boston shooters that missed empty nets, saw pucks explode on them, and otherwise turned promising rushes into nothing.
“I think we had momentum on our side,” Krejci said. “We just couldn’t get it done.”
Offensively, it was a three-period disappearing act. The Bruins turned a 43-22 shot advantage into a loss. Before Krejci’s snipe in the final minute, they were 38 seconds away from being held under two goals for the first time since a 5-0 loss at Florida on Dec. 4.
The center’s tying power-play goal, a wrister through a heavy screen, came after Michael Chaput’s delay of game penalty with 2:05 left. They had two shots before Rask escaped to the bench with 1:35 left. It began poorly. Jake DeBrusk — called out postgame by Cassidy for not playing to “the standard we expect out of him” — coughed up an entry, and Torey Krug and Brad Marchand fumbled a connection 120 feet from the opposing goal, but they finally set up the 6 on 4.
Krejci’s goal was his third in three games, but the Canadiens (25-17-5) quickly and simply ended the OT.
The Bruins lost the draw and didn’t defend the rush. Rask couldn’t glove Max Domi’s bid, and Petry, the son of ex-Major League Baseball pitcher Dan Petry, connected on backhand chop and sent a live drive past Rask (19 saves on 22 shots)
“We worked hard for that goal there,” said Rask, who lost for the first time in six starts. “Finally got rewarded.”
It would have been nice to get another, he added.
Boston, now 16-4-2 after scoring first, led for most of the opening period. Bergeron finished a killer two-shift sequence by assisting on Marchand’s 1-0 goal 14:09 in.
Bergeron, facing the Habs’ zone, stopped an outlet pass with his feet, absorbed an Artturi Lehkonen hit from behind, and broke up two more Montreal attempts at moving the puck before Marchand swooped in and got a pair of chances off the rush.
On the line’s next shift, Bergeron’s cross-ice feed through traffic sent Marchand into the Montreal zone. He unloaded a one-footed laser and beat Price over his shoulder, rattling it off the far post.
It was the 17th goal of the season for Marchand, and his 10th in his past 17 games.
The Canadiens tied it on a Brendan Gallagher tip from in front with 93 seconds left in the first. The Bruins dominated for long stretches of the second, and had a chance to go up 2-1 at 16:16 of the frame. Montreal blue liner Victor Mete hooked Miller as the defense-first veteran took a slick Krejci pass and rushed into the offensive zone.
But the Boston power play has a problem.
Not only is it dull of late (2 for 12 in the previous three games, with Krejci’s goal Monday coming with a two-man advantage), the Bruins allow shorthanded goals at a league-worst clip. Boston surrendered its 10th when Montreal used its speed to take a second-period lead.
Cassidy had been at a sort of detente with the issue, recognizing it as a concern while mostly shrugging it off. He wanted his most skilled players to focus on making plays rather than defending them. It was his perceived best course of action for a unit ranked third in the league in overall success, operating at an outstanding 33.8 percent clip at home.
After Monday’s result (1 for 3), he was a bit more concerned.
Pucks hopped over sticks. Snipers fanned on shots. With Mete in the box, Bergeron, who whiffed on an open one-timer on the first man-up chance, couldn’t corral an errant pass up the boards. His teammates weren’t in proper support position to help.
Bergeron, on the ice for more than a minute, lost the puck to the wrong guy. Montreal winger Paul Byron, one of the league’s swifter skaters and fresh off the bench, won their footrace at the blue line and roofed a backhander over Rask, making it 2-1 at 17:09 of the second.
The middle period also saw Cassidy cut the ice time for second-line wingers David Backes (11:40, also glued to the bench in Toronto), who was unable to keep pace with Montreal’s speed, and DeBrusk.
“The standard we expect out of him I don’t think has been there enough lately, period,” Cassidy said of the latter (who wound up logging 18:05, nearly three minutes on the PP). “He’s been told that. We want him to play his way out of it.”
It certainly would help.