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Canadiens @ Bruins recap: Montreal finds a novel way to lose a hockey game

As if they weren’t finding life difficult enough, the Canadiens decided to play billiards with their replacement goaltender.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Boston Bruins Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens arrived at TD Garden for a rare Sunday-night game feeling good about their play, having claimed points in their last three games. Those positive feelings were tested with some news since the start of their match the night before, with a report that Jake Allen was day-to-day after getting run by a combination of Dylan Larkin and Jeff Petry in the last game, and Mike Hoffman also out with an injury.

Montreal’s best bet to get the win was to play a strong five-on-five game, and they proved they were prepared for that on the opening shifts. It started when Ben Chiarot jumped up into the play with Nick Suzuki’s line — flanked by Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson in this game — and the Habs had some good looks in close to the net as a result. The Canadiens cycled through their four lines, each one spending most it its shift in the Boston Bruins’ end.

That’s where the game’s first penalty was called, but not on the team in firm control of the possession. It was Anderson who went to the box for cross-checking Brad Marchand behind the Bruins’ net; a legitimate call based on the standard set for this season, but the officials chose to ignore that fact that Marchand leapt up off his feet a half-second after the contact to make sure to draw the call.

Boston’s power play looked dangerous, but several passes in close to the net couldn’t find friendly sticks. The Canadiens survived the two minutes, and then went right back to work in the offensive end.

It wasn’t long until Joel Armia picked up the puck inside his own zone, catching some Bruins players too deep for a three-on-two attack. With his linemates looking for open lanes, Armia decided to keep the puck himself, and sent a perfect shot just under the crossbar to open the scoring.

The goal woke the Bruins up, and they were determined to find a tying goal on the next shift. All five players were trying to solve Samuel Montembeault, but the goaltender turned aside every shot, even if he did look a bit shaky in his positioning while doing so.

Montembeault prepared for another barrage when Marchand drew a second penalty after trying to skate through Jake Evans. This time the Bruins couldn’t get any looks whatsoever, and were left frustrated by two minutes of chasing the puck. Fortunately for them, they didn’t have time to get upset at their play later on when Brendan Gallagher was called for a tap on a shin pad, because Marchand hauled down Artturi Lehkonen seconds after the power play began to get the game to an even four-on-four for the remainder of the frame.

Once all the players had exited the penalty boxes in the second period, the Bruins began to take control of the flow, with their shot counter ticking up rapidly. The Canadiens, as they tend to do when they come under pressure this season, resorted to stretch passes in a bid to relieve the tension, but many of those simply went for icing and ramped up the difficulty even more.

A particularly dangerous chance had David Pastrnak and Marchand racing away on a two-on-zero rush. Pastrnak hit Marchand with a pass just before a diving David Savard could catch the pair on the backcheck. and Marchand got all of the shot, but Montembeault made a big save to keep the Bruins’ top scorer off the board.

In a bid to keep momentum going in his team’s favour, Charlie McAvoy tried to line up Anderson for a hit in the neutral zone, but ended up flying into the boards as the big winger saw him, got his hands up, and initiated the contact himself. McAvoy did get his revenge on his next shift, however, tying the game after a Petry icing call let the Bruins set up on offence.

With the game now tied, and shots going from 10-4 for Montreal midway through the first to 27-17 Boston 30 minutes in, things settled back to a more even pace, allowing Montreal to breathe once more.

The open space gave Adam Brooks some room to work with later in the middle period. He skated onto a loose puck in the offensive zone, shifted toward the boards, and looked to get the puck through to the net. Michael Pezzetta has set up position in the slot, and got his stick on the puck, then watched it slowly trickle toward the net and over the line for his first NHL goal.

Ninety seconds into the third period, the Bruins were back on the power play after Petry lost body position on Patrnak and was forced to grab onto him to prevent a point-blank chance. This time the Bruins had success while up a man, and it was McAvoy finding the net once more.

To their credit, the Canadiens didn’t lose their composure after seeing their lead disappear. The play was fairly even in the following minutes with neither side coming up with a chance that seemed destined to become a go-ahead goal.

One of the more harmless efforts of that stretch saw a weak shot come in on Montembeault. The goaltender couldn’t control it, and the puck spilled right in front of him. After indirectly contributing to the first two goals against, Petry was more involved in the Bruins’ third of the night, as his attempt to clear the puck into the corner sent the puck off the head of Charlie Coyle standing near the side of the net instead. It rolled behind Montembeault, right along the goal line, and into the far-side of the net for a truly bizarre goal.from a situation that wasn’t remotely promising for Boston.

Pressing for a tying goal immediately, the Canadiens got caught with their defencemen a long way from their defensive assignments, and Brooks was left alone to play the puck inside his blue line. Coyle picked it up, beat Brooks to the post, and found a large hole in Montembeault’s coverage near-side for his second tally in three minutes, and a sizable two-goal edge for his team.

Montreal pulled Montembeault with 2:30 left in a desparate attempt to score two goals. The Bruins tried to throw the puck down the ice to run a bit of time off the clock, but it ended up hitting the linesman and falling right to the stick of Pastrnak. He found Taylor Hall on the ensuing two-on-one, and Hall gave himself a 30th-birthday present with the empty-netter to secure a 5-2 win.

The Canadiens probably deserved a better fate given the nature of the game-winning goal, but it was yet another night scoring just two goals, and both of those were scored by the bottom six. When a fourth-line rookie finds the scoresheet, a team should be able to come up with a total of three in the game, but some of the highest-paid players at the top of the lineup are failing to produce, and that’s an impossible situation to overcome with consistency.

There’s one more game on this road trip, and it goes on Tuesday night in New York versus the Rangers. They have points in 12 of their 15 games this season, so Montreal’s top players will need to figure things out if the Habs are going to get a better result than they did last night.