BOSTON — The Bruins-Canadiens rivalry has been a decidedly lopsided one in recent years. Saturday night was no different.
Hosting their longtime rivals at TD Garden for the first and only time this season, the Bruins again came out on the losing end. Lars Eller scored twice, Carey Price finished with 19 saves and the Canadiens cruised to a 4-2 victory.
It was Montreal’s sixth straight regular-season win over Boston, and its eighth in a row on the Bruins’ home ice.
It took the Canadiens all of 85 seconds to stick the Bruins in a 1-0 hole.
Matt Beleskey was called for an illegal check to the head a the 1:14 mark of the first, and David Desharnais capitalized by stuffing a rebound past goalie Tuukka Rask just 11 seconds into the ensuing power play.
Rask saved Andrei Markov’s initial shot, but Desharnais was left unchecked in front of the net — the type of defensive miscue that killed the Bruins in Thursday night’s season opener.
Price was his usual Hart and Vezina Trophy-winning self in the first, but Boston did have its chances. Torey Krug hit the post on a power-play bid, Brad Marchand rang the crossbar during a penalty kill, and the Montreal goalie turned aside three David Pastrnak shots in one 15-second span, including two from point blank.
Pastrnak was arguably the Bruins’ best player in the first, accounting for four of his team’s eight shots on goal. Defenseman Colin Miller also looked solid in his first taste of NHL action.
Montreal again struck quickly in the second, turning a Pastrnak giveaway into an Eller goal less than three minutes in.
Defensemen Matt Irwin and Kevan Miller both had positioning on the play, but neither put the necessary pressure on Eller or Alexander Semin, who set up the tally.
The Bruins appeared to have gotten one back later in the second, with Loui Eriksson directing a Colin Miller shot in past Price. The referee waved off the goal, however, ruling that Patrice Bergeron had interfered with the Montreal goaltender.
The play prompted Claude Julien to use his first-ever coach’s challenge, but the no-goal call stood after video review.
Boston’s luck went from bad to worse less than two minutes later, when Eller’s second goal of the game stretched Montreal’s advantage to 3-0.
The Bruins then finally found the net when a no-angle shot by Matt Beleskey deflected off the sliding body of Jeff Petry and trickled between Price’s legs.
It was Beleskey’s first goal as a Bruin and the third scored this season by the line of him, David Krejci and Pastrnak. Krejci and Pastrnak were credited with assists on the tally.
Montreal carried a 28-15 shot-on-goal edge and a 3-1 lead into the third.
Already trailing by two goals, the Bruins were forced to spend five minutes on the penalty kill after Ryan Spooner was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct for a hit on Canadiens center Brian Flynn.
Spooner’s hit, which sent Flynn into the boards between the penalty boxes, was well late and clearly deserving of a call, but it didn’t appear worthy of a misconduct.
It was the first career major for Spooner, who’d spent just eight minutes in the box before Saturday.
The Bruins killed off the penalty — and withstood two minutes of 5-on-3 after a Marchand slashing call — but did not return to full strength until just before the halfway point of the period. Marchand later left the game and did not return after taking what looked to be an accidental elbow from Dale Weise.
The final two goals both came in the game’s final minute: an empty-netter by Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec and a power-play tally by Bergeron following a match penalty on Montreal’s Torrey Mitchell. The reason for the penalty? This slew foot on Zac Rinaldo:
Price saved 19 of the 21 shots he faced to improve to 22-8-3 all-time against the Bruins. Rask stopped 34 of 27 but fell to 3-14-3.
The Bruins close out their season-opening three-game homestand Monday afternoon against the defending Eastern Conference champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
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Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Montreal Canadiens celebrate next to Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.