A disastrous third period doomed the Boston Bruins on Saturday as they once again fell to the Montreal Canadiens.
The Canadiens fought back from a pair ofÂ one-goal deficits and scored three unanswered goals over the final 12 minutes to hand their oldest rivals a 4-2 loss at the Bell Centre.
Boston now has droppedÂ each of its last seven regular-season meetings withÂ Montreal — a slump that dates back to the 2013-14 season.
The Bruins took advantage of some undisciplined play by their hosts to leap out to an early lead.
Montreal committed three penalties to Boston’s none in the opening frame,Â and the Bruins turned the first into the game’s first goal. Loui Eriksson tipped a Patrice Bergeron shot past goalie Mike Condon to put the B’s up 1-0 less than two minutes in.
Rookie Frank Vatrano was active early in his Bruins debut, recording two shots on goal in his very firstÂ shift. The 21-year-old wingerÂ also had his “welcome to the NHL” moment when Alexei Emelin floored him with a hard check to the back.
The Bruins outshot the Canadiens 12-6 in the period, with Jonas Gustavsson stopping all six shots he faced.
As formidable as the Bruins’ power play has been this season, their penalty kill has been equally as inept.
David Krejci was whistled for hooking 19 seconds into the second period, and Montreal capitalized, with Tomas Plekanec beating Gustavsson to knot things up at one goal apiece.
It took the Bruins just seven minutes to respond, however, and Vatrano was the one doing the honors. The East Longmeadow, Mass., native showed off his lightning-quick release by firing a shot past Condon for his first NHL goal.
Fellow rookie Colin Miller assisted on the tally to extend his point streak to six games.
The Canadiens, meanwhile, turned up the heat on Gustavsson, peppering him with 14 shots in the second. But they could not crack the 30-year-old Swede, who assured that Boston would take a one-goal edge into the final frame.
It was just the second time all season Montreal had trailed after two periods.
The Canadiens appeared to pull even early in the third, but Claude Julien’s first successful coach’s challenge of the seasonÂ took what wouldÂ have been Plekanec’s secondÂ goal off the board.
Plekanec beat Gustavsson after a mad scramble in front of the Boston net, but replays revealed Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher had interfered with the goaltender, thus nullifying the goal.
There would be no wiping away Montreal’s next tally, however. Gustavsson couldn’tÂ smother a shot by Alex Galchenyuk, and Lars Eller was there to slam home the rebound. Tie game.
The teams remained deadlocked until, with just over two minutes remaining, Krejci once again was sent to the box, this time for cross-checking Plekanec. It was Krejci’s third penalty of the night (he had just one in Boston’s first 12 games)Â and it gave Montreal the opening it needed.
David Desharnais scored the go-ahead goal with 1:08 to play, and Max Pacioretty added an empty-netter to seal it.
Gustavsson finished with 29 saves in the loss, his first of the season. Up front, Matt Beleskey did not factor into the scoring but seemed to be everyone on the ice for the Bruins, recording four shots on goal, one blocked shot and a game-high seven hits.
There will be little time for the Bruins to rest up after this one.Â They’ll be back at it Sunday afternoon, when they visit the New York Islanders.
Thumbnail photo viaÂ Eric Bolte/USA TODAY Sports Images