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Lars Eller’s empty net goal with three seconds remaining cemented a Canadiens victory in Game 3. As a Bruins fan, this was a frustrating one to watch not only for that fact that they lost, but how they lost. From the opening drop of the puck, the Montreal looked like the better team from top to bottom.
Just like in the previous games in this series, the Habs got an early lead the the Bruins had no response for them for most of the game. Tomas Vanek, who has gotten better every game this series, threw a beautiful pass through the offensive zone to Tomas Plekanec, who shelved the puck in the wide-open net. Just 4 minutes later, the Bruins were unable to capitalize on a power play and PK Subban came out of the box, collected a pass from Eller and deked out Tuukka Rask to put the Habs up by two.
The situation went from bad to worse when Dale Weise (of all people) got a breakaway and scored 5-hole on Rask, putting the Canadiens up by three and electrifying the crowd. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the blame goes here. On one hand, Tuukka needs to be able to stop at least one of those breakaways in a close playoff game. Especially on Weise, who’s not exactly an offensive juggernaut. On the other hand, as Jack Edwards tweeted, if the goalie has to touch the puck then it means five guys in front of him didn’t do their job. It’s not always this clear cut, of course, but the fact that the Bruins gave up two breakaways in the first two periods meant that they weren’t playing smart or tight enough defensively. Just a few minutes later, however, Patrice Bergeron tipped in a Torey Krug shot and gave the Bruins a glimmer of hope as they headed down the tunnel after two.
The Bruins came out hard in the third period, creating scoring chances and imposing their will for stints of time in the offensive zone. However, they couldn’t seem to cash in. A post here, a blocked shot there, and the Bruins saw their hopes dwindling right in front of them. Coach Claude Julien’s hand was forced, so he pulled Rask with just over two minutes to go in hopes of sparking some offense. It worked- Andrej Meszaros fired from the left point and Jarome Iginla was there to deflect it in past Carey Price. The final two minutes were a flurry of chances and offensive possession for the Bruins, but they weren’t able to sneak one in past Price. Finally, Eller beat the defense and tucked it in the empty net, ending the game 4-2.
I have two main takeaways from this game. One, which surprisingly has been an issue for them this whole series, is that the Bruins are still unable to put together a full sixty minute effort on the ice. In all three games, they found themselves down early and made a late push to attempt a comeback. It worked once, but failed twice. Playing like this might work in the regular season or against a weaker opponent, but it won’t work against Montreal. They need to find a way to bring the intensity and scoring chances early. If the B’s can get a couple first period goals, it changes everything.
My other main takeaway from this game was that once again the Bruins young defenseman were exploited. On the Plekanec goal, Kevan Miller was out of position. A long pass like that across the zone should never go through. On the Subban goal, Hamilton completely forgot or ignored that the power play was almost over, giving PK all the time in the world to walk in on Rask. I actually thought Hamilton played a good game and has really impressed in these playoffs, but these are the kind of mental mistakes that just can’t happen.
They will square off again tomorrow night in the Bell Centre. It’s crucial that the Bruins take this game so they don’t find themselves down 3-1 in the series.