MONTREAL — Pushing aside the obvious — that there are no moral victories in a results-based business like sports — the Montreal Canadiens had nothing to hang their heads about in a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday.
The Canadiens had played a night prior, beating the Capitals in Washington in impressive fashion by a score of 3-2, and they had to contend with a rested Bruins team that hadn’t lost in regulation in 15 games; a Bruins team that boasts the best line in hockey; a Bruins team that made it clear over three meetings this week with the Canadiens that it is far superior.
Montreal’s effort was above board in two of the three games, but it couldn’t hang with the Bruins.
Canadiens coach Claude Julien didn’t parse his words on the subject after Saturday’s game.
“We don’t match up against them right now, absolutely not,” he said.
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
The Canadiens put up a strong performance in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Bruins last Saturday, but they were lucky not to lose 10-1 against them on Wednesday after their most lacklustre effort of the season. They were full value again on this night, but there didn’t seem to be anything they could do to stop Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak from beating them singlehandedly.
A member of Boston’s top line had at least a point on all four of the team’s goals. They combined on another in the third period that was called back on an offside challenge.
“I just feel like every time I was looking at them they were on the ice in our end creating,” said Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty, who scored his seventh goal this month.
“I think that line is probably best all-around line; probably the best at both ends,” said Canadiens defenceman Karl Alzner. “High-end skill, and also very defensively responsible. It’s not just in the D-zone, but it’s from the top of our circles to the red line. They pressure hard and make it tough for you to really generate anything.”
If Shea Weber were available to the Canadiens, the outcome might have been slightly different.
But Weber’s been sidelined by a left foot injury — an injury he played on from Game 1 until Game 34 of the season before getting shut down and placed in a walking boot, which he’s still wearing around town.
“When you play against a line like that, this is where Shea becomes a dependable player for you,” said Julien. “He is our best defenceman in those areas, and absolutely you miss him. You miss him at 100 per cent. He played a lot not at 100 per cent, but he is a guy that against teams like that that have big lines, that you wish you had a guy like him. But we don’t, so we try and do the best we can to manage that by, as I mentioned before the game, by trying to have a five-man unit that’s going to contain those guys. And that’s what we tried to do today.”
It was the defence pairing of Jordie Benn and Jakub Jerabek facing Bergeron’s line in the first period. Alzner and Petry took over from the second period through to the end of the game. And Tomas Plekanec’s line with Brendan Gallagher and Artturi Lehkonen completed the five-man units.
It wasn’t a fun night for any of them, getting just four shot attempts to 19 for the Bergeron line.
The duo of Marchand and Bergeron has been lethal since 2011. Add in the incredibly versatile Pastrnak, and they’re a complete bear to contend with (pardon the pun).
Julien, who put the first two together en route to coaching the Bruins to a Stanley Cup win in 2011, said afterwards, “I think at the end of the day if I knew I would have to face them right now, I probably would’ve kept them separated for all those years.”
“Their first line does damage every night, and they did damage again tonight,” Julien added in French. “Marchand — it’s so tough to take the puck from him — and the three of them are all over the ice, and you can even add [Torey] Krug. They have good chemistry. But when you look at the rest of the lineup, not much happened with the other lines. But the Bergeron line did the job for them.”
It started with a goal from a terrible angle from Pastrnak, and it ostensibly ended with his goal to put the Bruins up 3-1 with 2:57 to play.
Riley Nash scored into an empty net at 19:25.
“I thought we played well against them,” said Canadiens goaltender Carey Price. “But it’s a moral victory and there’s not much to feel good about when you’re losing.”