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Coach Michel Therrien's frustration is starting to boil over.
Once again, his Montreal Canadiens came out on the losing end despite outshooting their opponent and the rival Boston Bruins pulled out a 4-1 victory Tuesday night before a booing crowd at the Bell Centre.
After starting the season with a division-leading 19-4-3 record, the Canadiens have fallen into a 4-16-1 funk. The loss to Boston dropped them out of a playoff position.
"I honestly hope that not one person will criticize the effort," said the embattled coach, his voice cracking with emotion. "That has to stop. These guys are giving everything they have. Is the execution there? No, but that will come."
The Canadiens outshot Boston 39-24, but managed only a second-period goal from defenseman Mark Barberio.
Patrice Bergeron broke a 1-1 tie in second period as the Bruins won their third in a row. Max Talbot, David Pasternak and Brad Marchand, with an empty-net goal, also scored for the Bruins, who avenged a 5-1 loss to Montreal in the NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 1. The teams wore their Winter Classic jerseys in the rematch.
Star goalie Carey Price likely will return from a lower-body injury after the Jan. 31 All-Star game and the team could be waiting to make any moves to right the ship until after he's back.
Back-up Mike Condon has played reasonably well in Price's place, but it is clear the team skates with more confidence with the 2014-15 Hart and Vezina Trophy winner in goal.
After a day off, the team will resume practice Thursday to get ready for its next contest Saturday night in Toronto.
Captain Max Pacioretty said the squad's troubles can't be blamed on Therrien, whose job could be on the line.
"He's been absolutely phenomenal through all this and that's what makes it so hard," said Pacioretty. "I can't believe how well he's handled this and how positive he's been with us.
"Night after night we haven't been able to step up for him and that's frustrating because we all believe. We're all on board. We believe this is the way the game is supposed to be played."
It was a tough night for the top line of Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher and for defenseman Andrei Markov, who was benched - and booed - after some giveaways.
Therrien leapt to the 37-year-old's defense.
"It happens to every player at a certain age. He isn't done, but sometimes it's tougher. We just played four games in six nights."
Markov was the goat on Boston's opening goal in the first period as Condon stopped Talbot on a breakaway, but Andrei Markov's weak pass went straight back to Talbot for a shot in off the goalie's glove.
Barberio tied it 8:48 into the second frame with a one-timer of a P.K. Subban feed from a tight angle that beat Tuukka Rask, who usually struggles against the Canadiens and even with the win is only 5-15-3 against them in his career.
Condon was bowled over by teammate Alexei Emelin as his clearing pass was picked off by Pasternak and fed to Bergeron for a goal at 16:49. Bergeron moved past Cam Neely into eighth place in Bruins history with his 591th career point.
Condon was slow to get to the far post as Pasternak circled the net and tucked one in at 12:14 of the third.
Montreal lost defenseman Nathan Beaulieu to a lower-body injury in the first period and winger Paul Byron to a lower-body injury in the third.
Notes: Denna Laing, the Boston Pride player who suffered a severe spine injury in the women's game at the Winter Classic, was honored in a pre-game scoreboard montage. Jerseys signed by players from both teams will be auctioned to raise funds for her. ... Boston's David Krejci (upper body) missed a 10th game. Pasternak returned after missing three.
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