MONTREAL - Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Martin had a warning for his players before Monday's game against the Boston Bruins.
"I told them this morning that it was a good thing the game wasn't in the morning because we weren't ready," Martin said. "We need to be better."
Turns out Martin's fears were justified. Boston jumped on the Canadiens early before hanging on for a 4-2 win to cut the Habs' lead in best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final to 2-1.
"They came out playing like a team that was down two games, and we played like a team that was up two games," Canadiens goalie Carey Price said. "I think it started this morning. Guys were horsing around during the morning skate and weren't ready to play.
"I think we got what we deserved in the first period and after that I felt we came back and played like a focused hockey team like we should."
David Krejci and Nathan Horton scored in the first and Rich Peverley scored early in the second as the Bruins jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
"We gave up too many odd-man rushes and we know they're a good team," Habs captain Brian Gionta said. "We just let off the gas for a little bit in that first period and that's the difference of the game."
Montreal's Scott Gomez gave the Bruins credit for their desperation but added that the Canadiens showed fight in cutting the lead to 3-2 in the third.
"They did what they had to do but in saying that we could have just folded it out there," Gomez said. "The whole team did a good job just sticking with it."
Price made 21 saves in the loss, but gifted Peverley Boston's third goal after a poor clearing attempt.
"I was trying to get it up and out of the zone and normally it's open but I think it hit a shin pad and ended up on one of their sticks," Price. "I've got to be more cautious."
Andrei Kostitsyn returned to Montreal's lineup after missing Game 2 with an injury. He had an immediate impact, scoring Montreal's first goal of the game when he beat Zdeno Chara to the outside and scored on Tim Thomas with a low backhand.
The Canadiens were better in the second half of the game and outshot the Bruins 15-6 in the third period but were unable to force overtime.
"We have to take the momentum we had for the whole second half of that hockey game and carry it into the next one," said Price.
Montreal's woes on the power-play continued, however, finishing 0-for-5 on Monday. The Canadiens are just 1-for-12 with the man advantage in the series.
There will be an extra day off before the series resumes Thursday night at the Bell Centre.
Boston will travel to Lake Placid, N.Y., for two days while Montreal has a scheduled off day on Tuesday.