Jim Montgomery explains what went wrong during Bruins’ high-scoring loss to Penguins

Bruins

“We always know we’re gonna fight back, but it shouldn’t get to that point.”

Jim Montgomery saw his team cough up six goals on Thursday night. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The good news? For the fifth straight game, a Bruins roster marred by scoring droughts lit the lamp at least four times.

The bad news? A five-goal salvo for the Bruins wasn’t enough to secure two points on Thursday night at TD Garden.

For most fans, Boston’s 6-5 regulation loss to the Penguins was well worth the price of admission as far as entertainment is concerned.

Brad Marchand’s opening tally just 41 seconds into the first period was a sign of things to come, with Boston and Pittsburgh combining for five total goals in the opening 7:21 of play — the fastest five-goal output from the start of a game this season. 

Before the midway point of the second period, the Bruins were staring at a 5-2 deficit.

And while Jim Montgomery tipped his cap to his players for rallying back and tying the contest at 5-5 in the third, it was too little, too late on Causeway Street.

Sidney Crosby gave Pittsburgh the lead for good at 11:19 in the third period, breaking the deadlock and ultimately snapping Boston’s four-game win streak.

“There’s never any quit and we pride ourselves on that, so that was great to see,” Charlie Coyle said postgame. “But it’s not a good thing to put yourself in a couple of holes in that game. We always know we’re gonna fight back, but it shouldn’t get to that point. We dug ourselves too many holes.”

All it takes is a quick glimpse of the scoresheet to see where things went awry for Boston — with the Bruins relinquishing six goals for just the second time all year.

But for Montgomery, it was the manner in which Pittsburgh generated its offense that raised concerns.

It was a far-from-stellar showing from Jeremy Swayman (six goals against on 35 shots), but the Bruins’ netminder wasn’t exactly aided by the next line of defense in front of him.

Both of Pittsburgh’s first two tallies were the result of extra Penguins skaters camped at the netfront, with Drew O’Connor knocking home a rebound less than five minutes after Marchand opened the scoring.

Pittsburgh’s third goal of the night came off of an odd-man rush; even the stoutest netminders in the league are doomed to fail when Crosby and linemate Jake Guentzel are bearing down on them.

“I don’t like our ice management,” Montgomery said. “I don’t like the odd-man rushes we gave up — whether it’s on the power play or five-on-five. Giving up an odd-man rush cost us the penalty that ended up getting them the sixth goal.

“It’s just — we’re not making sound decisions. We’re forcing stuff when we don’t need to. We’re getting plenty of offense. We didn’t have to force offense. Unfortunately, our game management, I think, cost us the game.”

Montgomery has routinely bemoaned Boston’s lapses when defending the rush. But the Bruins made things far too easy for Pittsburgh’s skaters near the blue paint on Thursday.

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Bruins relinquished 21 high-danger scoring chances to the Penguins. It was just two off of their season-high 23 Grade-A looks that they coughed up in a 7-4 loss to the Rangers on Nov. 25. 

“We didn’t end plays in the D-zone when they went behind the net,” Montgomery said of Boston’s struggles with defending the netfront. “That’s where it starts.

“And then our defensemen didn’t get back to our net quick enough on our hand-offs on our D-zone coverage. That’s why they scored two goals in the first period — were rebound goals. And it’s because we’re two-on-one on the net.”

The Bruins will not get much of a respite as they sort out their D-zone woes. After hosting the Lightning on Saturday night, Boston will head out on a four-game road trip featuring matchups against the last two Stanley Cup champions in the Avalanche (Jan. 8) and Golden Knights (Jan. 11).

“I don’t think that we didn’t have bad effort,” Marchand noted. “I think we had a few mental mistakes… Our games are tough and it just shows that you have to be mentally prepared every night and it’s something that we still have a young group and we still need to learn and kind of get through together.”