Down 3-0 to the Canadiens in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal, Boston tried to claw back for the third straight game and scored twice to force a frantic finish. But the Canadiens added an empty-net goal in the dying seconds, and beat the Bruins 4-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.
The comeback attempt was reminiscent of the first two games of the series, when Boston overcame two-goal third-period deficits on both occasions. But this time, the three-goal hole was just too deep.
"It's not going to happen every time," said Patrice Bergeron, who scored late in the second period to give Boston a fighting chance going into the final period. "It was a perfect example tonight. We waited too long to make it a game, and we didn't have enough time."
The goal gave Bergeron 17 career playoff points versus the Canadiens.
"Last game, we woke up in the third period," he added. "But we knew it couldn't happen every single game. We have to be better. Period."
Bergeron scored at 17:49 of the second, deflecting a Torey Krug shot from the point to beat Carey Price for his third of the playoffs.
Price was also beaten on a deflection at 17:44 of the third when Jarome Iginla tipped in a shot with goaltender Tuukka Rask on the bench for the extra attacker.
"We're a very resilient team, and you see that," said winger Shawn Thornton, who finished the game with five hits and a minus-1 rating. "We can't pull ourselves out of the hole every night - as much as we'd want to."
The Bruins have scored eight of their 10 goals this series in the third period.
"It shows the character of this team," added Thornton. "We don't give up until the final buzzer. Tonight again, in the third period, we put a lot of pressure on, we had a lot of chances."
For Boston, its renewed gusto in the third period pairs well with Montreal's tendency to give up leads. Including their four-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Habs have now conceded 14 of 20 goals in the final frame.
But the Bruins don't want to rely on third-period heroics when they take to the ice on Thursday for Game 4 at the Bell Centre.
"This is a tough building to battle from behind in," said Thornton.
"We have to try to play with the lead for once," added Rask. "When you're three goals behind, it's tough. You battle back, but time's running out."
The Bruins fell behind midway through the first period when Montreal's Thomas Vanek found Tomas Plekanec wide open on the side of the net with a cross-ice pass.
P.K. Subban doubled Montreal's lead three minutes later when he was sprung from the penalty box by Lars Eller before beating Rask on a breakaway.
"We weren't as good as them in the first period, and that cost us," said Iginla, whose late-game tip-in was his first since his empty-net goal in Game 6 versus the Detroit Red Wings. "After that, we were playing catch up.
"We found a way to get ourselves back in it, but the first period was the biggest difference in the game. We weren't as sharp as them early."
Dale Weise made it 3-0 at 13:52 of the second when Daniel Briere found him uncovered at the Boston blue-line. Weise walked in alone and put the puck between Rask's pads.
The Bruins blamed mental errors for the two breakaways that ultimately cost them the game.
"We have to make sure we don't make any more mistakes," said Thornton. "We gave up a couple of chances we don't normally give up. They capitalized on them."
Notes: Brandon Prust and Francis Bouillon were healthy scratches for the Canadiens. Travis Moen and Douglas Murray got the start. … Montreal is now 5-0 in the playoffs when scoring first. … Rask allowed at least three goals in three consecutive games for only the second time this year. … The Canadiens have killed off all six Bruins power plays in the series. … Boston outshot Montreal in every game so far this series, and in six of seven encounters this year.