Matt Bartkowski/Photo by S. Bradley

Matt Bartkowski/Photo by S. Bradley

Unless you were at Honda Center or turned the sound down while watching the Bruins’ 3-2 loss to Anaheim on NESN on Monday night, you have had it hammered into your head that the Ducks cheated.

The fact that Ducks forward Devante Smith-Pelly held Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski’s stick for a couple seconds before tipping in the go-ahead goal at 19:38 of the second period was repeated over and over. That play was also the most-played video of the night.

But anyone that watched the play live and on replay with any amount of objectivity knows that the Bruins had two chances to clear the puck near the blue line and failed. And Bartkowski still had time to wrestle Smith-Pelly out of position before the forward made the tip. Nonetheless, the excuse about Smith-Pelly getting away with a holding-the-stick penalty is there if the Bruins want to grab it.

GIF courtesy of Chris Abraham (@CrzyCanucklehed)

Of course, Smith-Pelly’s sneakiness doesn’t offer an excuse for the other things that went wrong in the first game of the Bruins’ four-game road trip.

♦It doesn’t excuse the Bruins for failing to score more than two goals for the eighth time in the past nine games. They sleepwalked through the late stages of the second period and first half of the third period. Daniel Paille hit the post on a gimme in front of the net. Reilly Smith didn’t bear down on a couple chances. Matt Fraser looks clumsy and lost most shifts. And Carl Soderberg and Milan Lucic combined to cough up the puck before Sami Vatanen’s goal, which tied the game 1-1 and turned momentum Anaheim’s way near the midway point of the second period.

♦It doesn’t excuse Zach Trotman becoming a turnstile as Vatanen dished the puck off and drove to the net. It also doesn’t excuse Bartkowski’s late reaction to help out his frozen D partner.

♦It doesn’t excuse Soderberg losing a defensive-zone draw clean to Ryan Getzlaf before Matt Belesky put the Ducks up 3-1. It also doesn’t excuse coach Claude Julien letting Soderberg take that draw. The center had been 0-for-2 in the defensive zone up to that point. Julien had to know the Ducks were going to come with Getzlaf’s line, and Chris Kelly was rested. Kelly, by the way, was 5-for-5 on faceoffs in the  game. Even a tired Patrice Bergeron, who’d finished a shift 30 seconds prior, would’ve been a better option to take that crucial draw that Soderberg, who’s well below 50 percent on the season.

♦It’s also no excuse for the Bruins getting their shot blocked 28 times.

There were some positives to take out of the defeat. Simon Gagne’s hands came out of cold storage and he scored a goal for the first time in 18 games. Gagne, Paille and Gregory Campbell created chances, held their own against Getzlaf’s line several times (with help from defensemen Dougie Hamilton and Dennis Seidenberg) and weren’t a liability for the first time in a while.

David Pastrnak was less electric than he was Friday and landed just one shot on net (as opposed to the seven he had against Winnipeg). He also got stripped of the puck more. But he picked up his first NHL assist on a goal by Brad Marchand.

The slumping power play was 0-for-3 but created 11 shots on net and tons of pressure.

So if there’s such a thing as momentum from a moral victory, the Bruins could ride that into Los Angeles for their game with the Kings on Tuesday.

Or they can choose to focus on Smith-Pelly’s stick hold and wallow in self pity. That’s not typically how the Bruins respond to adversity, but we’ll see what happens in the games ahead. They can make excuses or make the necessary adjustments to turn around this road trip.