By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
It took the Bruins 59 minutes, 22 seconds, and 42 shots to score their second goal of the night against Canadiens netminder Carey Price, a 6-0n-4 power-play strike off the stick of David Krejci (his third goal in as many games).
Then it took the Canadiens all of 15 seconds, and some sleepy d-zone coverage by the Bruins, of overtime for Jeff Petry and the Habs to throw that out the window and find themselves on the right side of a 3-2 final at TD Garden.
“Right now it sucks, especially when it happens that quick,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the loss. “It’s a pretty straightforward rush. We folded instead of challenging the puck carrier, so that started a domino effect, and we lost coverage in front. Got a good save, but we’ve been down this road earlier this year when we lost in overtime in a hurry.
“We lost the draw and then all of a sudden, we never touch it, so it’s a little disappointing that we didn’t defend the rush better, give ourselves a chance to win the game.”
But the quick ending off a Boston mistake was a microcosm of their night, all things considered.
The Bruins jumped out to a 1-0 lead behind Brad Marchand’s absolutely filthy snipe at four-on-four, but found themselves knotted at 1-1 on a Brendan Gallagher tip sparked by Patrice Bergeron getting kicked out of a d-zone faceoff. This has been a theme at various points this season, it frustrated Bergeron to the point of nearly smashing his stick to bits following the goal, and came without an explanation from the officials yet again (another theme of his season).
“No,” an agitated Bergeron said when asked if received an explanation for the toss. “It is [frustrating], but it is what it is.”
Bergeron’s night got worse, though, as Paul Byron jumped on a loose puck and took a shorthanded rush through Bergeron and then went top-shelf on Tuukka Rask for a 2-1 lead with just 2:51 left to play in the middle frame.
It was the kind of backbreaking goal that’s become oddly common for the B’s typically-dominant power-play unit, which has now allowed a league-high 10 shorthanded goals, and has even struggled to even gain the zone in recent days.
“I think lately they’re just fighting it a little bit,” Cassidy said of the power play. “Some of that is they force some plays, gotten away from making the play that’s available, recovering the puck and then breaking the kill down when they’re fatigued or not in position. They’re trying to do the opposite — break them down early when they’re in position and they’re fresh. I think it’s caught up to us a little bit. We’ve got to get back to generate a look or two and then recover the puck.”
But the power play was not what doomed the Bruins in this loss. Not as much as their failure to find anything even close to a balanced middle six, with Cassidy jumbling the second and third lines up for what felt like the final 40 minutes of play, and without a single group emerging as a clearcut solution.
“Messages, mixing it up,” Cassidy said of shuffling those trios around in search of a better fit. “We’ll use [David] Krejci as an example. I think he’s played really good hockey for us this year, whoever’s been on his wings, so you don’t want to lose him if say his linemates are going well. So, we mix someone else in there. Then you get behind and you think well maybe you have to use more offensive – minded, say [Ryan] Donato, who’s scored some goals, who tends to… an offensive player who when gets a chance can bury it. So, it’s a bit of the thought process in there. And then if we feel like a guy’s just not committed then that’s a message usually to a younger guy.”
But no message appeared sent or received. Not in time for it to make a difference at five-on-five, at least.
And so the search for balance continues for a Bruins team that’s experienced losses on 40-plus shot nights in two of their last three games. But the Bruins are not panicking. Not yet at least, partially due to the quality of the competition they’ve gone against in those losses.
“We played two of the top goaltenders in the league with [Braden] Holtby and with Price,” Ryan Donato offered after the loss. “Those guys are good at what they do and they’re good at protecting a lead, those goalies are. But at the end of the day we got to find a way to put one in, maybe two in. We had some Grade-A chances, it’s all about working through that and sometimes you can get snaked in as a team and I think we just got to keep pushing through and eventually it will come.”
The Bruins will head to Philadelphia for a road meeting head-to-head with the Flyers on Wednesday.