By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The first half of Tuesday's meeting between the Bruins and visiting Panthers featured a whole lot of nothing.
And if you think I'm overselling the nothingness of it all, consider that the most exciting part of the night through 30 minutes was probably the two-second blackout the TD Garden had with the Panthers teeing up for a high-quality look on Tuukka Rask on the power play. And I mean blackout in the true sense. No, really, the lights went out and nobody knew what to do. The referees reviewed the situation while the Panthers lost their minds. The new Garden was old again, but we were still bored.
Then David Pastrnak pulled a no-looker out of his bag of tricks, and the Bruins were off to the tune of four goals in 7:36 as the Black and Gold seemed well on their way towards a skid-snapping victory at TD Garden.
But then things got truly weird, as the Bruins blew a four-goal and lead and dropped a 5-4 shootout final to the Panthers.
"We gotta play the same way for 60 minutes," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said after the loss, the team's fourth straight. "We all realize that that was not our 60-minute game. We lost a point. It’s on us.”
Before the nightmare became real, the Bruins were sparked by a fantastic backcheck by do-it-all top-line center Patrice Bergeron, and the night's scoring opened when Pastrnak stormed towards Bobrovsky and fired home his 16th goal of the season, giving No. 88 his eighth first goal of the game on the 2019-20 season.
A Joakim Nordstrom snipe just 2:07 later made it 2-0, Anders Bjork came through with a power-play finish just 3:14 after that, and Zdeno Chara polished off a second-chance look with just 29 seconds remaining in the frame to make it 4-0, Bruins.
But the Panthers would make it interesting in the third period, with three goals in 8:53, the first of which came from Aaron Ekblad just 50 seconds into the period. And then came a pair of power-play goals, the first from ex-Bruin Frank Vatrano and the second from Mike Hoffman, to leave the Bruins clinging to their one-goal edge with 10:17 left in the game.
"Just things got compounded," said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. "We lose a stick on the first goal; we don’t recover. It’s a poor angle shot but a good shot, so you’ve got to get your game back together. We take some penalties. It seemed like we took a lot of marginal penalties tonight; we didn’t kill them. Same thing in Detroit, we had those issues. Not great penalties we took – guys throwing pucks into the middle of the ice, so we’re going to have to sit down and address the penalty kill in those situations, how we broke down and get better in that area. Now, all of a sudden, they got life, and they’re coming."
The Bruins seemed more than capable of weathering the storm, but it was a score from Keith Yandle, scored with just 1:39 left in regulation, that pushed this game to overtime and shootout, where Mike Hoffman scored the winner in the top of the fourth.
"I should’ve been sharper in that third period," Rask, who made 25 saves in the loss, said. "Couple of soft goals.”
(That may be selling it short.)
But soft goals aside, what really seemed to bother Cassidy in this loss was Boston's lack of structure on the game-tying goal.
"The last goal to me – put everything else aside – is disappointing," Cassidy offered. "We get beat one-on-one off the rush, winger circling out of the scoring area knowing the game is on the line. You could sit here and argue that the guy’s holding Bergy’s [Patrice Bergeron] stick and can’t clear the puck at the end, but structurally we were bad on that last goal.
"That’s the disappointing part to me. That’s when we’re usually rock solid."
The Bruins skated in this contest without the services of defenseman Torey Krug. The 5-foot-9 Krug was injured in the closing moments of the third period in Sunday's shootout loss to the Flyers, is considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
With Krug injured, 2017 first-round pick Urho Vaakanainen made his season debut in what was just the third game of his NHL career. Skating on a pairing with Connor Clifton, the 20-year-old finished with 16:55 of time on ice in the loss.
Boston suffered yet another in-game loss, however, as winger Zach Senyshyn suffered a lower-body injury that held him to just one second-period shift before the team ruled him out for the remainder of the game.
The B's will have a couple of days off before a Friday night head-to-head with the Maple Leafs in Toronto.