By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Bruins started as well as a team playing their third road game in four nights could have hoped.
Peppering the Canucks' Jakob Markstrom for six of the game's first seven shots, the Bruins were buzzing and looked primed to strike first. And even when that didn't come thanks to Troy Stecher's game-opening goal at the 4:14 mark of the first period, David Pastrnak responded with his 44th goal of the season, scored less than three minutes later.
But when the legs got heavy, the B's eventual meltdown followed, as the Black and Gold surrendered five unanswered goals from the first period and into the third period on their way to a 9-3 defeat on Vancouver ice.
Staring at a one-goal deficit through the opening 20 minutes of play, the Bruins saw this game slip away from them in a second period period that featured goals from Vancouver's Adam Gaudette, Tanner Pearson, and then Loui Eriksson. The Pearson and Eriksson goals were a double-whammy, too, as they came within just 51 seconds of one another.
Down four, it would've been easy to simply pack it in and get ready to come back home.
The B's status as the league's best team, and with victories in 10 of their last 11 contests, earned them such a right.
The Bruins would make things somewhat interesting, however, as they brought themselves within three with 11:49 remaining in the third period thanks to goals from Pastrnak and Chris Wagner, but Tyler Toffoli pushed the Canuck lead back to four just three minutes later to mark the start of a Canucks closeout that came with three unanswered goals in total.
Toffoli's first third-period goal was really emblematic of the troublesome night for the Bruins, too, as the B's lost a battle, fumbled with the puck, and then left entirely too much space in the high-danger area of the defensive zone.
Tyler Toffoli has his first goal as a Canuck as JT Miller sets him up in the slot! #Canucks convert the touchdown and have a 7-3 lead on the #NHLBruins https://t.co/V1OAJSjYGL
Tuukka Rask allowed six goals on 27 shots before he was given a mercy hook from Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy in the third period, and Jaroslav Halak surrendered three goals on eight shots in his 13:32 of relief.
Energy was a definite issue for the Bruins after that initial rush, really, and it led to an uptick in time for players such as Anton Blidh (a season-high 14:31) while Danton Heinen finished with a team-low 13:44 and a team-worst minus-4 rating.
Pastrnak, meanwhile, pushed his league-leading goal total to 45. The 23-year-old Pastrnak is now the first Boston skater to hit the 45-goal mark since Cam Neely scored 50 goals during the 1993-94 season.
If you're looking for some more good news after a 9-3 beatdown, it's worth mentioning that the Lightning, Capitals, and Penguins all lost on Saturday, keeping Boston's lead for the No. 1 seed as comfortable as it's been in the last few weeks.
The Bruins currently lead the Atlantic by five points over the second-place Lightning (regulation losses in two straight for the first time since Nov. 16-19), while they hold a 10-point lead over the Metro-best Capitals and Penguins.
Bruce Cassidy's squad will return to Boston and skate against the Flames on Tuesday night.