By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
A welcomed move from Vancouver back to Boston didn’t come with the energetic lift one would have expected.
Not before the Bruins found themselves chasing Tuesday’s contest in true desperation mode, anyway, as the Bruins suffered their second straight regulation loss with a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Flames at TD Garden.
“Clearly not good enough,” a frustrated Bruce Cassidy said of the team’s effort in the loss. “I thought some guys came to play and some guys didn’t. Didn’t break a sweat, some of them it looked like. I’m sure there was effort, they were trying, they were just in between, couldn’t execute or whatever. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t good enough.”
The Bruins started their night in an 0-1 thanks to a fortunate bounce for the Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk that put the puck on his stick and with Charlie McAvoy too deep behind his own net to stop Tkachuk’s look at an empty cage.
The goal at the 11:35 mark of the first period, really started at the other end of the rink, however, as McAvoy’s attempted keep-in did’t hit a Boston stick, and sent Calgary the other way.
Chasing the Flames after one period of play, a Karson Kuhlman slash put the Bruins on the penalty kill, where Brad Marchand turned on the jets and toasted Noah Hanifin for a shorthanded goal at the 10:08 mark of the second.
The 25th goal of the season for the 5-foot-9 top-liner, the strike was also good for Marchand’s 27th career shorthanded goal, extending his franchise record (Rick Middleton is in second, with 25). Marchand’s 27 shorties are also the most by any NHLer since the start of the 2010-11 season, and the Marchand-Patrice Bergeron shorthanded combination has actually produced as many shorthanded goals as the entire Detroit Red Wings franchise over that run (41).
But the tie wouldn’t last long, as Sean Monahan finished off some Johnny Gaudreau magic just 3:17 later to re-established Calgary’s one-goal edge. Monahan then added his second of the night, five seconds into the Flames’ third power-play opportunity of the night after a Matt Grzelcyk retaliatory penalty, just 1:12 after that to push their lead to two.
Up against it against a Calgary squad that began the third period 20-1-2 when leading after two periods this year, the Bruins could not come up with any sort of real response through the first half of the final 20 before they finally broke through with an on-his-chest Chris Wagner’s push through David Rittich to bring the Bruins within one with 6:51 remaining in the game.
From there, the Bruins had life and they had jump — especially from the members of their fourth line — and began to make the Flames defense sweat in their own end. Their best and most consistent looks continued to come from the fourth line combo of Wagner and Sean Kuraly, and this grouping repeatedly gifted the B’s top talents some offensive-zone starts.
Boston’s top talents couldn’t take advantage of their looks before the Flames’ Mikael Backlund scored a breakaway strike with 1:30 left in the third period to put the Flames up by two, and then added the insurance empty-netter for a 5-2 final.
Rask took the loss behind a 26-save performance in the Boston net, and saw his home point streak come to an end at 20 games. Rask, who entered play with a 14-0-6 record and .933 save percentage in 20 starts at the Garden this season, was tied with Tiny Thompson’s 1929-20 for the longest home point streak in franchise history prior to the defeat.
The big story in this one, of course, was the Boston debut of trade deadline pickup Nick Ritchie.
Acquired from Anaheim in a one-for-one swap involving Danton Heinen, Ritchie began his B’s career by stepping up for a solid hit on ex-B’s forward Milan Lucic at the Calgary blue line in the first period, and was bounced up to David Krejci’s left wing midway through the game. Overall, Ritchie finished with seven hits but zero shots in 14:17 of time on ice.
For the B’s as a team, meanwhile, this is their first set of back-to-back regulation losses since Dec. 11 to Dec. 12, which came as the final two defeats of what was a five-game losing streak (0-4-1).
The Bruins get back to work Thursday night against Tyler Seguin and the Dallas Stars. The Bruins defeated the Stars by a 2-1 when these teams met in the first game of the regular season. It means literally nothing, but it’s noteworthy that both of the B’s goals that night were scored by players not longer on the team (Danton Heinen and Brett Ritchie).