In a span of about six seconds late Monday night, Los Angeles forward Andreas Athanasiou helped turned the Bruins’ two best players to that point, center Charlie Coyle and goaltender Linus Ullmark, into the goats of the evening.
“He beat me fair and square,” Ullmark, who has taken a loss in four of his last five outings, said of the overtime dagger. “And sometimes you gotta tip your hat and give the guy credit for beating you clean. It came at an unfortunate time, obviously, because it’s overtime and there’s no way we can get it back now.”
Unfortunate is selling it short. Just moments before Coyle opened all of I-93 up to Athanasiou, Ullmark came through with a dazzling glove save on an Anze Kopitar chance from a high-danger area, and his regulation featured 24 saves in total, including a sweet glove stop on Adrian Kempe in the middle frame, and what felt like an atonement for a first-period squeaker. And when the Kings tied it up, it was tough to fault Ullmark, as the initial shot was blocked down by Charlie McAvoy and put right on a platter for Trevor Moore for the game-tying marker.
“[Ullmark] got much better as the game went along,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Came out and made the stops. Good stops, athletic stops. All in all, it was a good outing for him, and he made some key saves when we needed them.”
All of that failed to matter much by the night’s end, however, and the goal given up to Athanasiou wasn’t exactly Ullmark’s best work. But it also shouldn’t have come down to that moment.
“You gotta value the puck,” Cassidy said of Coyle’s backhand to no man’s land. “The play at the end is just not a good hockey play, let’s face it. We got what we deserved on that play, that’s for sure.”
It was all that was needed to turn a fantastic performance from Coyle into a forgettable night.
Slotted between Trent Frederic and Craig Smith as the center on a line that’s only getting better, both of Boston’s goals in the losing effort came from sweet feeds from Coyle.
On Boston’s first goal, scored by Trent Frederic for his fourth goal of the year, Coyle displayed some tremendous vision and awareness when he decided to dish it to Frederic versus taking what would’ve been a low-percentage look with every single King in Coyle’s way throwing themselves to the left. And on the second goal, scored by Craig Smith, Coyle simply outworked and outmuscled Kopitar, one of the best two-way forwards in hockey, for possession and the setup to Smith.
Nobody’s going to tell you that Coyle didn’t royally fudge it up when it came to the overtime. Or that the 6-foot-4 Ullmark stole the show when he made himself smaller on the Athanasiou breakaway. But the sour ending shouldn’t take away from the much more important — at least if we take a look at the big picture — strides they made prior to the game-ending gaffes.
“Some unlucky bounces, and that’s what it comes down to in this league sometimes,” Ullmark offered. “That’s it.”
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 3-2 loss to the Kings…