There are good ties, there are satisfying ties, and there are bad ties.
Last night was clearly a bad tie.
The Bruins squandered a lead midway through the third period and were forced to overtime for an NHL-record 30th time, settling for a 3-3 deadlock with the Washington Capitals at the FleetCenter.
Once again, a rocky start contributed to a game-long struggle.
"Obviously, we're not happy," said coach Mike Sullivan. "We let an opportunity slip away. It certainly wasn't the effort we were looking for."
It was a chaotic evening for the Bruins' bench boss, who had to shift his lines because of ailing personnel. He lost right wing Glen Murray for part of the second because of an awkward fall that limited him to five shifts in the period. He lost captain Joe Thornton early in the third, although he came back to set up a goal, and then went off the ice for good midway through the third because of what the coach termed an upper-body injury. Thornton was not available for comment afterward but Murray said he wasn't worried.
"He'll be all right," said Murray. "He'll ice it down and he'll be ready."
Brian Rolston also was lost for part of the third because he wasn't feeling well.
In picking up a point, Boston increased its total to 102 with two games left, but Tampa Bay's victory over Florida clinched first place in the conference for the Lightning. The Flyers also won, keeping them atop the Atlantic Division and in third place.
Sullivan said the result left a bad taste in his mouth.
"This team has played consistently well for a long time because they've come with the focus and determination to win games, and I don't think we had that tonight," he said. "We played against a team that worked extremely hard against us. We knew it was going to be that way coming in and we didn't have the focus necessary."
That focus was particularly lacking in the scoreless first period. The Bruins had four power plays and could do nothing.
In the second, Nick Boynton put the Bruins on the board with a power-play goal at 5:52. Dan McGillis, at the left point, relayed a pass to Boynton at the right point. Boynton teed up a slapper through traffic that eluded Olaf Kolzig and put Boston up, 1-0.
Defenseman Brendan Witt pulled Washington even at 8:48 when he beat Andrew Raycroft with a shot from the left circle to the glove side.
The Capitals took the lead on a turnover. Rolston, usually one of the Bruins' most reliable forwards in his zone, picked off a pass from Alexander Semin, who sent the puck out from below the right circle. Rolston, in the slot, tried to clear it but fanned, and the puck went right to Kip Miller. Miller dished it to Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre in the right circle and Grand-Pierre fired it past Raycroft at 12:53.
It didn't help that the Bruins were missing Murray, who fell awkwardly and went to the dressing room for treatment.
"I kind of fell on my butt and was [in pain from] the nerve going down my leg," he said. "It took about 15 minutes to go away so it should be all right."
Thornton suffered his injury at 3:25 of the third. Defenseman Todd Rohloff hooked Thornton down as he carried the puck toward the Washington net and then Witt fell on him. Thornton, in obvious pain, was attended to by trainer Don Del Negro and then skated to the bench under his own power.
Less than two minutes later, as a result of the hooking call on Rohloff, the Bruins tied it at 2. Thornton, in the far right circle, saw Murray moving toward the left post and sent a cross-ice pass right onto his tape. Murray's quick release beat Kolzig for the power-play goal at 5:23.
Thornton, still ailing, tried to continue playing but instead retired for the night.
McGillis gave Boston its second lead of the game, scoring his fifth goal of the season. He fired a shot from the top of the left circle at 6:47, which deflected past Kolzig to make it 3-2. But the Capitals battled back, pulling even again at 11:09 on a power-play goal. With Marty Lapointe off for hooking at 9:45, defenseman Josef Boumedienne took a shot from just inside the blue line that hit off the shin pad of Jeff Halpern and beat Raycroft, and that's how it finished up.
Both of the Bruins' remaining games are against the defending Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils, which made the loss of a point last night all the more frustrating.
"We had an opportunity to get 2 points," said Sullivan. "I thought we were fortunate to get 1."