(Jim Davis/Globe Staff
In yesterday’s second period, as he scanned the backs of the jerseys flying into a scrum in front of the Boston bench, Andrew Ference saw a No. 4.
Ference figured it was David Krejci, who wears No. 46, in the middle of the mayhem.
But it turned out Krejci had company. Matt Hunwick, Ference’s partner who wears No. 48, had also jumped up to try to wipe out T.J. Galiardi along the boards, leaving one man alone on defense.
The three-on-one pileup (Michael Ryder was also in the mix) turned into a Three Stooges routine. Galiardi, seemingly down and out under the three checkers, slipped away with the puck and started toward the Boston goal. Ference saw Galiardi emerge with the puck, and he stepped up to knock him on his rear, thinking he had Hunwick back as support.
But when Galiardi absorbed the defenseman’s hit and dished the puck to an all-alone David Jones, it was quite clear that Ference had been the last line of defense in front of Tuukka Rask. Jones hurtled in on Rask and fired a shorthanded shot over the goalie’s glove at 16:50 for the fourth and game-winning goal in the Bruins’ 4-3 loss before 16,393 at TD Garden yesterday.
“I actually counted wrong,’’ Ference said. “I thought that was Krejci going into the pile, not Hunwick. It was kind of surprising.’’
The confluence of mistakes - the inability of three Bruins to overpower Galiardi for the puck being the more glaring of the sins - was the most damaging in a game stuffed with mental errors.
For the most part, compared with the 4-1, season-opening dog against Washington and the 6-1 embarrassment against Anaheim, Bruins coach Claude Julien has been satisfied with his team’s effort.
But Julien, a master of detail, has been left without answers when it comes to explaining his players’ lack of hockey acumen, which has left the Bruins in the rubble of a 2-3 home stand.
“When your head isn’t all there, you don’t skate and play like you should,’’ Julien said. “You can skate with cement boots or you can play with wings. When you feel good, everything is clear in your mind and you feel good about yourself, we do play with those wings. Right now, anybody’s who seen our team before and seen them now, we’re not even skating the way we have in the past. Somewhere, we’ve got to get that energy in our legs. That will result in better forechecking, more physical play, better scoring chances. If we’re skating well, maybe we don’t give up as many goals because we’re backchecking a lot better.’’
In the first period, with Hunwick serving a hooking penalty, Milan Hejduk gave the Avalanche a 1-0 lead. Zdeno Chara and Derek Morris couldn’t clear the rebound of a Kyle Quincey point shot, allowing Hejduk to swoop in for a power-play goal at 6:15. Before the Bruins could finish cursing their luck, they were down, 2-0. Rask couldn’t handle a long-distance Jones slapper, and when he fumbled the puck, Scott Hannan, who had barreled past a backchecking Milan Lucic, was on the doorstep to bat home the rebound at 6:52.
Thirty-seven seconds. Two Colorado goals. A whole lot of worry on the Boston side.
For the rest of the game, the Bruins had to dig to erase Colorado’s lead. At 7:45 of the second, Mark Recchi cut Colorado’s advantage in half. After a clever behind-the-net dish from Patrice Bergeron, who had gotten a step on John-Michael Liles, Recchi hammered the puck past Craig Anderson (29 saves) for his first goal of the season.
Less than three minutes later, Blake Wheeler tied the score. Prior to the goal, Ryder had the puck in the neutral zone. Wheeler was sprinting down the left side and noticed that Hannan, the weak-side defenseman, was flat-footed. So instead of making the textbook move of cutting into the middle, Wheeler stayed wide and got behind Hannan. Ryder fed him the puck and Wheeler tipped it through Anderson at 10:14, making it 2-2.
“When you get behind by a couple goals, you almost feel like you can’t screw up anymore,’’ Wheeler said. “It’s a different feeling than being tied or up. We thrive on sticking the nail in the coffin on teams. That was our M.O. last year. When we’ve been getting down a couple goals, we feel, ‘All right, we can’t screw up anymore.’ I think it loosens us up a little. But that’s not a good thing. I think it definitely shows our character that we’ve come back from deficits the last couple games. But if you keep putting yourself in a two- or three-goal hole, eventually you’re going to run out of answers.’’
One shift after tying the score, the Bruins ceded control back to the Avalanche. During a post-whistle scrum at 14:32, Morris (slashing) and Shawn Thornton (roughing) were sent off, while Cody McLeod (roughing) was the only Colorado visitor to the box. One minute into the power play, Marek Svatos scored a man-advantage goal to give the Avalanche a 3-2 lead. Jones added his shortie at 16:50, giving Colorado enough of a cushion to withstand Ryder’s third-period strike, the only goal of the final frame.
“We’re not playing well on a consistent basis,’’ Julien said. “There are times during the game when you see the team working hard and creating chances, and you see the old team of before. All of a sudden, you shoot yourself in the foot with some bad penalties or bad decisions. Somewhere down the road, you’ve got to get things straightened out in your head and be sharp and alert for 60 minutes. That’s what we’re going through right now. That’s what’s making it tough on us.’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.