Bruins hardly at their best in loss
Top players don’t do much to aid the cause
The Bruins, who wiped out a 1-0 deficit when David Krejci set up Daniel Paille for a second-period goal, were less than two minutes away from entering the second intermission tied at 1-1 against the Islanders last night.
But for the second game in a row, a misplayed puck by one of their netminders resulted in a gut-punching goal. And as unfortunate as the mistake was, the more startling issue was the flat-line, zero-pushback response that followed, ultimately leading to a 4-1 Boston loss before 16,865 at TD Garden.
One game after Tim Thomas and Dennis Wideman couldn’t connect behind the Pittsburgh net, leading to a turnover and Pascal Dupuis’s overtime goal, Matt Moulson potted the winning goal when Tuukka Rask gave the puck away. Following a New York dump-in down the right-side wall, Rask had departed his crease to play the puck. According to coach Claude Julien’s system, Rask should have cleared the puck on the weak side by reversing it to an open Derek Morris, who could then trigger the breakout.
Instead, while facing the forechecking pressure of John Tavares, Rask threw the puck, like a well-marbled ribeye steak, into the teeth of the New York attack on the strong side. Rask’s clearing attempt went through Zdeno Chara and onto the wall for Richard Park, who was waiting to seal off the pass. Park spotted an unmarked Moulson in front. Moul son beat Rask at 18:49 to make it a 2-1 game.
“It’s a mistake that a young goaltender made,’’ Julien said. “These are mistakes from a guy like him that you hope he will learn from. We don’t go back out the strong side. Sometimes those are habits, right? We had a guy behind him who was wide open. He yelled at him. He didn’t hear him. It’s a mistake.
“I’m not going to start blaming every D because the goaltender made a bad decision. We have players who make bad decisions on the ice that are responsible for goals. We shouldn’t exclude the goaltenders. Timmy did the same thing. He can say whatever he wants. Our D’s had peeled off. If he moved in, it’s over. Those are mistakes that individuals are making right now. We have to correct those. A lot of that stuff is what’s costing us games right now.’’
Little was seen from the Bruins after that.
“Tonight is one of those games where you can look at the stats, take those stats, and throw them in the garbage,’’ Julien said. “We’re almost 70 percent on draws. We outshoot them. Big deal. They were still the better team because they wanted it more than we did. It’s as simple as that. That’s something that, at one point, we didn’t accept, and we did something about it. Hopefully, in the very, very near future, we’re going to turn that kind of thing around.’’
At 1:50 of the third, Tavares banked a shot off Matt Hunwick and past Rask to give the Islanders a 3-1 lead, and Trent Hunter added an empty-netter at 19:11.
But the game was well in hand before the puck dropped on the third period. In the first period, Patrice Bergeron flung an offensive-zone pass into a logpile of New York sticks to turn the puck over. At the other end, a backchecking Bergeron couldn’t clear a Jack Hillen feed, which allowed Moulson to score his first of two as he crashed the net and beat Rask at 6:00.
Later in the first, during a 1:36 stretch of a two-man advantage (Freddy Meyer and Hillen were in the box), the five supposed top gunners (Chara, Morris, Bergeron, Krejci, Mark Recchi) were on the ice for the Bruins. After line changes, Wideman, Vladimir Sobotka, Marco Sturm, and Michael Ryder got some looks too. They put five pucks on Dwayne Roloson during the power play. Zero made it through.
Then in the third, after Bergeron gave the puck away in the defensive zone, Moulson sent it back deep behind the Boston net. Wideman retrieved the puck and tried to carry it out, but he wilted under the double-barraged forecheck of Moulson and Park. After the turnover, Tavares gained control for the goal that made it 3-1.
The underlying theme to those three snapshots: They all involved the Bruins’ best players. Bergeron, the team’s top player all season, bungled through his worst game of 2009-10 (on the ice for all four New York goals). But as has been the case recently, Bergeron didn’t get any help from misfiring wings Sturm (four goals) and Recchi (three).
During the five-on-three, Chara and Morris didn’t move the puck crisply enough to get the Islanders’ penalty-killing triangle moving. Krejci, one of the few bright spots during even-strength play, also failed to contribute during the power play.
“It [stinks],’’ Krejci said of not scoring during the five-on-three. “That’s what it is. This is the NHL. You have two minutes for a five-on-three power play. You have to score a goal and we didn’t. That’s it.’’
Throw in the disappearance of Ryder (one shot in 14:02 of ice time), and you can see why the alert level is high.
“Our best players right now - I’ve said it and I’ve said it before - are not at their best,’’ Julien said. “When that happens, you can’t expect results. We have [Marc Savard] who’s the quarterback on our power play that we obviously miss dearly right now. There’s still enough on our hockey club. But we’re not moving the puck with any assertiveness. There’s not the confidence nor the determination that we need to have to be successful.’’