A fall at end of trip
Bruins lose lead, then the shootout
LOS ANGELES - At the Staples Center yesterday, as the Bruins completed a grinding three-game road trip up and down the California coast (they started in Anaheim, flew north to San Jose, then traveled back to Los Angeles), they found themselves without some of their top guns.
No Patrice Bergeron (thumb). No Marc Savard (knee). No Marco Sturm (leg). No Dennis Wideman (sick). No Steve Begin (undisclosed) for half the game.
What they had, surprisingly, was a two-goal lead in the third period. But just as players have disappeared from their roster because of an outbreak of injuries, the Bruins saw that cushion vanish.
At 10:32 of the third, Dustin Brown made it a 3-2 game. Just over two minutes later, Anze Kopitar tied it. Then in the shootout, Kopitar and Brown beat Tim Thomas - Jonathan Quick turned back David Krejci and Miroslav Satan - to send the Bruins back east nursing a 4-3 loss.
“Our guys left it all out on the ice,’’ said coach Claude Julien, who saw his team record 3 of 6 possible points on the road trip. “It’s unfortunate we weren’t able to come up with a win. But it really took a lot out of us killing those penalties in the second period. It made it hard for us, especially with a short bench and a depleted lineup, to stay there for the whole 60 minutes.’’
The parade of box-bound Bruins started in the second. At 18:50, 19 seconds after the Bruins killed off a holding penalty on Mark Stuart, Trent Whitfield was sent off for interference. Then at 19:38, the Kings went on a two-man advantage when Derek Morris was called for hooking.
The Bruins killed off part of the five-on-three, heading into second intermission with a 3-1 lead, but Stuart was whistled for cross-checking at 1:00 of the third period, putting his team down two men again.
The Bruins killed all five LA power-play opportunities, but the energy they spent doing it cost them later in the third.
Behind the net, Alexander Frolov engaged Johnny Boychuk in a puck battle. Matt Hunwick slid behind the net as well, offering support for his partner. But Frolov scooped the puck out front to Brown. With Hunwick not in the slot, an uncovered Brown - no backcheckers in sight - tapped the puck past Thomas (31 saves) at 10:32.
The Bruins, who make net-front coverage one of their highest priorities, stumbled in front of Thomas again later in the third. After the Kings won a race for the puck in the offensive zone, Wayne Simmonds had a two-on-one with Kopitar against Boychuk. The Bruins didn’t have the matchup they wanted against Kopitar (Boychuk and Hunwick, along with Vladimir Sobotka centering Milan Lucic and Byron Bitz), and the Kings made them pay. Kopitar took Simmonds’s feed and beat Thomas at 12:54 to rub out Boston’s two-goal edge.
“One of those games where you could probably be happy with a point,’’ said Zdeno Chara. “But you could also be unhappy with the point you lost. I thought we battled really hard and we gave everything we had.’’
Things were going quite well for the Bruins before the Kings’ rally. Within 11 seconds, Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder scored in the middle frame. At 10:53, Wheeler busted a 1-1 tie with his 12th goal of the year. Krejci, controlling the puck in the offensive zone, drew the LA defensemen, then slid a pass across the grain to Wheeler on the right side. Wheeler flung the puck out front, where it deflected off Sean O’Donnell and past Quick (21 saves).
Before the following draw, Boychuk pulled aside Ryder and gave him a message.
“I told him to go up and show me his backhand,’’ Boychuk said. “But I think he forgot.’’
Krejci won the draw and pulled it back to Boychuk. The defenseman looked up for Ryder’s backhand. Nothing there.
“He’s not even turned around. Can’t even see his stick,’’ Boychuk said with a smile. “So I look over to my partner and I see a seam, but I see their guy trying to creep on it. So I just threw a grenade over there, hoping it would bounce through.’’
Boychuk’s cross-ice pass hit Wheeler on the blade. As Wheeler hustled into the offensive zone, Ryder, asleep when Boychuk wanted to give him the puck, snapped out of it and drove to the post. Wheeler hit Ryder, and the right wing beat Quick at 11:04 to make it a two-goal game - but not long enough.
“We were very shorthanded. Let’s be honest,’’ said Thomas. “For us to come up with the effort that we did this whole trip, it’s positive overall, even though the bite of not getting those 2 points right now might not feel good.
“If you look at the big picture, it was a good trip. We could have very easily gotten 6 out of 6 points.’’