Bruins falter again
Effort improves, but Kings prevail
TD Garden, the lifeless house of snores and bores for the Bruins (losers of five straight on home ice), was finally crackling. Mark Stuart had smoked Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles’s best forward, then willingly dropped his mitts when Wayne Simmonds came knocking. The lifeless power play had broken through twice, with Marco Sturm and Mark Recchi doing the honors. Michael Ryder and Marc Savard had beaten Jonathan Quick in the shootout.
Those are some of the reasons most of the 17,565 fans, on their feet in the shootout after having so little to leave their seats for this month, left the building stunned that the Bruins found another way to lose.
In the sixth round of the shootout, Jarret Stoll snapped a shot past Tim Thomas (Kopitar and Ryan Smyth had buried earlier attempts), smacking the Bruins upside the head with a 3-2 setback. The Bruins are 1-8-2 in their last 11 games.
“We worked our way back to the level of frustration, at least,’’ said Thomas (27 saves). “It was beyond frustration before. We had two games where we’ve played really hard and worked really hard. We got one point tonight. I sure wish we could have finished it off. But we’re headed back in the right direction, I think.’’
Last Sunday, the Bruins dropped a 5-1 game to the last-place Hurricanes. On Friday, they fought the Sabres, the Northeast Division leaders, to a one-goal loss on the road. Last night, the Bruins gave the streaking Kings, winners of seven of their last eight, a 65-minute scrap in which they played hard, addressed their power-play woes, and returned to nearly full health. For all that, they earned just one point when two were a necessity.
“We’re better,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “We’re coming around. It’s just that right now, the end result means so much to us. That’s the part that’s disappointing. If we weren’t at this stage right now, we’d be really encouraged at the way our team’s going. We’ve got to keep our heads up, keep working at it, and find a way to make sure this turns into a more positive situation next time.’’
The Bruins have every right to be encouraged. After welcoming Sturm and Steve Begin back into the lineup last night, one game after Savard and Byron Bitz returned to action, Andrew Ference (groin) is the only regular unavailable for action.
It’s just that the Bruins put themselves in a rotten situation. On Tuesday, they face Washington, the best team in the East. After home games against Toronto and Vancouver, they kick off a four-game road trip (Montreal, Buffalo, Tampa Bay, and Florida) prior to the Olympic break. They return only to play seven of nine games away from the Garden. As one of eight teams battling for the last three playoff spots, the Bruins can’t afford to wait for their game to turn around. They need wins, not feel-good sessions for playing two straight competitive games and only earning one point.
“Pounding ourselves on the head is not going to help us get out of it,’’ said Julien. “It’s tough. There’s frustration all around us. Not just the players themselves. There’s frustration all around us. We’ve got to fight our way through this. We’re the only ones who can do it. It’s up to us to keep our heads up, keep working hard, keep competing hard. At one point, you know that you might end up getting a break.’’
After seeing Dustin Brown give the Kings a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal (Kopitar assisted with a slap pass to the wing’s blade) at 12:06 of the first, the Bruins tied the game at 15:16 with their own man-advantage strike. Eight seconds after Brandon Segal was banished for delay of game (a penalty forced by Blake Wheeler’s forecheck), Sturm took a feed from Savard and fired a wrister past Quick (31 saves).
Early in the third, with Scott Parse serving a tripping penalty, the Bruins took the lead with another power-play goal. Recchi rushed the puck through the neutral zone, gave it to David Krejci on the right side, then barreled toward the net to await a return pass. Krejci delivered, and Recchi tapped the puck past Quick at 1:20.
But Krejci was sent off for hooking at 2:38 of the third, and Kopitar made the Bruins pay. With Michal Handzus setting a screen on Thomas, Kopitar walked the puck off the right-side wall and canned a far-side wrist shot that ticked off Thomas’s stick and into the net at 4:29.
“Kopitar shot it to the far side of the body,’’ said Thomas. “I had to switch from one side of the body to the other. In the meantime, I lost it and it hit off my stick. I think, possibly, it might have been going wide if it didn’t hit off the butt end of my stick.’’
In the shootout, Kopitar struck again. As LA’s leadoff shooter, Kopitar faked a forehand shot to pull Thomas out. At the last instant, Kopitar switched to his backhand and tucked a one-hander behind Thomas.
“We played hard as a team,’’ said Savard. “It’s not going to happen overnight. Signs are headed in the right direction. Keep playing like this. We’re going to keep our heads up. We’re proud of our effort tonight. We didn’t get the results we wanted, but it’s not going to happen overnight. We’ve got to stick with it.’’