Vancouver downs Bruins in shootout
Maybe there is no way out. Maybe the Bruins will play 26 more times in 2010 and never win again. The odds of that, of course, are almost beyond reason, but so is most everything else that happens these days to the Spoked-B franchise.
Reader warning: We are about to present you the final score from yesterday’s Bruins-Canucks matchup at the Garden. You know what’s coming. You know the drill. Too well.
Yes, it went to overtime. And yes, of course, it went to a shootout. So now you know everything but the score of the one-goal loss. The Canucks won, 3-2, and this time it was Pavol Demitra who provided the dagger du jour, the devilishly clever winger lifting a backhander by Tuukka Rask at the right post for what was the only goal in the line-’em-up-and-knock-’em-in session.
“You’re speechless like I am, right?’’ said coach Claude Julien as he started off his postgame media briefing, his club now 0-6-4 in its last 10. He later added, “I guess it’s to the point you dread to be in the shootout.’’
For all their futility, the hapless Bruins again looked slightly better and, as in Thursday night’s shootout loss to Montreal, again held a 2-0 lead. For most clubs, blowing a 2-0 lead would be considered just another layer of frustration, a damning fault in their execution. But for the Bruins, the weakest-scoring team in the Original 30, a two-goal lead is at least a sign that their offensive game might one of these days come out of hibernation, allowing them to fantasize that one day they might even (we said fantasize) win another game.
The weirdest (cruelest?) twist yesterday came on Vancouver’s tying goal with 4:42 remaining in regulation, moments after Sami Salo broke his stick on a slapper high above the right circle. In that flash of a broken stick, it appeared the Canucks’ mounting pressure was off and the Bruins would transition the puck out and maintain their 2-1 lead.
Instead, after Milan Lucic missed his chance to chop it out of the zone, Tanner Glass hammered a desperation slapper toward the net, where a top-of-the-crease tip by Demitra sent the tying goal by Rask (still winless in calendar year 2010).
“I wasn’t expecting that kind of thing,’’ said Rask, who again played well, turning back 29 shots, including 17 in the third period when the Canucks ratcheted up their attack. “He beat me on the blocker side. That’s the kind of goal you get when you shoot the puck. We don’t, though.’’
For the record, Rask’s comment was not a slight to his teammates. It was his way of underscoring the degree of serendipity in the Tanner-Demitra scoring play and the fact that the Bruins are generating chances of late (witness: a 43-31 shot edge yesterday), but their chances rarely turn into goals. They have outshot the opposition, 132-82, in their last three games, only to be outscored, 10-5, albeit with two of those goals being credited in the shootout.
“Disheartening, absolutely disheartening,’’ said No. 1 pivot Marc Savard, whose long-range wrister late in the first period was the impetus behind Michael Ryder’s tip-in power-play goal for the 2-0 lead. “That guy breaks his stick, a fluke, but we kept going, trying to get the win, but there’s just no breaks.’’
Zdeno Chara had Boston’s other goal, also on a power play.
A little bit of confidence would go a long way for Julien & Co. and it might have made it self-evident had the Bruins cashed in for the 3-0 lead. They had their chances, a few of them dandies, in both the first and second periods before Mason Raymond cut the Canucks’ deficit in half at 8:51 of the second. After Ryan Kesler battled through a demolition derby in the right corner and along the rear wall, Raymond moved out front and potted a short-range wrister for his 21st goal of the season.
The sides began to trade scoring chances in the third period as the play oft resembled a Friday night beer league (and could the NHL use more of that action). Just as scoring is not a Boston specialty, neither is trading chances, which built a general aura through the third period that the Canucks would tie it. Sure enough, broken stick, a Lucic boo-boo, desperation slapper, Demitra tip, and all tied at 2-2.
In the shootout, Blake Wheeler, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron all failed to slip one by the towering, intimidating Roberto Luongo. Demitra, who followed Wheeler’s leadoff attempt, posted the go-ahead strike with his neat backhand dart. Kyle Wellwood hit the crossbar on the Canucks’ second attempt. When Bergeron failed, the Canucks’ bench erupted, bringing the sellout crowd of 17,565 to a collective silence. The Bruins are now 6-9 in the shootout this season.
“What can you say?’’ said Wheeler. ‘’We had chances to score. We’ve had a lot of chances to score lately. But we can’t hang our heads, because if you do, then you’ve got a whole new bag of problems.’’