Bruins' effort goes for naught in shutout loss to Panthers at Garden
A heavy game. A fast game. Goal scoring was at a premium, but there was plenty of action, including a couple of decent fights, fierce skating, and the suspense a scoreless game summons as the clock ticks down.
All of that and more was on display at the Garden last night when the Bruins and Panthers staged their battle at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. When it was over, though, the Bruins were 2-0 losers, their first defeat on home ice since Oct. 27, and it was also their second loss in a row after clicking off a 14-0-1 streak through November and into this month.
Tomas Kopecky scored the backbreaking goal, snapping the 0-0 deadlock with 2:32 remaining off a turnover by Milan Lucic at the opposite end of the ice. Ex-Bruins prospect Kris Versteeg then canned an empty-netter with 42 seconds left, leaving the Bruins with their first back-to-back losses since dropping a pair to the Canadiens at the end of their woeful 3-7-0 October.
“One little mistake,’’ mused Lucic, who was looking to land his third shot of the night when the play quickly transitioned the other way from high in Boston’s offensive end. “I mean, one poke and it goes the other way, ends up in our net. Sometimes that’s the way it goes.’’
Adding to their night’s woes, the Bruins also lost superb checking winger/penalty killer Daniel Paille with a suspected concussion early in the first period when he took a stiff, somewhat awkward check from newly acquired Panther Krys Barch. The hit dropped Paille along the boards near the Bruins’ bench, and he had trouble straightening up afterward, falling back on to his rear end the way a punch-drunk boxer would tumble to the canvas.
Coach Claude Julien, when asked after the game if Paille had been hospitalized, only said that Paille was still being examined and there was yet to be a “conclusion’’ as to his status.
“We’re going to be cautious,’’ said Julien. Look for Jordan Caron to move into the lineup tomorrow night in Columbus if the battered Paille can’t answer the bell. Paille has been a one-man demolition derby this season, his nose badly broken and requiring surgery when taking a full-blast slapper against the Islanders Nov. 7. Last night’s hit possibly redamaged that repair job.
Moments before the Kopecky goal, the Bruins raced down the ice, Nathan Horton carrying the puck on the right wing. Horton dished to Lucic, who promptly lost possession, sending Shawn Matthias racing up left wing with the puck.
Matthias, with a clear look at Tim Thomas once crossing the blue line, hammered a hard slapper on the Bruins netminder. The rebound popped to the middle, where ex-Canuck Sean Bergenheim missed with a shot, but Kopecky came racing in to pot the 0-0 tiebreaker.
The Bruins have scored only one goal in their last two games, their lowest two-game output of the season. They generated some superb scoring chances against Jose Theodore, and hit no fewer than five posts, three in the first 9:30 of the first period, but in the end it all added up to a disappointing evening for the standard sellout crowd of 17,565.
“I was going to shoot it,’’ said Lucic, detailing his last touch of the puck prior to the Panthers dashing up ice, Matthias leading the jailbreak. “And I fumbled it. For our line [with David Krejci and Horton], we created so much, and one little mistake . . .’’
The Bruins outshot the Panthers, 70-45, and landed 40 of those shots on Theodore vs. the 30 landed by the Panthers. The Krejci line landed 10 of their 12 shots. Rich Peverley and Horton tied Versteeg with a game-high five shots.
“We spent a lot of time in their end,’’ said Julien. “We had some opportunities. But not a lot of our passes were crisp, on the tape . . . nothing was really clean tonight.’’
Overall, noted Julien, his club was guilty of some poor decision-making, in the offensive zone in general and around the net in particular. They weren’t dull on double-runners, but they did lack that fine edge and requisite bite to their game that was present over the protracted successful run, during which the Bruins outscored the opposition, 66-27.
Another issue was Boston’s dysfunctional (0 for 4) power play. They’ve now gone without a power-play goal in four of their last seven games, going 3 for 27 in that stretch.
“I think the main thing right now,’’ said Lucic, “is that we can’t get down on ourselves, we can’t get frustrated. We have to pick ourselves back up and start over again and remember what got us those 14 wins in 15 games.’’