3 takeaways from the Bruins’ 5-2 loss to the Senators

Boston's slow starts are an issue.

Ottawa Senators' Mark Borowiecki gets pushed into the boards by Boston Bruins' Charlie Coyle during second period NHL hockey action in Ottawa, Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)
Ottawa's Mark Borowiecki gets pushed into the boards by Boston's Charlie Coyle during second period NHL hockey action in Ottawa, Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. –AP

COMMENTARY

Two days removed their first home regulation loss of the season, the Boston Bruins traveled to Ottawa Monday night in hopes of ending their two-game losing streak. Instead, an uninspiring effort by Bruce Cassidy’s squad led to their third straight loss.

A lack of focus and attention to detail doomed the Bruins from the opening puck drop. Boston’s first blunder came just 1:35 in when a bad line change led directly to Artem Anisimov’s breakaway tally.

Anthony Duclair made it 2-0 with just under five minutes left in the opening frame when he took advantage of a fortuitous bounce and sent a wrister past Tuuka Rask, who finished with 23 saves.

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A returning Patrice Bergeron cut the deficit in half before the first intermission to give the Bruins a little momentum heading into the second period. Yet, the team came out flat again to start the second as Chris Tierney took advantage of a horrendous Rask turnover giving the Sens a 3-1 lead at 1:21.

The Bruins generated several quality scoring chances down the stretch — especially on the power play — but they never recovered. Jake DeBrusk found the back of the net in the final two minutes of regulation, but the Senators potted two-empty net goals to secure their 5-2 victory.

“I don’t think we started playing until we were down again,” Cassidy told NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley following Boston’s third consecutive loss. “With our game tonight, there were too many freebies. It’s hard to win in this league. You get down two or three goals and it’s over.”

Here’s what we learned following one of the Bruins’ worst 60-minute performances of the season.

Tuukka Rask’s forgettable outing

Rask, now 13-3-3 this season, provided some spectacular outings during his long tenure in The Hub. His performance against a slumping Sens bunch was anything but stellar.

The Finn made a handful of costly head-scratching plays in the Canadian capital, starting with Duclair’s first-period tally.

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The Sens winger received a pass in the high slot and sent a routine wrist shot toward the net. The shot didn’t appear to change direction and it was certainly one that you expect someone of Rask’s caliber to stop, but the puck somehow found its way into the back of the net.

 

Yet, Rask’s biggest blunder of the night happened less than two minutes into the second period during an Ottawa dump-in attempt. The winningest goalie in Bruins history failed to handle the puck behind the net, leading to an easy tap-in for Tierney to give the Sens the 3-1 lead.

“The third goal was a back-breaker,” Cassidy added.

 

The Bruins — among other things — needed a clutch performance from Rask as the offense sputtered against Sens goalie Anders Nilsson. Instead, Rask and the rest of the Atlantic Division leaders succumbed to a rare poor performance.

Boston’s power play hits a rut.

A power-play unit that was once the best in the league and the ultimate get out of jail free card has now hit a drought.

A usually dynamic Boston power play has lit the lamp once in its last 18 attempts. The troubling trend on the man advantage provides another reason for concern following this three-game skid.

Cassidy’s squad hasn’t generated offense during 5 v 5 play outside of the top line. Boston’s bench boss could rely on that power play — usually in the form of a Pastrnak slap shot from the face-off dot — to bail the team out during their early-season success, especially when they didn’t have enough secondary scoring. That formula tied in nicely during their early-season run. Now it’s nonexistent.

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The Bruins’ power play had three opportunities in the second period to cut the two-goal deficit in half. Despite finding good looks and some quality scoring chances, the Bruins couldn’t cash in as the Senators kept their two-goal lead intact.

The momentum-killing power plays only added more frustration to an uncharacteristic night in the Canadian capital.

Slow starts are an issue

For a two-week time period, the Bruins dazzled the NHL with thrilling third-period comebacks. Bostonians marveled at the resiliency and talent as the Bruins kept finding ways to win no matter the deficits.

Now that great story isn’t as poetic.

Falling behind early in nearly every game becomes taxing over time. This provides a problem when the offense isn’t producing at an historic clip. The players and coaches have addressed this issue, yet for whatever reason, the Bruins still haven’t shown up on time as of late.

It’s one thing to lose in overtime to Chicago or even in regulation to a talented Colorado team. Monday provided a different story against a below-average Ottawa side.

The Bruins, to their benefit, have the talent and character to keep them down for long. These slow starts will end at some point, especially with a battle-tested leadership core guiding them along the way. They’ll need to develop those strong starts soon, though, especially with stops in Washington and Tampa Bay on back-to-back nights beginning on Wednesday.