- Coming into the second night of a back-to-back is never easy.
Especially when the game played 24 hours prior is a 7:30 match-up that goes into the shootout, as was the case for the Bruins as they entered Tuesday night at CONSOL Energy Center. And even more so, as they prepared to go up against a rested Penguins team on a five-game win streak that had Monday off.
But when the B's saw a 2-0 lead erased with under six minutes left in regulation and the Pens score three unanswered goals en route to a 3-2 comeback victory, they certainly weren't using the nothing-left-in-the-tank excuse for the loss.
"No, I think it was the energy, was more the way we approached the third period," alternate captain Patrice Bergeron told media, when asked if his team ran out of gas at the end. "We sat back."
"The first 40 we were going at them on the forecheck, we were first on pucks, and we were getting results," added Bergeron, as he spoke from the locker room, looking unable to find the words after the frustrating loss.
"I don't know exactly how to explain it, but it's unacceptable."
In the first period, the Bruins scored two goals off their first four shots. The initial goal coming from Zdeno Chara on the power play, after strong puck movement, and the follow-up on a beauty goal from Tyler Seguin, assisted by his linemate Patrice Bergeron's perfect pass and his other winger Brad Marchand's strong battling.
The night had shaped up to be a strong game for the Bruins, with a two-goal lead heading into the third, and a strong defense keeping the Penguins' offensive firepower - and power play - off the scoresheet.
Towards the end of the second, the B's had trouble getting the puck out of the zone, but still, were able to stay calm, not panic, and find ways to get it out. The same was not true of the third, when in the final seven minutes, the breakdowns eventually caught up with the spoked-B.
"I think we were sitting back way too much and then we kept putting the pucks in," said Dennis Seidenberg, who had played in his 200th career NHL game as Bruin. "They were playing on three quarters ice. We just didn't gap up quick enough, and at the end it was just little turnovers, like my own that led to the third goal. We've just got to be better and make a safer play in those situations."
Three breakdowns and three goals in behind Anton Khudobin - something that couldn't have been predicted through the first 40 and change, when 'Dobby' came up big for the Bruins, shutting the door for the Penguins' first 31 shots, before Chris Kunitz and Brandon Sutter utilized the B's defensive breakdowns for three quick tallies.
"Obviously, they came out hard," said Seidenberg. "We just didn't play good enough, we didn't gap up quick enough and that gave them a lot of speed attacking us and getting pucks to the net."
As the legs under Pittsburgh began to build through the third, the Bruins fell back on their heels. Again, all the B's who spoke postgame preached that the back-to-back couldn't be used as an excuse.
"It's nothing that you can control, that's your schedule," said Bergeron on the doubled-up games. "I hope it's not an excuse, because we're going to go through that a lot more the rest of the year."
"It's about finding a way. Like I said, it's about finding the energy, more than sitting back. We didn't want to make any mistakes and because of that, we did."
Seidenberg, who looked like a gladiator out on the ice for most of the night, delivering hits and blocking shot including one split save in the crease, wouldn't give in to the easy excuse.
"No, I don't think so," said Seidenberg, on if fatigue had factored into the B's losing steam at the end. "We just have to be smarter, mistakes like that can't happen, just got to be sharper. That's all there is to it."
There's no denying the Penguins were the well-rested team, but it was just about the Bruins finding the energy to match them, which they had been able to do for most of the first 40 minutes.
"They were the fresh team," said Coach Julien to gathered reporters postgame. "When you go through the second period like we did, we gave them some hope and we had to come out in the third a lot stronger and we didn't. They were just looking for that first goal to give them momentum and they eventually got it."
"I think once the adrenaline starts pumping you forget that you played last night," added Milan Lucic. "It was just some smart plays that we could've made that we didn't and it ended up costing us."
And the goaltender who stood tall between the pipes for the majority of the night, stopping the Penguins' first 31 shots, was left wishing he had found a way to stop any and all of the ones that followed.
"We just had to play our game and I think that's it," said Khudobin. "Everybody is stoppable, like I said, they are a good team to play against, maybe we could be a little tired in the third period because we played two in two."
"But we can't blame it on anything. A loss is a loss."
"It's about realizing that the last 20 is unacceptable and we've got to get back at it," said Bergeron. "Obviously, you look at the schedule, we have no time to think about it. It's about regrouping and begin ready for Thursday."