They threw 64 shots towards New Jersey’s net, with 40 hitting the mark. Only one shot found its way by netminder Keith Kinkaid.
Despite outshooting the Devils 40-15, the Bruins fell 2-1 in a game where they desperately needed the points.
“It’s disappointing, frustrating, whatever word you want to use,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “We could have put that game away in the first period with the outnumbered situations we had, I think we had three 2-on-1’s, we had a breakaway, we had a power play. Nothing to show for it.”
“So, you know, you can look at it whichever way you want, but you’ve got to look at yourselves and blame yourselves for this loss. You can say you tried, but at this time of year, it’s not good enough.”
“The situation that we’re in, we expect better from ourselves,” Julien continued. “So, certainly not pleased with this outcome, and there’s a lot of things that can look encouraging — the number of shots given and the number of shots taken — but at the end of the night, it’s the win that counts, and we didn’t get that.”
The Bruins knew it would be a tight matchup. Both teams take immense pride in their defensive games. The Bruins would have to win battles, fight for space and jump on loose pucks to find success.
They generated prime chances in the opening frame. Matt Beleskey had two breakaways that Kinkaid stopped point-blank. The Bruins also had odd-man opportunities, with David Pastrnak and Loui Eriksson among those who lead led 2-on-1 rushes.
Patrice Bergeron nearly got one past Kinkaid on Boston’s lone man advantage when he jammed in front to create second and third opportunities.
“I mean, you want to find ways to win and get out of it — you don’t want to start banging on your heads and get frustrated,” said Bergeron, who recorded five shots on goal. “It’s about getting results and putting your chins up and going out there and finding a way.”
“That’s the only way right now, and we’re aware of the standings, we know how tight it is, we know how big tonight’s game was and somehow, we couldn’t get the job done, so now, again, our desperation level’s got to increase, and [we have to] find ways to win some games.”
Kinkaid was up to the task on all 11 shots he faced in the first period. The Bruins headed to the second down by a goal, after the Devils struck on their second power play of the game to go up 1-0 with 3:01 left in the first period.
The Bruins had a strong kill during their first penalty and then looked to be making the blocks and takeaways that they needed to during the second penalty kill, but the Devils’ puck movement caused them to cash in.
Travis Zajac found a brief opening at the hash marks in the right circle and fired the power play goal by Tuukka Rask’s blocker. The Bruins’ netminder didn’t have much of a chance on the point-blank shot.
“That’s a breakdown — we knew that,” said Julien. “We didn’t get back to our position quick enough, so again, you’ve got to point the finger at yourselves here and understand that this loss is on us.”
Brad Marchand was in the lineup after missing Monday’s practice due to being under the weather. Aside from his shift being nearly a minute and a half long, he settled into action, and fared well despite fatigue.
He made an impact on the score board, tying the game at 4:28 into the second period to make it 1-1 and bring out the “Let’s Go Bru-ins” chants from the Boston faithful in attendance.
The Bruins’ possession had appeared to be broken up in the neutral zone, but Lee Stempniak and Zdeno Chara combined to feed Marchand up the middle. The winger sped in, split the Devils’ top defense of Adam Larsson and Andy Greene and roofed his team-leading 35th of the season over Kinkaid.
“I thought we had a really good game,” said Marchand. “I mean, I thought we outplayed them a lot of the game. We just didn’t capitalize on our opportunities. If we play like that every game, then we’re going to win a lot more than we’re going to lose.”
“Their goalie did a really good job at stopping a few key opportunities, and it changed the game.”
Boston and New Jersey each had a power play play in the second period. The Bruins stopped the Devils’ man advantage, with Landon Ferraro firing a point-blank chance right after the penalty kill. On their own opportunity late in the second, the Bruins created a quick initial flurry with Eriksson trying to jam in a backhander, but weren’t able to convert.
“Bottom line, we’ve talked about it a lot lately — it’s about bearing down and scoring, finding the back of the net,” said Bergeron. “When we do have a power play, we’ve got to do the job. When we’re on the PK, same thing, we’ve got to be better and around the net, I thought we had a lot of good looks but at the same time, at this time of the year, having the chances is not good enough.”
The Bruins outshot the Devils 13-4 in the second period, establishing strong defensive play. Despite another round of odd-man rushes, Marchand was the only Bruin to get on the board.
For the final 20 minutes, the Black & Gold needed to keep their feet moving, keep establishing their forecheck like they were able to in the second, and keep the pressure on. Most importantly, they needed to convert on their chances.
The latter would not hold true, as they outshot the Devils 16-3 in the final frame, but still ended up short.
The Devils again cashed in on the power play, when Chara faced a tough call for boarding in the third period. Reid Boucher struck just six seconds in to make it 2-1 at 4:05 into the third period.
Boston continued to fire chances on Kinkaid, but couldn’t find a way to the back of the net.
“We’ve been one of the top scoring teams in the league this year, so you can talk about snake bit, you can talk about a lot of things, but you make your own breaks in this game,” said Julien. “You know, you bring the proper attitude to the rink, it’s our jobs to do that, and you look at the situation and you deal with it, so it’s up to us to deal with it properly now.”
The Bruins had a shortened bench for the final two periods. Brett Connolly left the game late in the first period and did not return. There was not an update on his status following the game.
Following Tuesday’s action, the Bruins stayed in third in the Atlantic Division when Detroit lost 4-3 to Montreal. The race is still on, with five games now to go.
“We’ve got to play for our lives,” said Julien. “And it’s our own fault if we make it harder on ourselves all the time, so, again, you can only do so much.”
“I thought we had a good game plan obviously — when you look at the way the game went, the game plan was good, but you know, the parts we can’t help them with is the finishing part and that’s what we’ve got to get better at.”
The schedule won’t be getting any easier for Boston, with another road trip on tap. They’ll have to gear up before hitting the road again on Thursday to face St. Louis and Chicago.
“Sometimes [tough games] could be good. I think we try and take the positives out of everything,” said Rask. “You know, obviously they’re really, really tough teams, but we felt like we have played some good games against them and we know that we can compete with the best teams, so we just have to go out there and show it and try to get the wins.”
“With only five games left, we have to forget about each game, whether we win or lose, and really prepare for the next one,” said Marchand. “So that’s what we’re going to do.”