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Bruins Came Ready to Play, But Couldn't Finish Off Flames

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BOSTON - In the eighth round of the shootout on Thursday night at TD Garden, Calgary Flames defensemen David Schlemko dangled in and pushed the puck by Tuukka Rask to hand the Bruins a 4-3 loss.

"Well [Coach] just asked me, 'Are you good at these things?' I just told him I was 1-for-1 and [Kris] Russell said, 'He was good in juniors,' so yeah, just went out there and tried my move and it worked," said Schlemko, who was making his Flames debut after being claimed off waivers.

And just like that, amidst the playoff race for the second Wild Card spot in the East - currently held by the Black and Gold - the all-important second point wasn't earned.

Patrice Bergeron was the lone Bruin to score in the seventh round. Boston's shootout woes are well-documented.

"Well, it’s always tough to take, and you go back – I don’t know how many years – look at my comments about them," said Rask, who stopped the Flames' first six shots in the shootout. "It’s such an emotional difference between winning and losing in a shootout, and this season we haven’t been really good at them."

"But again, that’s not the reason we lost tonight," said Head Coach Claude Julien. "I think we’ve definitely been challenged in that area, we’ve been challenged all year with shootouts."

The Bruins knew they could have ended the game way before it even went to a shootout.

For the sixth straight game, they struck first, at 7:46 into the first period, when Brad Marchand notched his team-leading 19th goal of the season. The winger wrapped around the goal and banked it off Karri Ramo, after Patrice Bergeron tipped a Dougie Hamilton just wide.

"[The team] was ready to play," said Julien, of his squad playing its first game in five days. "Played hard, played well. Again, the challenge of our lack of finish is probably the biggest concern right now. So I think we had a better game tonight five-on-five, no doubt we played a lot more in their end than they did in ours."

"If we finish around the net, it's over. I think we had some good chances in the second period, so right now, that's our biggest challenge is the finish around the net area."

Boston had 89 shot attempts on the night, with 37 shots blocked by the Flames.

Up 1-0 in the first, Daniel Paille had a chance point-blank to extend the lead after a backdoor pass, but Ramo made the stop. The Bruins had a power play opportunity shortly thereafter, but could not convert.

They then found themselves in penalty trouble, having to go on the penalty kill three times in the final four minutes with Max Talbot called for boarding and Matt Bartkowski sitting for a hook.

The Flames struck while Bartkowski was in the box, with Sean Monahan finding a loose puck in front to tie the game at 1-1.

Carl Soderberg was also called for hooking late in the period, but the Bruins killed off the penalty that carried over into the start of the second.

Milan Lucic put Boston up 2-1 at 2:30 into the middle frame with his 14th of the season, putting home a one-timer from the right circle off a bang-bang feed from Ryan Spooner. David Pastrnak also assisted on the tally, helping control the puck down low after a Torey Krug shot created a loose puck.

The Bruins had their fair share of chances to extend the lead, and didn't give up many scoring chances, but Calgary converted on a line change later in the second. Jiri Hudler came off the bench, and fired in a rebound that jutted right to him in the left circle.

"Tuukka has been really good in the shootout giving us a chance to win, but at the end of the day it’s up to us to make sure it doesn’t even get there with the opportunities we’re creating," said Lucic. "We have to do a better job of bearing down."

"We’re doing a good job of competing and creating those opportunities. That part of the game can’t stop but on the other end we have to, everyone forward and D-men, everyone who’s getting an opportunity we have to find ways to have confidence in those scoring areas and finish off the play."

Like the end of the first period, the Bruins found themselves in penalty kill trouble again at the start of the third.

An interference call to Spooner canceled out a Bruins' power play early, and then Bartkowski was called for a trip when his stick got tangle in Johnny Gaudreau's skates.

Gaudreau cashed in a minute into the power play to give Calgary its first lead of the night, 3-2.

The Bruins had another power play negated a few minutes later.

"Again, staying out of the box is an important part of the game for us, especially when you struggle to score goals, and our penalty kill right now has been giving up too many goals," said Julien. "And we've got to get ourselves right in that department."

If the Black and Gold could have spent the night sustaining a five-on-five rhythm, forechecking hard and keeping the Flames from much sustained pressure, they would have found much more success.

"I thought we played well five-on-five, especially in the first, we didn't give up a whole lot," said Chris Kelly. "Then we took a couple late in the first period and then they kind of got a lot of momentum from that and then the start of the third period, there seemed to be quite a lot of calls there, it was tough for everyone to stay in the game, because it was either power play guys or PK guys, so it killed a little bit of the flow."

"There were too many of them, obviously - some of them good, some of them bad," Rask said of the penalties, questionable or not. "But still, we have to step up as penalty killers and get those kills. Today we really didn’t."

Aside from the penalty trouble, the Bruins lack of finish kept preventing them from closing out the game.

Prior to Gaudreau's power play tally, Loui Eriksson had a chance to bury a Carl Soderberg pass off a three-on-one rush, but his bid missed the mark.

Eriksson later converted to tie the game at 3-3 and force the overtime. The winger roofed a rebound created by Kelly tipping a Soderberg shot, and showed emotion with an emphatic double fist pump and a shout.

He finished the night with seven shots a goal and nine shot attempts. He felt he could have done more to help the team.

"I felt I had the chances to score a hat trick for sure," said Eriksson. "But I have to be a little bit more, I don’t know, when I get the chance I have to bury those and be a little bit more patient maybe and score those goals and today I had a lot of chances to get some goals."

"It's a little bit of maybe confidence, and you squeeze your stick you're trying so hard and there's a lot of guys - I use Carl Soderberg as an example, who's really struggled the last little while at scoring goals and guys are putting pressure on themselves," said Julien. "There are just some games where you like your team's game but your finish is what ends up killing you at the end."

The Bruins' matchup with the Flames set them up for three games in four days. They next host the Philadelphia Flyers in a Saturday matinee and then the Red Wings on Sunday. A busy month of March awaits.

"We have to get points and get ourselves going and really try to separate ourselves from the bottom pack and gain some ground there," said Rask. "So, we got a point today and played a pretty decent game. Moving on for Saturday, just got to keep going and tighten up the penalty kill and defense a little bit, and get the win."

The Florida Panthers also fell in a shootout on Thursday night, with the Bruins remaining two points above them.

"You know, one point's great but we need two - that's the reality," said Kelly. "Teams that are a little bit behind us are finding ways to get two points and we need to do the same in order to help ourselves."

"We've got to make it happen, no matter what the challenges are," said Julien. "We've got to make it happen."

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