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Bruins Focused on More Fight and Finish After Loss to Hawks

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BOSTON - With the Bruins trailing 3-1 nearly eight minutes into the third period, Milan Lucic went barreling end to end, past four Blackhawks, before muscling through to the opposite end boards, maintaining control of the puck and feeding Torey Krug down the middle for a fire that pulled the team within a goal of tying one of the hottest teams in the League.

Lucic took a shot from Andrew Shaw into the boards after the goal. Chris Kelly jumped in and squared off with Shaw, Krug tangled with Klas Dahlbeck. Sticks and gloves flew. The crowd rose to its feet with a deafening roar.

Boston's third period push wasn't enough, ultimately falling 3-2 to Chicago at TD Garden on Thursday night. The Hawks picked up their eight straight win in the process.

If the Black and Gold would have had more fight and more finish, like on that sequence, they could have found themselves winners of two straight for the first time since mid-November.

"Awesome effort. Those are the kind of efforts we need to win some hockey games here," Head Coach Claude Julien said postgame. "So we need more of that."

'From him in particular?' a reporter followed up.

"From everybody," Julien responded.

"He was a man amongst boys on that shift - he skated through their team, he was hard on the puck, made a great pass to me and I had the easy job," said Krug.

"I don’t think many players can do what he did on that shift, but I think overall from the team, we waited until the third period again to do things like that."

The Bruins found themselves down 3-0 in the second period.

Dahlbeck scored his first NHL goal for Chicago at 9:10 into the first off a Bruins' turnover and then a strong forecheck by the Blackhawks. The shot from the left circle changed direction off Seth Griffith's stick and Tuukka Rask just missed gloving it.

With just 1:17 left in the first, Ben Smith made it 2-0 when he outbattled Bruins in front of the net to pot a rebound. Krug and Griffith tried to clear, but the puck glanced off Griffith's stick and in behind Rask.

The Bruins had to make it through penalty trouble midway through the second period, killing two 5-on-3 situations back-to-back. They kept Chicago off the board, and didn't let momentum slip away.

Boston had the most scoring chances in the second, but couldn't find the finish. Scott Darling stood tall for the Hawks, stopping 32 of 34 shots. The Bruins had 57 shot attempts overall.

"We turned some pucks over and overall, I mean, at the end of the night, let’s look at the scoring chances, let’s look at a lot of things - I’m not disappointed in our team’s performance," said Julien. "If we want to look at the score and criticize our team for it, so be it. I’m going to criticize our team for not finishing and not executing well enough. But the rest, I have no issues."

At 13:19 into the second, Patrick Kane scored the eventual game-winner to lift the Hawks to a 3-0 lead. Rask stopped Kris Versteeg in tight, and then was sprawled out in the blue paint with Kelly behind him playing goalie, but Kane settled the rebound and went upstairs.

"It just seems like every time we make a mistake these days, it ends up in the back of the net," said Lucic. "The lesson we keep learning is we have to make strong hard plays and you can’t take anything for granted no matter where you are on the ice."

The Bruins had plenty of bids from prime scoring areas, mostly off the sticks of Patrice Bergeron, Reilly Smith and Brad Marchand, who combined for 11 shots on goal.

Smith snapped home his seventh goal of the season - and fifth point in the last three games - with just 1:23 left in the second period to get Boston on the board. It came when Marchand's attempted pass hit the post and jutted right out to Smith in the left circle.

"That's what we need from guys - we need some goals here and when guys like him catch fire, you’ve got to ride him, and you hope that it kind of gets into other people’s blood, I guess, and they start doing the same thing," said Julien.

"You want that fire and you want that confidence, and that’s what we need right now is a little bit more fire in our belly and some confidence."

Finding the finish to go with their fairly solid defensive game has been a battle for the Bruins, especially in their most recent stretch.

Early in the game, the Bruins had a chance to convert on a 3-on-1 opportunity with Lucic, Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson.

"The effort was there from start to finish, but as you could see in that first period, the execution was poor," said Julien. "We mentioned it in the room – a 3-on-1 and you don’t get a shot, you've almost got an open net there, you tip it over the net - we’ve got to get better in those areas if we want to start winning some hockey games."

"Because other than that, what can you say about your hockey club? They competed hard all night, they did the things they had to do, had to kill two 5-on-3 power plays. But at the end of the night they come out empty-handed. If we’re going to get some points, I think [finishing and execution] are two areas that are going to have to improve."

The Bruins aren't waiting for a turning point to happen in the season. They currently own a 15-13-1 record, and know there's much more to their game that they haven't yet shown.

"If you just keep on waiting for miracles to happen, they’re not going to happen," said Smith. "It’s hard work, and I’m sure we’ll get back at it [on Friday] in practice."

"I don't want to use the word 'waiting' because I know in this room, everybody's working for it," echoed Krug. "So it's not like we're just sitting around waiting for something to happen, waiting for something to change."

"Guys are working towards that and we're going to continue to work towards that, so hopefully we keep coming to work every single day, focused and doing what the coaches ask of us, and it's going to turn around for us."

Rask only faced two shots in the third, with the Bruins pushing the pace, but had to make some game-changing stops throughout the night. He robbed Ben Smith off a pass from Marian Hossa late in the second, before Reilly Smith was able to reduce the deficit.

With Lucic's rush, Krug's tally and the scrum and fighting sequence that followed in the third period, the Bruins were able to put the powerful Hawks back on their heels, outshooting them 10-2 in the final frame.

"We fought, we never backed down and Kells showed that we still have that grit in our game and he stepped up and had a nice fight there," said Rask. "It’s a good sign that we never quit."

"We have to be aware that we can’t be always turning the switch every time we are behind a goal or two and then start to play a little bit more desperate," said captain Zdeno Chara, who made his return to game action after being sidelined for 19 games. " We’ve just got to be playing like that for the whole game."

The Bruins' push in the third awakened the Garden crowd. If even for a period, it felt like the rough-and-tough B's were back.

"When we’re going out there and having each other’s backs and playing for one another, you know, we feel it on the bench and the fans feel it as well," said Lucic. "That’s an important area of our game and that’s what’s given us success in the past and helped us be such a good team."

The Black and Gold need wins, not just solid efforts against some of the NHL's best like they've put forth in the past two weeks.

Thursday night didn't earn them two points or jump them up in the standings, but they showed that jam and edge to their game that has been lacking for most of the season.

"If we keep playing the right way, eventually the wins will come because when we respect our system and play the right way," said Lucic. "It's worked for how many years? It's not like it’s stopped working."

"It’s the commitment from within to play the right way that’s going to get us wins."

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