When the Bruins faced off against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden on Monday night, they had their legs going early. They didn’t look they were playing their third game in four nights. They took a 1-0 lead just 4:13 into the game. They even went up 2-1 midway through the second. The game was tied at 2-2 late in the third. They could have at least squeaked out a point.
But too much time in the penalty box plagued the Black & Gold, as they dropped a 3-2 loss that snapped their season-best point streak that had seen them go 6-0-2 in their last eight.
The 26 penalty minutes handed the Predators seven power plays, including a 4-on-3 situation. They converted twice and ended a stretch of 13 straight kills for Boston.
The Bruins weren’t using outside elements as any sort of excuse. In fact, their effort was there. They just made it exponentially harder on themselves by playing down a man for most of the night.
“I think to overcome that stuff, you’ve got to be smarter,” Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said postgame. “And I think we took a lot of penalties that just kind of gave them a lot of momentum and then overtaxed a lot of our players, so I think we needed to be smarter in that area.”
“We had to show up tonight and be good, and we were good in parts of the game, but not everywhere,” said Patrice Bergeron, who logged 4:00 on the penalty kill. “Their transition hurt us and we didn’t counter it, we didn’t do anything about it, and at the end, they scored that goal on a transition play.”
Late in the game, the Predators went on the attack up the left side of the ice. Defenseman Kevan Miller lost an edge while Viktor Arvidsson was cutting to the net. Jonas Gustavsson went for the pokecheck, but Arvidsson managed to get it past for the game-winner to put Nashville up 3-2 with 4:56 to go in regulation.
“The type of goals we gave tonight — letting guys cut right to the net with the puck, we didn’t do a very good job there,” said Julien.
Roman Josi scored both of Nashville’s power play goals. He tied the game at 1-1 with 24.9 on the clock in the first, firing in a 4-on-3 tally from the left circle while Adam McQuaid sprawled to block the shot. It marked Nashville’s third power play of the first period alone.
Josi then made it 2-2 at 11:20 into the second period, slipping in his second goal on the man advantage after gloving the puck down at the blueline and making a strong cut to the net. It came just 27 seconds after Eriksson had given the Bruins a 2-1 lead on the man advantage.
The Bruins were still in decent shape. But after allowing Josi’s second power play goal, the Bruins took two more minor penalties to end the second.
They could generate no momentum. When the top players are on the penalty kill for most of the night (or in the box, as Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and Brad Marchand all were at times), that’s not ideal for sustaining any attack.
Loui Eriksson (3:59) and David Krejci (3:17) played the most time on the penalty kill behind Bergeron.
Even in the third period, with a tie game, the Bruins didn’t helped themselves by taking two more minor penalties.
“Momentum is huge,” said Randell, who took two minor penalties in the game and dropped the gloves with Eric Nystrom. “It’s hard to keep that when you’re killing penalties the whole game and having our top guys spending their energy on the penalty kills. It’s tough, but we’ve just got to stay out of the box.”
“You’re looking at the clock and you’re telling yourself, ‘if you can at least squeak out a point out of this game, then who knows what can happen in overtime,’” said Julien. “And that’s what you’re looking for at that stage.”
“We were never able to regain any sustained type of momentum that we would have liked to have.”
The Bruins weren’t helped by the fact that Joonas Kemppainen left after three shifts in the first period with an undisclosed situation. He returned for just two shifts in the second period before being out the rest of the game. His presence could have assisted in both giving the Bruins a four-line attack and providing aggression on the penalty kill.
“We had a short bench, with Joonas not coming back,” said Julien. “But at the same time, with those penalties, you’re utilizing the same players all the time — so when you’ve got a short bench and you’re over-utilizing certain players, it makes it really tough on you. So I tried to use a couple other guys there a few times on that penalty kill, but I think a lot of damage was done, especially in that second period.”
The Black & Gold never got into a rhythm. They couldn’t even generate enough offense to test Predators backup Carter Hutton.
The Bruins only put four shots on goal in the second period, with them all coming on the power play (and one serving as Eriksson’s goal). They went a stretch of 17:16 after Eriksson’s tally without a single shot recorded on net.
The Bruins ended the night with a season-low 17 shots on goal, their lowest number since Nov. 18, 2014.
“I think we definitely didn’t generate enough to get some good looks,” said Bergeron. “But also we were looking for the extra pass and it’s not there, especially when it’s a man-on-man situation. I think the way that they play, when you have a guy to beat, you should just take it to the net and do that.”
Gustavsson made 30 saves on 33 shots in the loss, giving the Bruins a chance.
“I felt pretty good overall, but you never leave the rink happy when you lose a game because winning is – that’s what it’s all about,” said Gustavsson.
The Bruins head right back on the road to face the Canadiens in Montreal on Wednesday night.
“So, new day tomorrow,” added Gustavsson. “And then we’ll go from there."