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Bruins Search for Third-Period Identity

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

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WINNIPEG, MB - Two quick Jets' strikes 57 seconds apart were all it took for the Bruins' 1-0 lead in the third period to quickly evaporate in Winnipeg Tuesday night, en route to a 3-1 loss at the MTS Centre and Boston's sixth regulation loss.

It marked the fifth time this season, and the fourth in the month of March, that the Black & Gold took a lead into the third period and faltered late in the game, only to see the hard work of the first 50 minutes dissipate. Something not reminiscent of the Bruins' acclaimed identity.

With Boston on the penalty kill midway through the third, it was the former Bruin Blake Wheeler who ended Tuukka Rask's shutout bid off a deflection on the power play, ending a B's streak of killing 27 straight penalties. Just 57 seconds later, Evander Kane slipped one past Rask off a rebound in front.

"Extremely disappointing," Coach Julien told media postgame, before the team jetted on to Ottawa.

"I think for two and a half periods I thought we did a great job, we had control of the game. And even that power-play goal was a pretty nice tip, but to give them that next goal within the next minute is something that shouldn't be acceptable from our end of it."

"We should be better than that."

"They seemed to feed off it and they kind of put us back on our heels," said winger Brad Marchand, who scored the B's lone goal to give them the initial 1-0 lead just eight seconds into the second. "We did have an opportunity right after on the next shift, but we still let up a little bit and let them back in it."

Following the loss, a rightfully frustrated Coach and visiting team locker room did not have trouble acknowledging what needs to be done moving forward.

"The first half of the third period we were doing all the right things and getting pucks deeps, controlling the play," Coach told media. "Felt good about that first half of the third, but all of a sudden we fell apart, we stopped putting pucks in, we were turning pucks over."

"We've got to start making some strong plays and we need to be more composed in those areas."

Prior to the third-period breakdowns, the Bruins seemed in control for much of the game, gaining puck possession and putting sustained pressure on Ondrej Pavelec. They had shut down Winnipeg through the first 51:44 of the game.

And they did it all with only five defensemen, as Adam McQuaid left early in the first period with what was later termed an upper-body injury and did not return, and were led by Dennis Seidenberg's 27:57 of ice time in his absence (he also led the B's with five shots on the night).

But through it all, the B's could only muster one goal on Pavelec, off Marchand's 13th of the season with just eight seconds gone in the second period. After the Jets won the center-ice faceoff, Zach Bogosian took control, but the puck took a tricky bounce off the boards in behind Pavelec and caromed right along the goal post, where the speedy Brad Marchand pounced on the loose puck and backhanded it in.

The spoked-B would take that 1-0 lead all the way to the midpoint of the third period, prior to the Jets' quick momentum boost, but would fail to bury any more chances before the final buzzer.

"Their goaltender played well for them, certainly made it hard for us to score some goals," said Coach Julien. "But, we've got to bear down on our chances. We had some power plays where we could have extended the lead and we couldn't do that, so eventually it ends up costing you."

"We only got one goal…it was disappointing, really disappointing because we were playing well and didn't have too many turnovers," a frustrated Johnny Boychuk said following the game.

"When we have third period leads, we're usually good at capitalizing and shutting teams down, and they've just been getting these goals and we're letting them back into the game," he added. "We should be stepping on the pedal and going after them and scoring that next goal to push them down."

Last season alone, Boston was a perfect 32-0-0 when holding the lead after two periods. Through 28 games this season, the Bruins have now dropped to 9-4-1 when leading after two. For a team that has prided itself on strong shutdown third periods, the four losses this month that came late in the third are unacceptable from the B's standpoint.

"It's not good enough," said Shawn Thornton, the pulse of the B's, who always brings a blatant honesty following games. "We should be pissed off in here. It's becoming a habit, it's not acceptable."

"I think we played, again, pretty good for 53 minutes. They got a pretty nice goal on the power play, that's a pretty nice tip, but then we've got to have that mentality where we're going to get the next one, not just hope that we're going to get the next one."

"So it's not good enough."

"It's part of our game that we've always been very strong in the third period," added Marchand, on the B's usual identity from season to season. "When we get a lead it's very rare that teams come back on us."

"It seems that this year, we get up by a goal or two and we let up and almost feel like we have it in the bag, and that's when teams come back in it, and we've seen that a lot lately."

The uncharted territory this season has now seen the B's drop games late in the third to the Sabres (Feb. 15), Canadiens (March 3), Capitals (March 5), Penguins (March 12) and Jets. In a January that saw a slew of comeback wins, the B's scored eight third-period goals through seven games and only allowed four, all coming in a January 31 loss to the Sabres. Through February's 10 games, the Bruins potted 11 goals in the third, and only allowed four goals, which came in just two games combined.

The month of March hasn't been so kind. While arguably two of Boston's most complete games have taken place this month (a 3-0 win over Philadelphia on March 9 and 4-1 win over the Caps on March 16), the B's have allowed 10 goals in the final frame, while scoring only five, and are 7-4-1 as a result.

"Yeah, it's happened too often, that's for sure," said Thornton. "I think one game we're really good at, the next we're not. On the other side, we could have capitalized on some of our chances, myself included, in the second period there. Score on a couple of those chances and it's a different game."

"We've talked about it, just not good enough," added Rask, who stopped all but two of the Jets' 25 shots. "We played a good game, we didn't give them much, they had a couple chances, but that's how you score goals: you create traffic, shoot for sticks and stuff. But, you know, we scored two goals in the last two games. We need to get the offense going a little bit more."

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