The Bruins entered the third period with a lead — albeit a slim, one-goal lead — and stood just 20 minutes away from a much-needed victory.
Then Wayne Simmonds struck. Mark Streit followed. And then, for the second time in as many games, the B’s were staring down another defeat after entering the third period on top.
“It’s kind of the same scenario: Mistakes,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien following a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center. “You’ve got a lead going into the third period, and mistakes end up coming back to bite you, and they end up scoring two goals.”
Had the Bruins been burying their chances at the other end, those mistakes might not hurt as much. But despite pouring 30 shots on Flyers goaltender Steve Mason, the B’s were only able to put two of them in the back of the net, and by the time the final horn sounded, once again, those missed opportunities loomed large.
“I think with the chances that we had, we should have scored more than just those two goals, and at the same time, then you kind of look at mistakes — why they scored three,” Julien said. “Just right now, it’s a frustrating time for our team. Missed opportunities at one end, and mistakes at the other. So you’ve got to turn the tide there.”
The Bruins dominated for most of the first period. They limited the Flyers offensively, preventing them from getting a single shot off until well into the second half of the frame.
But the Flyers made the most of their fourth opportunity of the night. After Tuukka Rask made the initial stop on a bid from Claude Giroux, the rebound popped out to the opposite side of the crease and Jakub Voracek buried it to make it 1-0 Flyers.
“One 2-on-1 against, and save, rebound goes right to the stick, goal,” Rask said. “We played a pretty good game. I don’t want to overanalyze things, but from my perspective, goaltender’s perspective, it was just a couple of unlucky bounces against me decides the game. But I don’t want to overanalyze our game any more than that.”
The second period proved to be Boston’s best of the night. They came out determined, and it showed, as Kevan Miller took a drop pass from Max Talbot and wristed it past Mason to tie the game about 8 1/2 minutes into the frame.
Five minutes later, the Bruins took their first lead of the night on the power play. After Ryan Spooner fired from high in the right circle, Loui Eriksson put the rebound inside the far post to make it 2-1.
By the end of that period, the Bruins seemed to be in control. They seemed to be doing everything right. They were capitalizing on their opportunities. They were limiting the Flyers’ chances offensively, outshooting them by a 20-14 margin.
But then, late in the third, the letup happened — like it did two nights ago in New York, like it did three months ago against this team back in Boston.
With 9:50 remaining in regulation, Wayne Simmonds tied the game, coming up the ice on an odd-man rush with Voracek and burying his own rebound to make it 2-2.
“I think we were playing good — just tough bounces against me, and as a team,” Rask said. “So those seem to decide the game.”
A mere 82 seconds later, the Flyers would regain the lead, as Mark Streit buried a loose puck off a rebound.
“It was off a neutral zone play, and Voracek had a lot of speed coming down the wing,” Miller said. “He made a good pass to the seam. [Zdeno Chara] blocked the first shot, and it ended up right on the guy’s stick, backdoor. So it was pretty unfortunate.”
The Bruins pushed at the end, particularly in the final minute, but of all the shots they poured on Mason, none of them found the back of the net.
“I can’t say anything more than [it’s] a lot of the same thing,” Julien said. “If we don’t start burying some chances, you’re looking at every little mistake as a big mistake, and if you’re burying chances, those mistakes sometimes you can overlook.”
The Bruins entered Wednesday’s game in possession of the Eastern Conference’s second Wild Card spot with a four-point lead on the Flyers. Now, instead of gaining ground on a conference foe, they are stuck.
The most frustrating part, they said, was that once again — just like on Monday — victory was within their grasp. They let it slip away and squandered an opportunity to gain a valuable two points.
“It wasn’t our best game, for sure,” Miller said. “It wasn’t our best game. We had a better effort in New York, but I think we put ourselves in a position to win, and we didn’t get the job done.”
The mistakes, Chara said, are correctable. But it is time to stop talking about those corrections and begin making them.
“Going into the third, we were in a similar situation as we were in New York, and again, we had some breakdowns, but we’ve got to be better position-wise and defensive-wise,” he said. “You’ve got to be obviously finding some positives in the games, but at the same time, you have to be honest and you have to correct the mistakes that we are repeatedly making.”
Heading into the final outing of this five-game road trip, the Bruins stand at 1-2-1. They feel like they could have easily won all four of those games.
On Friday night in Buffalo, they have one final chance to redeem themselves. The onus is on them to get the job done, shift by shift, for a full 60 minutes.
“[We] just have to stay even-keeled,” Rask said, “and stick with it.”