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Bruins Take Step Back, Allow Three Third Period Goals in 4-3 Loss to Wild

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BOSTON - The Bruins had taken a step forward.

They were one victory away from a winning record entering Tuesday night's game against the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden.

The Wild was the tired team. It had suffered a crushing blow the night before, allowing five third period goals in a 5-4 loss to the Rangers in New York City.

Instead, the Bruins let a 3-1 lead get away from them, allowing three goals in the final 20 minutes for a 4-3 loss to the Wild, and a 5-6-0 record.

"We should have been the fresher team," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. "We knew they were going to compete hard, that's the way that team plays all the time."

"So it was up to us to push the pace all night long, and we didn't do that."

Boston entered the final frame with a 3-1 lead off two net-drive goals from rookie Seth Griffith, and a third goal on the power play from Milan Lucic, assisted by Griffith and Torey Krug.

"Well, that's probably the brightest thing of the night for us, was the fact that Seth really played a strong game," said Julien. "If there's anybody that should be walking out of there with his head up high, it's him."

"It's kind of hard to be happy about the two goals," said Griffith. "Obviously the win's more important, so it's too bad we didn't have a very good third."

The Bruins had scored three straight goals after the Wild had gotten on the board first, 4:51 into the game.

They set themselves up for what they usually do best with a two-goal lead: suffocate the slot, limit shots to the outside, and push the opponent back on its heels.

"I don't think we were ready for the third period, and it cost us the game," said David Krejci. "We weren't ready. We lost battles. We lost races. We didn't make any tape-to-tape passes whatsoever. We've got to play with some confidence, and we didn't do that."

"So it's frustrating. Obviously we have to do something about this."

"You've got to go out there, play smart, play with confidence and we didn't do that," Krejci went on. "We lost everything. Battles. Races. No tape-to-tape passes."

The Wild came out in the third period and outshot the Bruins 7-0 before converting on its eighth shot. Zach Parise found his way to the front of the net just in time to deflect the puck in and make it a one-goal game at 4:21 in.

"There's no excuse why we shouldn't have been the better team in the third, being the fresher team and all that, but it shows character for them," said Rask. "That's how we like to win games, come back in the third, and that was a good learning experience for us, that it can go the other way too."

"The commitment to win was there a lot more than it was for us," said Julien.

The Bruins couldn't handle Minnesota's aggressive forecheck, and couldn't break out of their end well. Their first real third period pressure in the offensive zone came six minutes into the period from the line of Lucic, Krejci and Griffith.

But Minnesota continued to push the pace. At 6:34 into the third, Justin Fontaine punched in a loose puck with havoc around Rask to tie the game at 3-3. The Wild had garnered an 11-1 shots advantage.

Wild defenseman Marco Scandella drove in shot from the left point that deflected off Krejci's stick and over Rask's glove to seal the 4-3 fate.

There wasn't much pushback from the Bruins, except in the closing minutes when they attempted 15 shots and Krejci made a closing bid.

"For our team, that's usually our bread and butter, having that killer instinct and shutting it down and playing our best period in the third and unfortunately, it wasn't there," said Lucic. "We were losing battles in the D zone, and our execution of breakouts and supporting each other wasn't there, and it ends up in our net."

The Bruins allowed 42 shots to get to Rask, including 18 in the third period.

"It's just not good enough right now," said the netminder. "You know, 40 shots, I'm not too worried about that, but just the style we give them up, it's pretty bad sometimes."

Boston's first goal allowed came after mishandling the puck behind the net. The Bruins couldn't break the puck out after a strong Wild forecheck and a bang-bang play ensued.

The Bruins recovered, but started to fall back on their heels in the second period, even while holding a 2-1 lead. There was havoc around Rask. Thomas Vanek nearly scored in a scramble, but the puck never crossed the line.

"We certainly have to have better concentration, and better execution, if we expect to be a better team," said Julien.

"It's not just the defensemen. There's no doubt you want your team to make better passes, but I don't think our forwards were really strong on the puck along the walls tonight. We had loose pucks on the walls, their Ds were winning races to those pucks and we were slow to react, so it's a lot of everything. "

"Just tighten up, tighten up. Take your man in front of the net, box him out and be a tight five-man unit in the middle, don't let those passes go through, and work hard," said Rask. "That's how we've always been and lately it hasn't really been that case, and it's been costing us, so that's just it."

The Bruins had found a way to get an all-around effort in Toronto on Saturday, without Zdeno Chara, and without another shutdown blueliner in Kevan Miller.

"Eventually you have to take a step back and say to yourself, you've got to respect the game plan and play as a team, and you saw in Toronto what it can do for you, when you play together," said Lucic, who had arguably his best game of the season, tough it wasn't any consolation for him.

"It makes it a lot easier to play, as an individual and as a team, and I think we need to focus on that moving forward."

"It's been going on the whole season so far, the past 10, 11 games," said Dennis Seidenberg, of the concern about the team's inconsistency. "It's something that we have to get it fixed."

The Bruins next face the Sabres on Thursday night in Buffalo. They had success there a week and a half ago. It helped get them back on track, for a few games. They'll need to bring a much higher compete level than they did against the Wild. They can start by winning puck battles.

"That's easy to fix, right? You've just got to work hard," said Griffith. "We're going to come [Wednesday], practice hard, and hopefully we'll be ready for Buffalo."

"We want to be an above .500 hockey team, and tonight, we took a step back."

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