They had been outscored 7-2 on their California road trip, with a 4-0 loss to the Ducks on Friday night and a 3-2 loss in San Jose on Tuesday.
Going up against the league’s best defensive team was going to be a tall task.
The Bruins found themselves down 1-0 in the first and trailed the Kings 2-1 heading to the third period. That is how the score would stick, with a 2-1 loss in LA making them pointless on the trip.
They turned it on for the final 40 minutes, outshooting the Kings 23-7 during that span and holding them to just two shots in the third period.
“You can like your team’s performance in the second and third, but at the end of the day, we’re going home empty-handed and that’s not what we came here for,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “So maybe it was good that we were able to show that we’re capable of playing with these guys when we set our minds to it.”
“Hopefully that’s a positive thing, as far as growing as a team, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to be ready at the drop of the puck here.”
The Bruins didn’t come out with a slow of a start like they did in Anaheim — where they fell down 2-0 just over four minutes into the game — but they still found themselves trailing the Kings 1-0 after 20 minutes.
It took Los Angeles 13 shots to finally find their way past Tuukka Rask with 50.9 left in the first period.
Vincent Lecavalier picked off an attempted breakout pass up the boards and fed Luke Schenn at the right point. Stationed above the hash marks in the slot, Tanner Pearson put home a perfect deflection off Schenn’s drive to make it 1-0 Kings. Rask did not see the puck until it was over his right shoulder.
A minute before that, Rask was shaken up after a save. He stayed on his pads for a couple of minutes while Bruins Athletic Trainer Don DelNegro went to check on him, and luckily, he was good to go.
“Just knocked the wind out of me,” said Rask. “I went sideways and there’s not too much padding there, so just knocked the wind out of me.”
The Bruins came out stronger in the second period.
“As much as it was just a 1-0 game [after the first], we needed to be a lot better than we had been,” said Julien. “I really feel that had we been prepared to push in the first period like we did in the second and third, we might have had a different outcome here. So, disappointing to say the least.”
“You know, a lot of times we like to say that it’s not always the outcome, it’s the way we play [that] we look at,” said Rask, back between the pipes after Jonas Gustavsson had the start in Anaheim. “And especially after that first 22 minutes probably where they had most of their chances, we picked it up after and kind of took the game to them.”
“It was just all about getting the legs going and forechecking and hitting them and being on them quick and playing a quick game — and that worked for us. We just couldn’t score enough goals to win, but it was a likable effort.”
Jonathan Quick was solid in net for the Kings, making 27 saves en route to the win.
Brad Marchand led the way for the Bruins with five shots on goal, and was robbed by Quick on numerous occasions.
Marchand and the Bruins kept pressing until the final buzzer.
After killing off a penalty with four minutes to go, Rask went off for the extra attacker. Marchand made a bid from the left circle that Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin got a piece of with 38 seconds to go. Matt Beleskey made a final attempt at a backhander with less than five seconds left, and Quick — again — made the stop.
“We got back to playing our game and really focused on not turning pucks over and pushing our pace on them,” Marchand said of the final two periods. “When we did that and when we were strong on pucks, and willing to battle and play physical, then our game came out.”
“We played great in the second and third and it was unfortunate we lost. Their goalie made some huge saves at the right time and we just didn’t bear down on our chances.”
Looking for the equalizer, Boston had four straight power plays at the end of the second and in the first half of the third, but couldn’t find a way past Quick.
In the dying seconds of the second period, Loui Eriksson tried to lift in a backhand bid, and was left hunched over shaking his head. On the two power plays in the third, Boston generated pressure, but the Kings converged around Quick.
“There was still plenty of hockey left and there was a lot of opportunity to come back in that game,” said Marchand.
The Bruins had fallen down 2-0 at 2:40 into the middle frame, when Alec Martinez ripped a shot from long range through a lane of bodies screening Rask, who couldn’t see the puck until it beat him glove side.
Tyler Randell pulled them within one at 5:46 into the second. After Noel Acciari won a puck battle against Anze Kopitar down low along the boards, Randell put home a drive from the bottom of the left circle. The winger played his second straight game after being a healthy scratch for 13 games.
The Bruins built momentum after Randell’s goal and a strong penalty kill, but couldn’t find another way behind Quick.
“You know what, it’s coming to a point that we really have to realize that the way we played the last two periods, we have to play a full 60 minutes every game from here on in, and that’s the only way that we can get some success in this league and in the postseason,” said Rask.
“So I guess that’s the positive. Obviously, zero points, so that’s very disappointing. But you can’t just be looking at that, I guess, and kind of put your head down — more than trying to really, really focusing on playing solid 60-minute games from here on in.”
While the Kings clinched a playoff berth with the win, the Bruins dropped to third in the Atlantic Division after Saturday’s action with Tampa Bay earning a 2-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes.
At 87 points, the Bolts are one point above Boston (86) with a game in hand. Florida, also with a game in hand, stayed in first place with 89 points despite dropping a 5-3 loss to Detroit, who is now three points back of the Bruins.
There are just nine game remaining on Boston’s regular season docket.
“Obviously we came out here, we knew it was a big challenge for us and it was,” said Bergeron. “I mean, you can definitely see that. I thought [Saturday] was a better 40, the second and third period, but you know, it was a little too late.”
“They’re good teams for a reason and down the road, that’s what we’re going to face and we’ve got to make sure we’re ready for that kind of hockey and we have to learn from it.”
“It’s not going to be easy and we have to keep pushing forward and get better,” said Bergeron. “We know the standings are tight and it’s up to us — it’s in our hands.”