But Vancouver stood in the way of that objective, and the B’s just could not get past the Canucks on Thursday night at TD Garden to turn that goal into a reality.
“It’s frustrating, but I think more frustrating is the way we kind of played today,” said goaltender Tuukka Rask following Thursday’s 4-2 loss to Vancouver. “We went back to how we used to play early on in the season. But I guess [we’ll] go to work tomorrow and try to figure it out – get the battle level and heads in the game.”
The Canucks weren’t necessarily the better team on Thursday night. That was the most frustrating part. The Bruins were dominant for stretches of the game — long stretches — taking an 11-4 shot advantage into the first intermission and a 22-16 advantage into the second.
But the B’s could convert on only two of their chances, and the Canucks made good on four of theirs. That, at the end of the night, was the only stat that mattered.
“We needed a better start, and we needed to get to the front of the net a lot better,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. “Their goaltending’s been good. Both their goaltenders have played well for them — they’ve kept them in a lot of games. That was the case tonight. We should have been a lot harder on their goaltender than we were.”
The B’s were resilient on Thursday. They fought back from two one-goal deficits — one in the second period and one in the third — to give themselves new life. But poor puck management got the best of them, particularly in the third.
“We started pretty good,” Rask said. “They had four shots in the first period; we had more shots, but were kind of on the outside for the most part, and I think progressively, they got kind of better and better as the game went on. In the third period, they just had 3-on-2’s and 4-on-2’s, odd-man rushes the whole time, and guys were open around the net. That’s something we used to do a lot, and we’ve kind of gotten away from.”
This loss stung more than others this season, not only because it snapped a three-game winning streak, but because it came on the heels of such a decisive win two nights earlier against the Canadiens.
The Bruins wanted to continue doing exactly what they did in Montreal. They wanted to ride that momentum.
“Especially in Montreal, we had such a good forecheck game going,” said forward Landon Ferraro. “We were using our speed and getting on the D. I think they had a little too much time [tonight]. When you give any team time in this league, they’re going to make plays and get out of their zone easy, and I think we made the game easy on them tonight.”
The last time these two teams faced off, the B’s jumped out to an early lead. This time, the roles were reversed, and Vancouver took a 1-0 lead just 3 1/2 minutes in, when Sven Baertschi came in alone on Rask and snuck the puck past him.
“It was a breakaway,” Rask said. “[Kevan Miller] was on him, and then he lost the puck and I went to flip it in the corner. Then, somehow, he got a poke at it, and my stick wasn’t there anymore. So it’s one of those bad timing plays on my part. I just got my stick out of the way; I was going to flip it to the corner because I saw he lost it, but then he kind of dove in and poked it. So looks bad, obviously, but it happens sometimes.”
With 52 seconds left in the second, however, Jimmy Hayes evened the score, picking up a loose puck in the left circle and wristing it past Jacob Markstrom.
“We battled back every time; it’s just when you play a sloppy game, it’s going to bite you,” Ferraro said. “When we’re at our best, we’re not giving up easy chances, and tonight, we gave up too many easy chances.”
Early on in the third, the Bruins allowed Vancouver to go back on top when Alex Burrows buried a loose puck that popped out to the right side. Once again, though, they fought back — this time, courtesy of Brad Marchand, who took a perfect feed from Patrice Bergeron and put it in the net from the left circle.
With 15:45 remaining in regulation, it was a new game.
But it was the Canucks that seized the opportunity, as Daniel Sedin provided both the game-winner with just under 13 minutes left in the game and the insurance empty-netter.
“It was kind of a frustrating game,” said forward David Krejci, who returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury on Dec. 27. “I thought we did a good job in the third period coming back. They scored right away [in the period]; we came back. We had a couple chances, but it’s frustrating to lose like that.
“Especially when you come back and guys are rolling, you want to just jump on the train and keep going. So kind of a little sad for my comeback, but it is what it is. Hopefully we can bounce back and get two points on Saturday.”
The Eastern Conference standings are currently air tight. The Bruins know that. They know what two points could have gotten them on Thursday — more separation, more breathing room.
They didn’t get it. Instead, they will be forced to look ahead to the three games that remain on the schedule before the break, and they will have to dedicate everything they have to making sure they make the best of the opportunity in front of them.
“It is disappointing — I thought we did have some pretty good momentum coming in here,” Marchand said. “We won a few big games. Especially after climbing our way back in to tie it up a couple times — it’s frustrating that we allowed this one to slip away.
“But we have three games left here before the break, so we have to make sure that we have a few big games to finish it off and go into that playing good hockey.”