They fought, but on Monday, they didn’t have enough finish.
“Definitely, we want to win when you come home and play in front of your fans, and we’re not playing like we should,” said forward Loui Eriksson following a 6-4 loss to Columbus. “I think we play a much better game style when we’re on the road — we just keep it simple, and we’re playing hard and not giving that many chances to the other teams. It was another disappointing game, to give up as many goals as we did, and losing like we did.”
The Bruins could have chalked up Monday’s loss to fatigue. Doubtlessly, there was some of that lingering in the aftermath of a road trip that took them through six cities in 11 days. But the Bruins didn’t want to make excuses — not for this one.
“I think defensively, we failed tonight to do a good job there,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “I thought we weren’t really good in our own end tonight, losing some battles and that kind of stuff. Defensively, we need to be better, and we scored enough to win, but we didn’t do a good job there.
“I think that was probably the thing that cost us the most tonight because I think deep down, the guys are trying. There’s the element of fatigue that sets in. We tried to overcome that, and I thought they tried to work hard, but I think mentally, some of the decision-making tonight defensively was not good enough.”
There were moments on Monday that could have been turning points — moments the B’s could have avoided mistakes that ultimately led to goals against. Because those mistakes were avoidable, they said, the loss should have been avoidable, too.
“I just think we had some lapses that killed us,” said forward Matt Beleskey. “We had four goals that were 4-on-2s, and just kind of some mental errors, and they capitalized.
“You don’t want to make any excuses, you know? We had yesterday off — lots of time to rest. So we needed to be ready to play.”
Boston faced Columbus twice this season, and twice, they emerged with victories in extra time. On Monday, though, in the season finale between these two clubs, the Blue Jackets were determined to get results. They made that clear early on, as Boone Jenner tipped a Cam Atkinson one-timer past Jonas Gustavsson nine minutes into the first.
Fifteen seconds later, though, the Bruins fought back. Eriksson camped out in front of the Columbus net and tipped a Torey Krug drive past Joonas Korpisalo to even the score at 1.
“That’s where I usually score my goals,” Eriksson said. “Today was kind of a lucky bounce. Torey was able to hit my knee there, and that’s how goals are being scored sometimes, and I’m trying to stay in front of the net as much as I can.”
Just 15 seconds into the second period, the Blue Jackets struck again — Jenner, again — and yet the Bruins fought back once more, as Beleskey scored his first of two just 2:36 after the Blue Jackets’ go-ahead goal.
“When you haven’t been scoring for a while, it’s good to just get in front of the net and try to get your stick on your ice,” Beleskey said. “That seemed to work tonight.”
Seven minutes later, though, Columbus would pull away for good. First, William Karlsson’s laser from the left circle beat Gustavsson gloveside, and before the end of the frame, a Scott Hartnell tip gave Columbus a 4-2 lead.
The Bruins fought hard in the third. They pulled within one, courtesy of Beleskey’s second strike of the night, about three minutes into the frame. But Brandon Saad would restore Columbus’ two-goal lead with about five minutes remaining in regulation on a controversial play that the Bruins challenged for goalie interference.
A stick appeared to make contact with Gustavsson’s mask prior to the shot that eventually got through, but the goal was upheld after video review.
“It looked like the stick went from their player’s stick into Gustavsson’s mask before they got the extra shot, so it could’ve been viewed as goalie interference, and that’s what I asked,” Julien said. “They said it can, and they looked at it and thought it was through the motion of shooting the puck that that stick went there. So that’s why they allowed the goal.”
Right after the B’s pulled Gustavsson with about three minutes left, Eriksson’s second of the night brought Boston back within one. But a Dalton Prout empty-netter 42 seconds later would seal it for the Blue Jackets.
“I think we worked hard — we scored four goals — and for myself, I have to find a way to make one more save,” Gustavsson said. “I felt like the puck wasn’t really bouncing our way tonight. I guess it’s about small details. We have it in this group — we show it especially on the road — but obviously, we want to figure it out and be a strong home team.”
It was a back-and-forth game game that ultimately got out of hand for Boston, and it was not a style of play that typically suits the Bruins — a run-and-gun style, a high-scoring affair where they are trading chances with the opponent.
And Monday’s game was not the kind of game the B’s would like to play at home, in front of their fans. It’s not their style, and still, the fact that they can adhere to the gameplan so easily on the road yet not at home continues to perplex this club.
“It’s not good enough,” Eriksson said. “We need to play much better when we’re coming home and playing in front of our fans. I think no one is happy about how we’re playing right now at home, and that’s something we need to address and get better as we go along, here.
“We know we have another big game coming up on Wednesday, so we definitely need to get ready for that one and make our fans proud, [and] come out and play hard.”
On Wednesday, when Pittsburgh comes to town, the B’s have another opportunity to rectify their home woes. And hopefully, they said, following Wednesday’s game, they will have some answers rather than more questions.
“It’s tough right away to analyze, but as a team, I think we kept playing 60 minutes no matter what happened in the game,” Gustavsson said. “If we were down a goal, or whatever happened, we kept believing that what we were doing was going to pay off, and it almost did in the end there.
“I guess that’s probably what I’m bringing [into Wednesday], and hopefully we can figure a few things out and we’ll get the win.”