COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Bruins are in familiar territory. And it's not a pleasant place to be.
For the second time this postseason, Boston finds itself in a 2-1 series hole following a frustrating 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 3 of its second-round series on Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena.
"They've all been close games. You could argue that every game could have gone either way," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "I thought we certainly did enough to win. We got behind 2-0, which is not great, obviously, in the playoffs against a good defensive team, with a goalie that's stopping a lot of pucks. But we had a good start, first 10 minutes…we're in attack mode from the get-go, as opposed to weathering the storm.
"I thought we initiated which was good. They found their game in the second half of the first period. The second they were clearly better than us, that's where we got away from it a little bit."
The Bruins were once again stoned by Columbus netminder Sergei Bobrovsky - and the iron behind him - who turned away 36 of the 37 shots he faced, continuing a dominant stretch between the pipes thus far in the series.
"We've just got to get in front of him and not let him see the puck when he's playing great," said Sean Kuraly. "Any goalie will tell you that if you can't see it, it's gonna be tough to save. Our job is to get in front of him and make him work for it and make him look around some bodies if he's gonna track pucks."
Video: BOS Recap: DeBrusk scores in Game 3 loss
For the second straight game, Boston also lost the special teams battle. After failing to clear the puck during the Blue Jackets' second-period power play, the Bruins fell behind, 2-0, on Matt Duchene's tally from the door step.
"We battled hard for the two minutes that we were out there, but overall I think when you have the opportunity to clear the puck that's an opportunity to get off the ice too," said Brandon Carlo, who saw nearly four minutes of shorthanded ice time.
"We need to clean up that area and make sure those pucks go down 200 feet…I don't think we need to overthink it necessarily. We did a really good job of it all year. Just take a deep breath, regroup, and watch the mistakes that we made and go from there."
The Bruins, meanwhile, struggled mightily on their lone full man advantage in the first period. Boston's second opportunity midway through the third was cut short after 17 seconds when Patrice Bergeron was whistled for a questionable tripping call.
"They're tight games. Five-on-five it's tight. There's not much give on both sides. It's real important. It's a bit of the story again tonight," Bergeron said of his team's 1 for 10 showing on the power play in the series. "I think we've got to execute better, that's the bottom line. The plays that we want to make are there in a way, but I think we're forcing a lot of them too. We've just got to go back to taking what's there in front of you."
Video: Bergeron speaks after Game 3 loss
Boston barely got on the board late in the second period when Jake DeBrusk trickled one through Bobrovsky with just 40 seconds remaining in the frame. Initially, the goal was waved off by the officials, but after review it was determined to be a good goal.
"I didn't see it until I went around the net," said DeBrusk, whose tally was his second of the playoffs. "I didn't know if I scored it or what happened. Then there was a scrum, so it was kind of a [cluster], to be honest."
Video: BOS@CBJ, Gm3: DeBrusk puts Bruins on the board
DeBrusk took the puck hard to the net, causing havoc in and around Bobrovsky, providing a prime example of the exact type of goal the Bruins will need to score to get things going offensively.
"I thought that we generated a good amount," said DeBrusk. "A couple inches here or there and it's a completely different game, but that's not how it went. And give them credit, they did enough to win tonight. They shut us down their at the end.
"They're a hard team to play against. When they have the lead they clog up lanes very well and they have a very good goaltender in net."
Video: Bruins speak after Game 3 loss
One bright spot for the Bruins was the play of Charlie McAvoy - at both ends of the ice. The blue liner was a beast in all three zones, playing a team-high 24 minutes with a team-high five hits.
McAvoy also had two shots on goal, not including what could have been a game-changing opportunity early in the first period when he rang one off the post, nearly putting Boston ahead 1-0. It was one of three posts for the Bruins on the night, with Noel Acciari and Carlo (off the crossbar) also finding iron in the third period.
"I thought he was excellent tonight," said Cassidy. "I thought he was all over the ice, dominant, wanted to be a difference maker without being reckless. I thought he was physical. Really, really good. Good to see. It was a tough hockey game out there. Both teams are in there and they're tired right now because it was good skating, good physicality.
"They were one better than us at the end of the day. And Charlie was a big reason why we were in the game. He played really well."
Video: Cassidy speaks after Game 3 loss
Cassidy switched things up with his forward group, inserting Karson Kuhlman into the lineup and moving David Pastrnak down to play with Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson to start the game. Pastrnak eventually ended up reunited with Bergeron and Brad Marchand, but - despite several chances - the trio was held off the scoresheet.
Through three games, Pastrnak, Bergeron, and Marchand have combined for just one goal.
"Is it sustainable? I don't know. I would think they're gonna have to score," Cassidy said when asked if the Bruins can win without production from their top players. "Obviously some of that starts with the power play. We had one that was not very good. The other one we got taken off it. It's not really even a power play. We're gonna have to figure something out as a group."