The potential was there to put up back-to-back wins for the first time since a stretch of four straight victories at the end of October.
But they didn’t carry that plan through, following up the victory three days later with a 5-4 loss to the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden on Tuesday night.
“It’s really frustrating, it’s things that we’ve talked about and it keeps happening,” said Patrice Bergeron. “Obviously we wanted to build on the last game, it’s not even close to the effort that we want.”
The defeat leaves the Bruins 2-6-1 on home ice this season. The Black & Gold were already on standings watch, sitting two points back of Detroit, Florida and Tampa Bay entering the game.
“I was excited about the potential, and I think there’s reason to be excited about the potential because we’ve seen it,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. “But [I’m] disappointed in the fact that, you know, you never know what you’re going to get from either period to period, or game to game, and that’s the disappointing part right now.”
The Bruins let San Jose jump out to an early 1-0 lead just 42 seconds in when Joe Pavelski potted a rebound top shelf on Tuukka Rask.
A back-and-forth game ensued, with the teams flip-flopping leads until midway through the second period. The last lead the Bruins had was when they went up 3-2 early in the second.
Defensive lapses, sloppy play and penalty trouble left them in a 5-3 hole that they ultimately could not overcome, despite a strong push in the third and a power play goal from Patrice Bergeron at 6:28 into the period that made it a one-goal game.
“We showed in the third period again, when we don’t hesitate at all, we just keep pushing, pushing, we play in their end for the most part,” said Rask. “It’s just frustrating that we can’t get a game together like that.”
“Obviously it’s tough, you have to skate, you have to work hard to play that kind of way. But it seems like when we don’t play like that, we’re not really doing anything and then we end up getting scored on and that just deflates us.”
“We have to find a balance, I think, for whenever we’re not sustaining that pressure we can not be just standing still and getting scored on. We have to have a good balance I think.”
After the Sharks jumped out to their 1-0 lead, Tyler Randell tied the game with his third NHL goal off a deflection. Of the six games this season in which the Bruins have allowed the first goal, they have evened the score.
Brad Marchand kept the NHL’s best power play hot with a tally that made it 2-1, sliding in a rebound from a Zdeno Chara drive.
With 4:52 left in the first, a Paul Martin point shot deflected off of Joonas Donskoi and rapidly changed direction past Rask to knot the game at 2-2.
Loui Eriksson gave the Bruins the 3-2 lead at 1:53 into the second period, but San Jose put up three straight goals within 3:25 to push ahead, 5-3.
The Bruins haven’t just been inconsistent from game to game; they’ve shown the same inconsistency from period to period.
“We know what we should do but it’s like a rollercoaster, you know,” said Krejci. “One or two games really good, one or two games really bad. So we have to figure it out how to play a full 60 minutes every night.”
“We might not win every game but, you know, if you’re going to play the right way for 60 minutes then you’ll come out on top most of the nights.”
The Bruins had a chance to extend their 3-2 lead in the second, but Martin Jones robbed Jimmy Hayes point blank off the rush.
Melker Karlsson answered for San Jose, putting a Joe Thornton feed off the bar and in from the top of the crease. Rask didn’t have much of a chance in tight. Thornton’s line gave the Bruins trouble all night.
The game unraveled for the Bruins when they took essentially four straight penalties in the second period. With Adam McQuaid in the box for interference, they were called for too many men. They killed the 10 seconds of 5-on-3 time, but Patrick Marleau converted during the 5-on-4 when he chipped in a rebound after Rask made a blind save through traffic.
Replays showed that Thornton tied up Rask with his stick, and Julien utilized his Coach’s Challenge. After reviewing the play, the referee confirmed no goaltender interference had occurred before the puck crossed the goal line.
“It could have ended up still being a 3-3 hockey game and I felt that it was warranted to challenge that,” said Julien. “You don’t know what they’re going to call anymore, so a lot of it is a bit of a crapshoot when you seem to be calling those nowadays.”
Despite the call not going the Bruins’ way, the game was about much more than that.
“I think it’s more about the fact that we gave up a power play goal, which was from a mental mistake that should never happen,” said Julien. “Those kinds of things, you can’t hold players by the collar on the bench. I don’t have enough hands for that. It’s called focus, the kind of mistakes that we’ve made, and even the stuff that we talked about, how can you be good in one game and not the other?”
“I think there’s a lot of things that have to be better with our hockey club moving forward. In this league and with the team that we have, the record that we have, it’s just not good enough. It needs to be better.”
Just 15 seconds after Marleau’s tally, and the Bruins on yet another penalty kill — this time with Ryan Spooner in the box for tripping — Thornton ripped a power play goal from the top of the slot to make it 5-3.
“We’re opening up too much, we should have more guys, we should all be in sync and we’re not,” said Bergeron. “We’re giving too many chances from the slot area or even on rebounds and stuff like that. We’re not boxing out our guys good enough.”
The penalty kill wasn’t the worst of the Bruins’ problems, though. It was the overall lack of commitment.
“We know that we’re not all playing our best every night and we have to,” said Marchand. “I think right now, if we’re going to get out of this and we’re going to put a few wins together, we need to have everyone going every night. Can’t have any passengers at all. If we have one, it’s enough to cost us the game and right now, we have way too many.”
“There’s potential here,” Julien reiterated. “And if everybody really takes charge of their own jobs and show up every night and are willing to play whatever game is out there — there’s some teams that like the speed game, there’s some teams that like the grinding game — we’ve got to be wiling to play and adjust to all those kinds of games, but more or less, master ours, so it works against any team.”
“And ours has proven in the past to work against any team, but right now, I don’t think we’ve got the full commitment of the whole group. I’m not saying anything that nobody knows here — I think it’s pretty obvious.”
The Bruins have shown enough this season to maintain optimism, despite their struggles.
“Well, we’ve showed it,” said Rask. “We’re a really good team, we can play really good hockey, but if you can’t put one game together or let alone a couple of games, then it’s not going to be good enough and right now it’s not.”
They’ll get another crack at re-establishing their play on Thursday night when they host Minnesota.
“We keep taking steps forward and then kind of taking two back — you’re kind of very high after a win, you feel good about yourself, but then I don’t think we can feel very good after tonight’s game,” said Rask. “So [Wednesday’s] going to be a work day again and we have to fix things and hope that next game we play is going to be a good one again.”