It was a word the Bruins — both the players and the head coach — used again and again following a 3-2 overtime loss to Ottawa on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.
It was frustrating to prove unable to close out another game in regulation. It was frustrating to once again fall in extra time. It was frustrating to take a one-goal lead into the final five minutes of the game, only to find themselves with a single point to show for it in the end.
“It’s frustrating for everybody,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “So I know we can nitpick every little detail of our game, but we’ve played the last two games well enough to win. They’re not perfect, but they’re good enough to win, and I think that’s where I’m going to be careful with how I talk about this thing with you guys and with the team, because we’re working hard.
“We still have some areas we’ve got to get better at — we still forced some plays, [and] that ends up giving us some issues — but overall, I thought the effort was good.”
The effort was there, again, but the Bruins only got a point to show for it, again. It was a similar situation against Toronto three days ago: Boston did a lot of things well, but there were key defensive lapses that ultimately led to a loss.
“We talk a lot about getting the extra goal to give yourself the cushion,” said forward Patrice Bergeron. “Right now, every little mishap or broken play or whatever that ends up in the back of our net — it really hurts us, and it really shows. So it’s about finding a way really [to] bear down defensively when we do have the lead, [and] offensively, finding a way to give ourselves a breather.”
The Bruins played a solid first period against an Ottawa team that they have already faced twice this season. In the first of those games, the Bruins earned a decisive 4-2 win. In the second, they submitted a lackluster effort and suffered a 3-2 shootout loss.
In the first 20 minutes, the Bruins played like the team that beat the Sens in their first matchup of the season. They killed a too-many-men penalty, and they outshot Ottawa 9-7.
They garnered even more momentum when, with 15:49 remaining in the second period, Adam McQuaid went to the box for roughing and, 18 seconds later, Brad Marchand joined him after tripping up Erik Karlsson. Boston — led by an acrobatic Rask — killed off both penalties, drawing their largest ovation of the night from the Garden crowd.
But about three minutes later, despite all of Boston’s hard work, it was Ottawa that got on the board first, courtesy of a Kyle Turris strike from the left circle that beat Rask short-side.
“I don’t know what it is — maybe you think you’re out of the water, and you think you did your job, and then there’s a quick letdown,” said defenseman Torey Krug. “You’ve just got to keep reminding yourself there’s always another job to be done, and no matter what the score is, the time of the game, or what just happened — whether you just had a big play or not — there’s always a job to be done, and we’ve got to keep reminding ourselves that.”
Just as they did against Toronto on Wednesday night, though, the Bruins didn’t get down and out. Two minutes later, the Senators were whistled for a too-many-men penalty of their own, and Krug made them pay when he beat Craig Anderson with a laser of a one-timer from the right circle.
It marked the first time this season that Boston had managed to score on the power play in three consecutive games, and it seemed like yet another sign that this team was turning a corner.
When the Bruins came out for the third period, the lines looked different. Milan Lucic and Marchand had swapped places, and the switch paid off when, with just under 10 minutes remaining in regulation, Marchand came up with the puck behind Ottawa’s net, wheeled to the top of the slot and ripped a shot past Anderson, stick-side.
Just after the Bruins took their first lead of the game, though, Patrice Bergeron went off for hooking. With 43 seconds left in the penalty kill, McQuaid went to the box for a delay of game. The Senators had their second 5-on-3 of the game, and once again, the Bruins held strong. They killed off both penalties. They had a stranglehold on the game’s energy and its momentum.
And then, it went wrong.
“The effort is there,” said forward Patrice Bergeron. “We did a lot of good things, but that being said, it’s one of those things where we’re at the point in the season where we need the result, and the extra gear, or the extra urgency, to get the extra point.
“Tonight is, again, another big point that you let slip by. We’re definitely not playing some better hockey, but with that being said, we’ve got to bear down and find ways. Especially when you have a lead like that, you’ve got to keep it.”
With under five minutes to play, Eric Gryba drove from the right point. The puck hit Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman down low, changed direction, and trickled past Rask to tie the game.
“Honestly, it’s so frustrating,” said Rask, who finished the day with 23 saves on 26 shots. “We played a solid defensive game, we killed two big 5-on-3’s there, and we battled really hard. You’re kind of feeling that it’s starting to turn the corner, and maybe the bounces are starting to go our way, and then… I’m not going to say what happens, but you know. [The puck is going] five feet wide of the net, and hits his skates, and cross body.
“I hope it turns around at some point. It’s getting really frustrating for me.”
Forty-four seconds into overtime, another costly defensive lapse at the defensive blue line led to a turnover, and Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan found himself facing an open net. He capitalized. Game over.
“Right now, the effort is there,” Julien said. “You’re going to say, well, maybe it’s not perfect. Every team has the same issues, except when you win a game, you pack your bags, you leave, you’re happy. When you don’t, then you kind of critique every little area of your game.
“So right now, as I mentioned for a third time, the effort of the team is there — overall, throughout our whole game, good enough to win hockey games. Little things right now are what we need to do a little bit better in order to turn those overtime losses into victories.”
At the beginning of the week, Boston repeatedly reiterated the importance of taking six points from three divisional opponents. They got started on the right foot with a dominant performance against Detroit on Monday night. They slipped against Toronto, but the effort was there in a shootout loss. Once again, they had their opportunities against Ottawa on Saturday, but they couldn’t hold a late lead, and they paid for it in overtime.
“It’s not just the bad bounces,” Rask said. “From a goaltending standpoint, it’s frustrating because it’s a one-goal game, and we are playing a good game and killing those penalties, and then that [stuff] happens. It’s not just the bad bounces, but it would be nice to get those our way.
“There are no excuses. A loss is a loss; we get the point.”
There are positives to take away from each of Boston’s three games this week, but given the results in the last two, there are things the Bruins know they have to do better. On Saturday, it was the net-front presence — or lack thereof — that was the most glaring area of improvement.
“I think two things: One, they did a good job boxing out, but the other one was, I don’t think we were hungry enough to get [to the front of the net],” said forward David Krejci. “If you’re going to battle a little bit harder, maybe that’s going to be more power plays. There’s going to be some teams that are going to have big, heavy defensemen, but we have to find a way to get in front of the net.”
Obviously, the Bruins want to start winning, and winning consistently. They want to close out games in regulation, and if they can’t, they want to earn the extra point in overtime.
It is difficult to pinpoint why, but they have been unable to do so this season.
“It’s a situation that we don’t want to be in, and we hoped that we wouldn’t be in, but we are at where we are at,” said McQuaid, who slotted into the lineup for the first time since sustaining a broken thumb on Nov. 18. “It almost makes every game a must-win game because you see, when the season winds down, how close the standings are, and how much every point counts.
“Especially when we are playing teams that are in our division and in our conference — especially [teams] in our division that are tight with us — we need to be taking points. We need to keep pushing, and we’ve got work to do, and we’ve got areas to improve on, and we need to do that. We need to start winning games and getting points. I don’t know; it’s not a position that we want to be in, but we are, and we need to find a way to work ourselves out of it.”
Still, in three games against three divisional opponents, the Bruins managed to take four of six points. On Sunday, they have an opportunity to take two more points from a Carolina team that currently sits in last place in the Eastern Conference.
So on Sunday, the Bruins must do what they have been preaching for the last several days. Sunday is the day to bring the effort, and the compete level, and the full 60-minute effort in order to salvage the week.
“It is [frustrating] because we bring that effort, I would say, to most games,” Krug said. “It is well known that our team works hard, competes hard, so when you don’t get those bounces you think we sometimes deserved, it is very easy to get frustrated and to get down on yourself.
“You’ve just got to remind yourself that there’s always another game to be played, and we’ve got to bring everything to get those two points tomorrow.”