But as Head Coach Claude Julien said after a 2-1 loss to Vancouver, they just didn’t take advantage of them.
“I think that the only thing we talk about here is pretty simple: It’s not the offense; it’s the lack of finish,” Julien said. “I think when you come back from a long road trip like we did, we all know that that first game becomes a challenge, and I thought our guys handled it well. I thought we came out there, skated, worked hard, dominated the game.
“[We] had lots of shots and scoring chances, but the inability to finish is the only reason that we’re sitting here tonight with a loss.”
The Bruins did everything they could on Tuesday except put the puck in the back of the net. They outshot the Canucks 41-28. They dominated the second period but were unable to capitalize on any of three power plays in that frame, four in total. They peppered goaltender Eddie Lack with shots but couldn’t corral the rebounds, allowing him and the Canucks to escape TD Garden nearly unscathed.
“He was square — he had a good night,” said forward Patrice Bergeron. “I think we can be better with making it a little harder for him to see the puck. I thought we had some good chances, good shots, but not enough traffic.”
The last time the Bruins faced Vancouver, they got off to a slow start and fell behind early, 2-0. They had no intention of letting that happen on Tuesday night. Boston got on the board 1:05 into the first period, when Carl Soderberg brought the puck up the ice and, from the corner, dumped it in front with Loui Eriksson and Daniel Paille crashing the net. Eriksson took a whack at the puck, and it deflected to the right side of the crease for a ready and waiting Paille, who backhanded it past Lack for the 1-0 lead.
The goal marked Paille’s second of the season.
“We started off pretty good there,” Paille said. “We were able to capitalize on the first shift, but unfortunately, we couldn’t get any more after that as a team. We had chances to take a couple-goal lead there, but we just didn’t execute for most of the game, and overall it was a good effort, but obviously not enough when we don’t even get a point out of it.”
After Paille scored, the Canucks were quick to notch the equalizer. About two minutes later, a turnover gave Vancouver a 3-on-2 rush. Ryan Stanton, trailing behind, took a drop-pass from Jannik Hansen and rocketed it past Rask to make it 1-1 just 3:28 into the frame.
“We looked good,” Rask said. “We controlled the puck, controlled everything, and they get one rush and it’s off the stick and in. That kind of puts us on the back of our heels a little bit, but we just pushed and never got rewarded.”
Within the first 10 minutes of the second period, the Bruins got two power plays — the second of which was abbreviated by 18 seconds, due to a hooking call on Lucic — but despite a plethora of chances down low, they could not convert. They got another man advantage with 1:37 remaining in the frame after Lack tripped up Reilly Smith, and once again, there were opportunities — the Bruins outshot the Canucks 20-10 in the frame — but they couldn’t corral loose pucks in front of the net and put them past Lack.
“I wouldn’t call it a frustrating night; I would call it a night that we didn’t take full advantage of some chances we had, and maybe some loose pucks around the net that we had,” said defenseman Zdeno Chara. “We created good pressure, good energy out there. Again, just some of those loose pucks and bounces that were really close in the crease, we didn’t quite play until the whistle.”
In the end, it was Vancouver that netted the goal the Bruins needed. Just under seven minutes into the third period, the Bruins were battling for the puck in their own zone, and it careened off the boards and right onto Zack Kassian’s stick. Kassian didn’t waste the opportunity, beating Rask for the winning goal.
“I think our guy was going to go block it, and I was trying to look around him, and two guys skated, flash-screened me there,” Rask said. “I picked it up late.”
Rask, appearing in his 18th straight game and his 27th of the last 28, insisted he feels good physically despite the hefty workload. Once again, he stood tall for the Black & Gold, thwarting chances and keeping his team in the game. He did what he could, but offensively, the support wasn’t there.
“Just [wit] how up and down things have been going, we never seem to catch too many breaks,” Rask said. “Once we kind of feel on track, things have fallen apart, so it’s been really tough. We’re still in a playoff spot — that’s a positive thing. We have to make sure we keep playing hard, and good things can happen.”
The Bruins entered Tuesday’s game knowing that they built some positives during the course of their recent five-game road trip. They knew that they did a lot of good things their last time out in a 6-2 demolition of the Blackhawks on Sunday. They knew that, with Florida and Philadelphia breathing down their necks for the final Eastern Conference playoff berth, they had to play that same way against Vancouver on Tuesday night.
And though they played a sound game against the Canucks, that elusive sense of urgency wasn’t there when they most needed it.
“I thought we gave ourselves good looks, good chances, and good shots,” Bergeron said. “We were doing a good job, but pucks didn’t settle. But still, we’ve got to find a way to get a loose puck, or just a rebound, and find a way to score some more goals.”
Now, with just over 20 games remaining in the season, the Bruins know they have no choice but to rediscover that sense of urgency — no choice but to be desperate — as the stretch run looms ahead.
“It’s definitely been the most up-and-down season, as a group,” Paille said. “But even the St. Louis game [last Friday] — when I was watching — I didn’t see anybody kind of get distraught or depressed or anything like that, and same with today.
“I thought everyone seemed a bit calm, but at the same time willing to put the effort in. It’s definitely a tough stretch when we’re starting to play well and get that loss, but hopefully this can be a turnaround for the rest of the season.”