They were frustrated because they dropped another game at home, this time to a divisional opponent they will most likely be battling down the stretch for a playoff spot. But moreover, they were frustrated because self-inflicted mistakes cost them.
“That’s part of the story, I think, tonight – the self-inflicted mistakes that we made, the amount of breakaways and those kind of things,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. “And special teams tonight – the penalty kill wasn’t good enough for us, and then the power play, although they did generate some chances, we didn’t produce. There’s no doubt their goaltender was solid for them tonight, but at the end of the day, it was a big game, and we needed to be better than we were.”
Sunday’s game was one the B’s could have won. One less turnover in the offensive zone, one less odd-man rush allowed, one less penalty taken.
That could have changed everything.
“You want to go into playoffs feeling good about your team, and it felt like we were heading into the right direction before this game,” said forward David Krejci. “It was never perfect, but like I said, we were going in the right direction — but I felt like tonight was kind of a step back. So we have to work on some stuff, especially those little details. In this league, that’s a big thing — little things — but it goes a long way.”
The Bruins got off to a fast start on Sunday, getting on the board six minutes into the first when Kevan Miller’s drive from the right point got through Ben Bishop gloveside.
But from then on, seemingly, it was all Lightning. With just under nine minutes remaining in the frame, Tampa tied it up. After Zac Rinaldo went to the box for a check to the head against Cedric Paquette, Tampa Bay capitalized quickly, as Alex Killorn beat Tuukka Rask from the high slot 29 seconds into the power play.
“It’s not the effort we needed,” said forward Landon Ferraro. “They’re a team that plays with a lot of speed and a lot of skill, and we didn’t take any speed away, especially through the neutral zone. If you give them that much time, they’re going to make you pay for it, and we showed it tonight.
“For whatever reason we just didn’t slow them down and we didn’t get on top of their D like we needed to.”
About three minutes later, Ryan Callahan gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead, capitalizing on a Bruins turnover in the offensive zone and coming in on a 2-on-0 with Killorn.
“We started with the lead, here, and I thought that start wasn’t bad at all — but obviously after that, it was all them, and they capitalized on their power play, which we didn’t,” said forward Patrice Bergeron. “Too many missed passes and miscues and stuff like that, and they controlled the rest of the game, basically.
“Bottom line is, we didn’t play our game.”
The Bruins opened the second period with two power plays in the span of five minutes. They had a perfect opportunity to tie the game — the best chance came off the stick of Jimmy Hayes, who couldn’t bury it on the doorstep off a perfect feed from Brad Marchand — but they couldn’t convert.
And then the Lightning made them pay.
Six seconds into Tampa’s second power play of the game, Callahan tipped in a Steven Stamkos drive from out high. About 10 seconds later, Zdeno Chara was hooked by Ondrej Palat, but he, too, went to the box for embellishment.
With about 25 seconds left on the penalties, Stamkos came in on a breakaway and was brought down by Marchand. On the ensuing penalty shot, Stamkos scored for the sixth time in six games to make it 4-1.
“We had a lot of breakdowns,” said defenseman Adam McQuaid. “We hit a lot of posts, and it would’ve been a different score — and I think we’ve been giving up a lot of shots. Maybe not the breakaways and stuff like that — but we’ve been giving up a lot of shots in previous games, and we haven’t really gotten burned on it. Tonight, we did, and it’s an area we need to clean up.”
There were plenty of borderline calls on Sunday — the goalie interference on Bergeron, the embellishment on Chara. The B’s were frustrated by those calls, but ultimately, they weren’t going to hang the loss on the officiating.
That second period was the turning point for the B’s. The mistakes compounded, and the Bruins found themselves in a hole from which they couldn’t emerge.
“That’s part of hockey and those mistakes happen, but obviously, as a goalie, you never want to see those mistakes happen,” Rask said. “But they happen. Nobody’s fault, but sometimes, tough bounces here and there and plays like that. But the truth is, if you want to win more hockey games and you want to be successful, you have to try to eliminate those mistakes. That’s just the reality of it. But those things happen, and I’m there trying to stop it.”
The Bruins had their opportunities. The Lightning took seven minor penalties on Sunday, and the B’s received six power play opportunities. They were unable to capitalize on any of them, while the Lightning went 2-for-3 on the man advantage.
“That’s playoff hockey — your special teams has to be really good, and I think the past couple of games, [on] our penalty kill, we have been struggling a little bit or just letting in some unnecessary goals,” Rask said. “Today was a good example of that. But we’ll bounce back because that’s always been our strength, and we want to be good as a penalty killing unit and kill those penalties and give [ourselves] a chance. But today was a tough night for us.”
With just 19 games remaining this season, the Bruins are aware they have plenty of work to do. They still need to figure out whatever it is that seems to go wrong at home. They need to figure out how to avoid the kinds of mistakes — particularly the defensive breakdowns — that seem to spiral.
But mostly, they need to find a way to prevent those mistakes from compounding. They need to find a way to park it, move on and rebound as they move forward into the remainder of the 2015-16 schedule.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re down one or two — [if] something happens, you’ve got to be able to come back from it, and that’s where good teams separate themselves from the rest of the league,” Ferraro said. “We didn’t jump back on top of it tonight when we had a couple things go against us, and we’ve got to find a way to be able to do that.”