Two wins against two of the league’s top teams would certainly give them confidence as they embark on a tough home stretch of the season.
The Black & Gold ended the night on the losing end, 2-1 in overtime, while managing to take a point from the NHL’s best team.
“We were one shot away from beating the top two teams in the NHL, so for us, it’s just realizing if we stick to the system and keep doing those things well, we’ll have a chance to win any game,” said Torey Krug.
“I thought we’ve done a good job of playing those two teams and we’ve just got to move on. We have other big tests coming up and every team brings something different to the table and we’ll look forward to the next challenge.”
The Bruins’ next task will be a back-to-back on the road against the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday and Tuesday — the two teams above them in the Atlantic Division.
“I thought we competed hard and well,” said Patrice Bergeron, who had the game’s first goal at 7:11 into the opening frame.
Kevan Miller kept the puck in the zone from inside the blueline, before Lee Stempniak and Brad Marchand combined to feed Bergeron atop the crease for his 26th of the season.
“I think we executed the way we wanted to,” said Bergeron. “A few miscues here and there but, overall, you’ve got to like what we’ve done. We talked about improving as a team and that’s what we have to do going forward. The schedule is not getting any easier and we know we have a tough trip coming up.”
Still, with the Bruins effort, they were left wanting more — knowing that they nearly finished the job at home for what would have been their third straight win at TD Garden.
The power play was one area they felt they could have executed better. They went 0-for-5 on the night, including a 5-on-3 advantage.
“Disappointing,” said Krug. “I said it a couple nights ago. Part of the power play is scoring goals and making sure we complete those chances and we hit a couple posts tonight. 5-on-3 for almost two minutes, so if we score there, it changes the game.”
“You know, we take a lot of pride in the power play, and it could have won us the game tonight, but it didn’t.”
The Bruins’ best opportunity to convert came on a three-minute power play when they were up 1-0 in the second period.
Miller was drilled hard into the boards by Alex Ovechkin, who was assessed a five-minute major. With Brad Marchand coming to his defense, he was given a roughing minor.
Miller left the game and did not return. The team labeled it an upper-body injury, and Head Coach Claude Julien did not have a further update on the defenseman following the game.
“It’s really tough — hopefully he gets back soon,” said Tuukka Rask. “He’s been playing great. Really solid. He’s always been solid defensively, but lately I think he’s really improved his game with the puck, finding lanes to pass the puck and score some goals. He’s really been on top of his game so it’s a tough loss, but hopefully he gets back soon.”
On the ensuing power play with Ovechkin in the box, the Bruins generated chances, but could not convert. Most notably, Bergeron being robbed point-blank by Caps netminder Phillip Grubauer.
The whole sequence could have been frustrating for Boston.
Prior to the power play, it appeared that Krug had given the Bruins a 2-0 lead at 3:17 into the second period.
The Bruins had just finished up a strong penalty kill when David Pastrnak led a rush into the attacking zone. Krug picked up the rebound off Pastrnak’s shot and sniped it past Grubauer for seemingly his first goal since Dec. 5.
Washington used its Coach’s Challenge to dispute that the play was offside, as Eriksson was in stride with the puck carrier, Pastrnak, entering the zone.
After the officials’ deliberation, the call was reversed.
“If it’s offside, it’s not a goal, so I mean, it’s frustrating, I haven’t scored in a while,” said Krug. “But it’s a good test for your character and trying to respond, and still having faith, you know — right time, right place, it’ll happen.”
After the call, the Bruins were still up 1-0, and needed to not get frustrated. It’s a situation they have found themselves in a number of times this season.
“I think as a team, this year, we’ve done a really good job of responding to calls that haven’t gone our way,” said Krug. “Unfortunately, they got the next goal, so it’s not clearly indicative of how we responded, but we did an all right job. We continued to play fast and I thought we did a good job of clogging up the neutral zone and not giving up too many good chances.”
The Bruins ended up outshooting the Capitals 20-7 in the second period.
“You can never be satisfied with just getting plenty of chances. You know, we’re a team this year where we’ve shown that we have the ability to score a lot of goals,” said Krug. “We have been getting chances every single game so, never satisfied with that.”
Tuukka Rask was sharp from the start, continuously drawing out “Tuuuuuuukk” chants from the TD Garden crowd.
When there were breakdowns in front of the net, the Bruins were able to recover, with Rask holding strong as the last line of defense.
Rask stopped all nine shots he faced in the first, including a 2-on-1 chance that saw David Pastrnak racing on the backcheck to disrupt the rush. He also stopped all 10 shots he faced in the third, and made 28 saves on 30 shots overall.
The first shot that got through him came on a tap-in goal backdoor by Karl Alzner late in the second period that tied the game at 1-1.
The second, in overtime, came on a seemingly harmless shot from Matt Niskanen that caught Rask a bit off guard, with him expecting the defenseman to take a longer time weighing his options.
“I thought we were doing the right things here,” Julien said of the Bruins’ overall game. “Throughout the third period, good third period by both teams, and an overtime goal that decides the outcome.”
“But, overall, I thought our guys played hard — two elite teams in a row, and we’ve played pretty decently.”
Zdeno Chara and the Bruins all well aware that the schedule is not getting any easier.
“You’ve just got to prepare yourself for every game,” said Chara.