- The Bruins have been searching for the elusive complete, full 60-minute game, with all parts working in sync, as they make their final push heading into the postseason. The Hurricanes have been simply searching for two points.
The 'Canes players and their head coach, heading into Saturday night 1-13-1, seemed to think they were on the verge of breaking through with their constant compete level - and they did. But unfortunately for Boston, that breakthrough was due in part to two power-play goals, en route to the Bruins' 4-2 loss at PNC Arena. A point would have clinched a playoff berth.
It marked only the second time this season that the B's league-leading penalty kill had allowed two power-play goals in a game. The B's and Coach Julien talked postgame about the pride they take in the PK, and how better decision making both shorthanded and five-on-five, would have given them a different outcome.
"I take a lot of pride, we take a lot of pride in killing penalties. Unfortunately, we weren't on our game tonight, we gave up a few chances and had to help Tuukka out a bit more," said PK mainstay Gregory Campbell from the locker room following the game.
"We've been really good all year and that's been good for us, but tonight was on off night, so we're going to have to correct some things."
"But, again, we did some good things, and played some good hockey for a fair amount of that game. Like I said, two goals on the penalty kill. We take a lot of pride in that and it has to be better."
The initial power-play goal allowed came with just 36 seconds left in the opening frame to tie the game, 1-1, after Milan Lucic had put the B's on the board first with a net-front deflection off his skate that gave him his first goal in 10 games. Less than a minute into the man-advantage for Carolina, Jeff Skinner banked one in off Tuukka Rask.
The Bruins have been the top PK in the NHL all season, and haven't faltered from that top spot. They've had three stretches this season of 20-plus consecutive penalty kills. They opened the season going 24-for-24. Two times this year, they have had season-high spans of 27 consecutive kills (February 6-28, March 3-19; the longest such streaks since killing 28 straight from March 1-11, 2007).
After tonight's first kill, they had successfully thwarted any scoring attempts by their opponent shorthanded for 17 of their past 18 penalty kills. So, like other parts of their game, the B's know they're correctable mistakes.
"It was just got some brain cramps there at times and mistakes made on the PK were not helpful either; they got two power-play goals," Coach Julien told media postgame. "But, again, those are things that, right now, we're dealing with. There's some good things and also, there's some brain cramps, some decision making that right now has to be better."
Carolina's second came after Tyler Seguin had tied it up heading into the final frame with his third goal in three games. While on the man-advantage, ex-Bruin Joe Corvo let go a quick one-timer on a long drive that beat Rask high to give the 'Canes a 3-2 lead 9:36 into the third.
"We wanted to be aggressive," said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. "They just beat us to the front of the net. First one, they made a smart play behind the net and the second one was just us not getting the puck out and just opened up lanes for them. Joe [Corvo] had a great shot, beating Tuukka up high."
Coach Julien noted it was mostly about positioning on the penalty kill that caused the issues Saturday night, and maybe not being as aggressive as usual.
"Giving them too much time when we should've been on them," said Julien. "We could've been better, and we allowed them too much time. The one time, the seam pass that should've been covered, there's was no reason why it shouldn't. Those kind of things have to be better for us, but there's time."
"You're seeing some good things and every once in a while, you see a play and you wonder, 'why are we thinking that way?' So, we've just got to get a little bit sharper."
Tuukka Rask, who ended the night with 34 saves, offered thoughts postgame on the PK from his viewpoint in goal.
"We try to win those battles when we jump in the corners and to the boards," said Rask, on the power-play goals allowed. "I think we probably stopped a couple and then they get wide open shots and it was in our net. So, we just have to win those puck battles - that cost us."
Beyond the PK, which has been steady for the B's this season, Coach Julien is looking for his team to make smarter plays all over the ice, not just shorthanded or in the D-zone.
"We keep telling guys to keep making plays. I don't want us to rim pucks out and get rid of it, we've got to make smart plays, we've got to skate with it," said Coach.
"We're starting to turn that corner, I think it will get better, but we've got another two weeks here and this is where it's got to happen. I sense things turning around."
"Although we didn't get the results tonight, I sense some things that are coming around and we've just got to push in the areas that we have to improve and we'll be okay."