BOSTON – Calling hockey a game of inches or a game of bounces is cliché, but sometimes it’s so fitting that it really is the best way to describe a contest. That was the case Thursday night in the Bruins’ 2-0 loss to the Panthers. Boston hit five posts and gave up the game-winning goal on a play that saw the puck jump over two Bruins’ sticks.
It was clear that it wasn’t going to be an easy night for the Bruins when they came out of the first period with three hit posts. Adam McQuaid was the first to find pipe when his shot through traffic clanged off the right post. Seven minutes later, it was Dennis Seidenberg on another shot from the point. Half a minute after that, Patrice Bergeron fired a dinger of his own from the slot.
The near-misses didn’t derail the Bruins, though. At least not yet. They still controlled play for the remainder of the first and wound up outshooting the Panthers 12-8 in the frame.
“I don’t think so,” said Milan Lucic when asked if the team was frustrated. “If we were frustrated, I don’t think we would have created as much as we did. We can’t let that [frustration] creep into our game, and that’s the main thing right now.”
The Bruins hit two more posts in the second, this time on shots by Joe Corvo and Brad Marchand. On top of that, there were shots from quality scoring areas that went wide and rebounds that weren’t buried.
Their inability to capitalize on scoring chances finally caught up to the Bruins in the third. The play that resulted in the Panthers’ first goal started when — surprise, surprise — Boston fumbled away a scoring chance.
Lucic couldn’t settle a bouncing puck in the slot and had it taken away before he could get a shot off, leading to a Florida rush the other way. Tim Thomas (28 saves) stopped Shawn Matthias’ initial shot, but the rebound hopped over Corvo’s stick as he tried to clear it away, allowing Tomas Kopecky to swoop in and bang the puck home.
“I thought my D was going to clear it, so I relaxed,” Thomas said. “But then I realized he missed it, and I didn’t have time to get back over before Kopecky got a stick on it.”
Of course, bouncing pucks and shots off posts weren’t the only reasons the Bruins lost Thursday night. They still got 40 shots on net, but Jose Theodore stood tall and stopped all of them. But according to coach Claude Julien, the biggest reason the Bruins lost was that they just didn’t play like themselves.
“I thought we forced a lot of plays where we could have taken it to the net,” Julien said. “I don’t think our decision-making was the best at times, and we certainly didn’t make it easy for ourselves. There’s four or five posts, and you can say what you want about those, but you’ve got to find ways to bury goals, and I think we’ve got to do a better job of that. I don’t think that we’re driving to the net as well as we have in the past, and that’s kind of slipped in the last little while. So we’ve got to try and do that a little bit better and get our noses dirty around the net area again.”