Bruins Let Rangers Linger, Blow Another Close-Out Opportunity

NEW YORK – It looks like the Bruins aren’t quite done with their inconsistent ways just yet. They had outplayed the Rangers pretty much all series en route to taking a 3-0 lead, making it easy to forget about their Jekyll-and-Hyde play that Claude Julien has talked about so much this year.

It was easy to forget about that through the first 28 minutes of Thursday’s Game 4, too. The Bruins weren’t playing perfectly, but they were once again dominating a Rangers team that seemingly had no life left. Nathan Horton scored a power-play goal 4:39 into the second, and then Torey Krug scored three minutes later to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead.

Given the way the series had gone to that point, Krug’s goal should’ve sounded the Rangers’ death knell. But closing out games and closing out series isn’t the Bruins’ strong suit.

Even after Carl Hagelin scored a fluky goal less than a minute after Krug’s tally, the Bruins should’ve been in good shape. But they let the Rangers use that goal to gain some momentum.

The Rangers didn’t exactly come roaring back to life, but the Bruins didn’t put their foot down either. They let the Rangers linger, and it came back to bite them early in the third when Derek Stepan picked Zdeno Chara’s pocket and beat Tuukka Rask on a wraparound.

The Bruins retook the lead with 11:54 to play, but once again they just couldn’t bury the Rangers. They got called for too many men on the ice less than a minute after Seguin’s goal, and then allowed Brian Boyle to get open in the slot and tie the game on the ensuing power play.

The Rangers went on to win in overtime as the Bruins once again blew a chance to close out a series. It took them three tries to finally vanquish the Maple Leafs in the first round, and that third try required a once-in-a-lifetime third-period comeback.

When Julien was asked about the parallels between the two series, he dismissed the question, saying, “That was last round.” Although Julien and the rest of the Bruins will try not to think about them, those parallels are nonetheless important. They will be until the Bruins prove they can finish off an opponent without having the fight dragged out to the final round.

People will bring up the Bruins’ collapse against the Flyers in 2010, when they became the third team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 series lead. But that was three years ago, and even though a lot of the players are the same, that series really doesn’t tell us anything about this year’s Bruins team.

There are plenty of examples from this year that tell us what this Bruins team is like, though. There’s that Toronto series for starters. There’s also the regular season, during which the Bruins blew more third-period leads than any other team.

So the Bruins blowing a 2-0 lead Thursday night and leaving the door just a little bit open for the Rangers shouldn’t be a surprise. And anything that happens in Saturday’s Game 5 — good or bad — shouldn’t be a surprise.

We know the Bruins can dominate the Rangers, just like we knew they could dominate the Leafs. But we also know they can have breakdowns like the ones they had Thursday night that cause leads to disappear.

Julien said after the game that there’s no panic in the Bruins’ room. And really, there shouldn’t be. But if the Bruins don’t close out the series on Saturday, it would be hard to believe that would still be the case.

 

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