Patrice Bergeron got gold. Loui Eriksson got silver. Tuukka Rask got bronze. And with the Olympics completed, the Boston Bruins shifted their focus to the springtime sprint to the NHL playoffs. They want another medal. A Trophy. The Cup.
After a disappointing loss to the last-place Buffalo Sabres coming out of the break, the Bruins looked to redeem themselves against the Washington Capitals on Saturday.
The team knows they must finish the season on a high-note, a difficult task considering the jam-packed schedule down the stretch- but that’s something all teams are dealing with and should make for an exciting NHL finish.
On Saturday, the Bruins still didn’t look themselves.
In the first period their rust really showed.
The team was hemmed in their own zone shift after shift, before finally gaining some momentum with a two-minute, five-on-three power play advantage; but short-lived momentum is all they would achieve, as the team failed to score with the best possible opportunity in hand.
After a few good successive shifts, the Capitals put a dent in the Bruins efforts.
Chris Kelly was called for a questionable interference penalty by the Bruins bench, giving the deadly Capitals power play their second chance of the period.
The Capitals gained possession in the Bruins zone, and went up 1-0 on a one-timed bomb from Alex Ovechkin just inside the point- he received the perfect pass from Natick, MA native John Carlson. The goal was Ovechkin’s 42nd of the season, and the first he ever scored on Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask.
“We’ve given up the first goal in both the games here, in Buffalo and then again tonight, and you know, those are things that you don’t want to do,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien postgame. “Playing catch-up hockey is not a good way to play.”
One period later and the script didn’t change.
An early Bruins penalty gave the Capitals yet another chance on the power play- and they made the home team pay.
After the Bruins cleared the zone, a poor line change paired with quick transition set up Ovechkin for another one-timer. He beat Rask for the second time in the game with an absolute rocket. And the Capitals led 2-0.
Just minutes later, and it was 3-0 in favor of Washington.
Right off a center-ice faceoff the Bruins layers broke down allowing for an easy goal for former Game 7 killer Joel Ward. Johnny Boychuk made an errant pass to Matt Bartkowski, which was intercepted by Ward who then drove in for the goal, beating Rask on the backhand.
The Boychuk-Bartkowski combo has really struggled coming out of the break, and is something to watch amidst all the recent trade rumors.
“I don’t know if “troubling” is the word. It’s something that you can correct but obviously that’s what’s happening right now,” said Julien postgame. “I think we’re getting caught cheating on the offensive side too much, and it’s ending up in the back of our net, so probably need to fix that if we expect to win because at this rate here, we’re giving up too many goals.”
This game wasn’t over though.
A 3-0 Capitals lead and what appeared to be a lost game at the Garden, just like that, the script changed. And the third Capitals goal is what did it.
First it was Patrice Bergeron matching Joel Ward’s goal with a power play tally. The absolute perfect feed from Dougie Hamilton set up the one-timer, Bergeron’s 17th goal of the season. Reilly Smith had the secondary assist.
Then, just minutes later, it was the fourth line doing it again as Merlot connected for the goal- they were probably the Bruins best line on Saturday. Shawn Thornton made the perfect pass to a streaking Greg Campbell who seemed to deflect the puck past Braden Holtby. The goal was rewarded to Thornton as it actually hit a Capitals stick in front, and the Bruins were now only down one headed to the third period.
As usual, with adversity at its peak, the Bruins answered. It’d be nice to see them garner such emotion and urgency on their own with more consistency, but come playoff time that shouldn’t be an issue.
Midway through the third period the Capitals scored the dagger.
It was too little too late for the Bruins, as the lack of self-created urgency paired with mental mistakes defensively came back to bite them, again.
After a rare Bergeron turnover, Torey Krug misplayed the puck and fell over, allowing Eric Fehr to streak in on a breakaway and beat Rask five-hole with a wrister.
The Capitals took the game 4-2 in Boston.
While Julien reiterated postgame that the defensive woes are in part due to a five-man failure, and the forward’s lack of creating those layers, something has to give.
The Bruins defense failed them on Wednesday. It failed them again on Saturday. And now, the pressure on Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli to upgrade his back end before the trade deadline has only strengthened.
Your call, Pete.