(Photo: Alan Sullivan)
Going into the game against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night the Boston Bruins knew that they were on the outside looking in at the playoffs. After having five straight at the beginning of March, the Bruins had most recently compiled an equal streak in the opposite direction having lost their last five—three of those losses given up in regulation. It was critical that they get take the two points Thursday evening.
There was some line shakeups as David Krejci was pronounced cleared to play. Many wondered if head coach Claude Julien would put Krejci back together with his longtime line mate, Milan Lucic. During Krejci’s latest injury recovery, Ryan Spooner had been recalled as his replacement. However, with this recall Spooner appears to have found his stride. In fact, it was Lucic, Spooner and David Pastrnak who had been on quite a point streak for much of the time the Bruins were winning.
There was also the question of how the Bruins would hit the ice in the first period. They have struggled with consistency and in bringing the necessary energy for a full 60-minute game—especially in the second period. If there was any silver lining before the puck dropped was that the Ducks had shown difficulties in the middle frame of their games.
Just a little over two and a half minutes into the game, Lucic and Ducks Simon Despres were each called for slashing. About four minutes later Adam McQuaid and Corey Perry would also be called for matching slashes. Anaheim would then be called two more times, first a hooking to Patrick Maroon and then a tripping by Francois Beauchemin. Despite the open ice for four minutes during the two four-on-fours, and the two times they were on the man advantage the Bruins were unable to capitalize. As the buzzer sounded the end of the first twenty, neither team had scored and the shots on goal were almost equal at 12-11 in favor of the Ducks.
The second period appeared that it would be another of north and south pay with little to show for either team when just past the halfway mark Maroon was able to snap it past Tuukka Rask to get the Ducks on the scoreboard first. Two and half minutes later, Despres was called for his second slashing of the night. The Bruins had their first power play unit on the ice and Spooner would get his sixth goal of the season with assists from Patrice Bergeron and Krejci just 19 seconds into the power play.
Just 32 seconds before the end of that second period, with the score tied, Despres would take his third penalty of the night, a tripping on Lucic. The teams would end the period tied and with the Bruins carrying that man advantage into the start of the final period.
Loui Eriksson would get the go ahead goal for the Bruins 27 seconds into the third period. And it would perhaps not be surprising that with just 39 seconds remaining regulation the Ducks Perry would tie the game.
In the end the Bruins would have to settle for a point on the night and the fact that the New York Rangers would defeat the Ottawa Senators in regulation. The Bruins and Senators are now tied in points but the Bruins remain on the outside of the playoffs because the Senators have a game in hand.
After the game, Julien discussed Perry’s tying goal and Matt Belesky’s contact with Rask that, when reviewed, did show that Rask was unable to properly defend his crease.
“There was no doubt goalie interference there and that’s why they talk about reviewing those kinds of goals and coaches’ challenges, because you can’t allow those kinds of goals,” said Julien. “This was a big point we lost tonight on a missed call. Those are the things that are hard to swallow right now.”
The stitches to Lucic’s face during the second period from a missed high stick was another missed call that would have given the Bruins a four-minute power play that could have been a game changer as well.
In the end some positives can be taken from the game. Getting assists on both of the goals the Bruins scored marked Krejci’s return. The team was able to capitalize on the man advantage, something they had been struggling with again. And perhaps more importantly, it appeared that the team had found a chemistry on the bench—perhaps a result of the fact that all of them had participated in the Cuts for a Cause benefit just two days before.
The Bruins face the New York Rangers—the team whose win on Thursday aided the Bruins—in a matinee on Saturday. The Rangers have been without the talents of their best goalie, Henrik Lundqvist for some time, but this hasn’t been a problem for the team as Cam Talbot has been rock solid for the Blueshirts.
It’s make or break time for the Black and Gold. They have only eight more games in regulation. They need to win every one of them if they have any hopes of making it to the playoffs, and the longest winning streak they have had all season was five games. Of course, the Bruins are often at their best when their back is against the wall.
Post game review from Winter Adams and Rhonda McClure: