As the puck dropped on the game between the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first of a home-and-home series, just three points separated the two teams. Boston was holding onto a wild card slot, though their game on Monday saw them squeak out a point after going down two goals to the Edmonton Oilers. Given the firepower of the Penguins, it would be safe to expect a very close game.

Of course the Penguins have been struggling this season. Going into Wednesday’s game the Penguins had played just one other game under interim head coach Mike Sullivan. They would also be without defenseman Kris Letang—who had been placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury—as well as Marc-Andre Fleury, who is expected to miss at least one to two weeks due to concussion.

During Wednesday’s game, Jeff Zatkoff certainly gave the Penguins a chance backstopping his team. He gave up two goals in 29 shots, with the second the result of a ricochet that he couldn’t have stopped. Offensively the Penguins couldn’t buy a goal. If Tuukka Rask wasn’t denying them—to get his fourth shutout of the season (tied for the league lead)—then the posts were getting in the way.

Zdeno Chara and Brad Marchand

Zdeno Chara and Brad Marchand

In the second period it should have been possible for the Penguins to get a goal. They outshot the Bruins 18 to 4 in the middle frame. In fact, watching the Bruins during that second period was like too many others this season, where they just can’t seem to bring their game in that middle frame. It looked like they had diagnosed that issue in Monday’s game with the Oilers, when they did play a strong second period And that was even one of the positives that Brad Marchand pointed out after the disappointing overtime loss. But had Rask not been so good and the Penguins not so hot, it could have been a tie game going into the third. It remains unclear why the Bruins are having such difficulties this season in the middle twenty minutes.

“I don’t know. I mean we had a solid second period against Edmonton last game. I don’t know if going the opposite direction on the ice makes a difference,” Adam McQuaid said with a laugh. “It shouldn’t. I guess at times we get away from our game, you know? It really makes a difference when w get pucks all the way in and guys can get in and we have guys that are strong on the forecheck and they can cause turnovers and stuff when we can get it in there, but when we don’t and other teams are countering coming back at us all the time. It’s a long change and sometimes guys get stuck out there a little longer than they should be and more breakdowns can happen.”

There are breakdowns and then there are situations where the wheels just come off. The Bruins took the two points because of how good Rask was in net for them. But as a team they cannot continue to rely that heavily on their goaltender. They will need to look at how they attacked the game in the second against Edmonton and figure out what they haven’t been doing in other games in that second period.

For now, they will practice on Thursday and head to Pittsburgh for the second of this series. They will play the Penguins at the Consol Energy Center on Friday night.

Full interview with Adam McQuaid can be seen here:

A family historian by profession, Rhonda R. McClure has loved hockey since she was a child in New Hampshire. Any opportunity to combine her love of writing, hockey and research is something she looks forward to with much enthusiasm. She's been accused of seeking out shinny games when there are no other hockey events taking place. She is a member of the Society for International Hockey Research. Follow her on Twitter at @HockeyMaven1917.

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