The story was all too familiar on Tuesday night as the Boston Bruins played host to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the fourth of five tilts between the division rivals. In the previous three games the Bruins had been able to pull out the win. Unfortunately the fourth time was not the charm. Instead, it was like a scene from Groundhog Day as those watching the game saw Boston go up by two goals only to lose the game. Considering that it was, in fact, Groundhog Day, it’s easy to wonder if the Bruins were reliving a game–rather than a day–over again. If anything positive could be taken from the game it was the fact that they managed to get a critical point by forcing the game to overtime.
At the end of the first period, while shots on goal were even for both teams, the Bruins were ahead on the score sheet, off a wrist shot by Brad Marchand. The Leafs’ head coach, Mike Babcock felt that his goalie, James Reimer, had been impeded and exercised his Coach’s Challenge, but the call on the ice stood. As the second period pushed on the Leafs were outshooting Boston, so it was not a surprise when Daniel Winnik scored his fourth of the season with a tip-in. The period would end with the teams tied but the Bruins had managed to increase their pressure, ultimately outshooting the Leafs in those twenty minutes.
It looked like Boston was determined to get the win as they came out in the third period with Marchand getting his second of the night just 55 seconds into the final frame of regulation. That was followed 26 seconds later by David Krejci taking advantage of a rebound. Less than two minutes into the last period and the Bruins were up 3-1.
There was a time when that would have been enough to seal the deal on the game. They would have continued to push until the final horn, garnering the two points in regulation. However, the current team has given up too many two-goal leads this season. In fact, where once this was a guarantee of a win, this season it almost always results in a loss.
And that would be the case this time. While Marchand and Krejci were all about the wrist shots, the Leafs were all about the tip-ins, as Leo Komarov cut the Bruins’ lead in half at 9:02 of the third and then roughly two and a half minutes later Nazem Kadri would tie it up. All three of their goals were tip-ins and all three came from roughly the same spot.
“That’s what we need to work on. That’s what I’m trying to say, like when it’s three to one we need to be able to put a team away, and that’s something we need to figure out,” Kevan Miller shared postgame, with obvious frustration. “Every team’s capable of winning on any night, but I think it’s games that we should win, especially at home. We need to start getting that in order.”
As the teams took it to overtime, Krejci would get called just 1:48 into the extra inning for holding, giving the Leafs a 4-on-3 opportunity that they would capitalize on just 1:18 into the power play.
So just where is that team with the ability to keep pushing even when they are ahead?
“I thought we came out hard; we came out in the third period especially to win the game. We got two good goals. I feel like after that we stopped playing on our toes and we started playing on our heels,” Krejci explained. “But like I said I guess we stopped playing to win after we scored those two good goals.”
Responses from all the players in the Bruins locker room were edgy with frustration, and perhaps that is a good thing. The Big Bad Bruins—even the modern version—need emotion. Frustration may not be the optimum emotion, but it shows that they are aware of how things are progressing and how tenuous their position in the playoff race is if they continue to give up leads in this manner.
“You know, good teams, they put lots of games together. And it seems we play a few games good, then a few games we let slip away. So obviously we have a long way to be a great team,” Krejci summed up. “So we have to learn from those mistakes but this is the time to do it. We don’t want to be playing catch-up hockey in March or April. So any point is crucial and we definitely let this one slip away from us.”
For locker room interviews, see the video below: