The script was pretty similar to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals last May, but this one had a different finish.
After trailing 4-2, Gregory Campbell pulled the Bruins within one at 9:35 of the third period. The Bruins had the energy on their side, but couldn’t net the equalizer and fell to the struggling Maple Leafs by a final of 4-3 in front of the 190th consecutive sellout crowd at the TD Garden Tuesday night.
The Maple Leafs weren’t the only ones who were struggling heading into Tuesday’s contest as some of the Bruins’ sore spots in recent weeks continued to haunt them. Here are three takeaways from the contest.
Special team woes continue
The penalty kill struggles without Dennis Seidenberg have been well documented in recent weeks. It was no different on this night as the shorthanded unit allowed two goals on four Maple Leafs’ power plays.
The breakdowns were evident as the Leafs frequently got behind the Bruins’ D and put them on their heels - as seen with Tyler Bozak’s tally at 12:47 of the first, his second of the game. And then there’s Tuukka Rask, who let up a couple of soft goals, including Jake Gardnier’s marker at 7:09 of the second - the eventual game-winner - and could not make the big save(s) when it mattered most.
Those are just two examples of how far the Bruins’ penalty kill has fallen in recent weeks as they’ve allowed six power play goals in the last four games.
“Too many breakdowns,” said Patrice Bergeron, who tallied his 11th of the season at 10:48 of the first to give the B’s a 2-1 lead. “But also I think we’re forcing plays that we shouldn’t and sometimes we’re not in sync. We’re not forcing where all guys go as a whole and obviously when there’s only one guy going that opens up too many lanes and they’re going to eat you alive.”
On the flip side, the Bruins’ power play, which has taken great strides after a few years of futility, has seemingly become the powerless play again. They failed to convert on three of their chances and are now scoreless in their last 16 attempts with the man advantage.
It’s one thing when one of the special teams units struggles. But when the opposition is catching flaws in the shorthanded and power play units, it becomes difficult to win on a given night, especially in the National Hockey League.
“There’s a lot of games that are won with a power play goal or a penalty kill being solid,” Campbell said about the special team struggles. “It’s an area that the individuals put in the situation have to take pride in because it’s a privilege to be on the power play and penalty kill.”
Second period also continues to be a sore spot
A good 60-minute effort is something that every team preaches. At least for two periods - the first and third - the Bruins have dominated play. But their performance in the middle stanza is still a little troublesome.
Those second period struggles continued on Tuesday as the Leafs outshot the Bruins 13-11 in the middle stanza and garnered momentum after Gardiner’s goal. That momentum quickly carried over into the third when James van Reimsdyk netted his 18th goal of the season just 60 seconds into the final frame.
That was enough for the flu-ridden Leafs as they weathered a late Boston surge and earned their first victory over their Atlantic Division rivals in 2013-14.
“We lost the first two against them this season so they have a good team,” said Toronto goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who made 38 saves in the win, including 14 in the third. “I thought we kind of stayed composed and we took care of the middle and they got a few shots on the outside in the end.”
Bruins can’t follow through after San Jose victory
After a physical and impressive win in San Jose - a game that also saw the return of Loui Eriksson and Shawn Thornton - the Bruins had a golden opportunity to take care of the slumping Maple Leafs - who only won twice in regulation in their last 26 prior to Tuesday’s meeting - and head on a two-game road trip to Dallas and Chicago on a high note. That, however, was not the case.
Instead of building some momentum, the Bruins now have some questions they need to answer before their meeting with Tyler Seguin and the Stars Thursday night. Can they fix the special teams issues? Do they have enough in the tank to play a good 60 minutes? Does Rask need some rest? If so, will they go with Chad Johnson, or call up Niklas Svedberg?
We may find out what this team is made off. And they can put some short-term doubts aside with a couple of wins over a resurging squad and the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
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