WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Claude Julien could live with Winnipeg’s tying goal at 11:44 of the third period.
The winning goal, however, was not something the Bruins coach was willing to stomach after Tuesday night’s 3-1 loss to the Jets before 15,004 at the MTS Centre.
“To give them that next goal in the next minute shouldn’t be acceptable from our end of it,” said Julien. “We should be better than that.”
On the game-winning strike, the Bruins submitted a string of breakdowns all over the ice. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand failed to stand up Zach Bogosian in the neutral zone. Bogosian slipped a pass through center ice to Nik Antropov, who entered the offensive zone with speed to back up Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference.
Antropov’s shot went wide right and off the end boards. But Kyle Wellwood and Evander Kane won back-to-back races for the puck, which set up Grant Clitsome at the left point. Clitsome snapped a shot on goal. Tuukka Rask saw Clitsome’s release.
Rask wasn’t sure what happened next.
“I kind of saw the guy releasing it,” Rask said. “Then I lost it. Wellwood or somebody got a stick on it. Then somehow it was going through me. I moved just an inch. There was a guy waiting for a pass backdoor and it’s a goal.”
Rask couldn’t squeeze Clitsome’s shot. As the puck dribbled through Rask’s pads, Kane found a backdoor seam — Ference was occupied with Wellwood at the top of the crease — and slammed the puck home at 12:41 of the third, giving the Jets a 2-1 lead. Kane’s goal came just 57 seconds after Winnipeg’s tying goal.
In less than a minute, the Bruins’ solid road effort blew up in their faces.
“We let down for a little bit of time there and let them back in it,” Marchand said. “That can’t happen. We did play a pretty good game all night. We just let our foot off the pedal there a little bit, and they took advantage of it.”
It was the Bruins’ second straight regulation loss. They dropped a 2-1 game to Pittsburgh on Sunday. It is the first time in more than a calendar year that the Bruins have lost two straight games in regulation. They lost four consecutive regulation games from March 10-15, 2012.
But the more troubling aspect of Tuesday night’s setback was yet another third-period lead given away. The Bruins have lost four games this month in which they’ve led in the final 20 minutes. It has turned into habit more than happenstance.
“Not good enough,” Shawn Thornton said. “Everyone should be [ticked] off in here. It’s becoming a habit. It’s not acceptable.”
The Bruins held a 1-0 lead after 40 minutes, courtesy of a second-period Winnipeg giveaway that led to a Marchand goal.
Bryan Little beat Bergeron on the opening draw of the second period. Bogosian retrieved the puck and tried to start the breakout by going D-to-D to Ron Hainsey behind the Winnipeg net. But Bogosian’s pass caromed off the end boards and onto Marchand’s blade. Before Ondrej Pavelec could recover, Marchand tucked a backhander behind the goalie at 0:08 of the second for the game’s first goal.
“It just happened that I was pursuing the guy and I got a lucky bounce,” Marchand said. “Then it came out in front.”
Winnipeg kicked off its comeback after Jordan Caron was whistled for hooking at 10:07 of the third. On the power play, Blake Wheeler cut into the crease, opened up his blade, and tipped Bogosian’s shot over Rask’s glove at 11:44. Rask had no chance to flash his glove in time to turn back Wheeler’s bid.
“That’s a tough reaction save to make,” Rask said. “Sometimes you make those. Sometimes you don’t. Just a pretty good goal.”
Pavelec (27 saves) turned in a beauty. He submitted point-blank saves on Bergeron in the first period and Zdeno Chara in the third. Pavelec also had help from his posts. Bergeron struck iron in the second.
But the way the Bruins were grinding through 40 minutes, it appeared that one goal would be enough. The Bruins appeared to be gaining strength heading into the third. The Jets had their best push early in the first, but Rask (22 saves) was sharp.
A 57-second letdown was all it took to saddle the Bruins with another loss. They are 0-2-0 on their four-game road trip. On Thursday, they will play a scrappy Ottawa club that is cramming their rearview mirror. The banged-up Senators are only three points behind the Bruins for second place in the Northeast Division.
“The first half of the third period, we were doing all the right things,” Julien said. “We were getting pucks in deep, controlling the play. I felt good about that first half of the third. All of a sudden, we fall apart. We stop putting pucks in, turning pucks over. We’ve got to start making some strong plays. We need to be more composed in those areas. I certainly didn’t like that second goal. It really hurt us.”