The Bruins did not bid adieu to all of their recent worries and wants Monday night, but they did brush aside the Maple Leafs, despite falling into a 2-0 deficit in the second period, despite never playing with a lead, and despite squandering a 55-gallon drum of scoring opportunities that could — emphasize could — have made for a much easier night on their road to recovery.
Sparked by goals from Milan Lucic (his first in forever-and-a-day-and-a-half) and Patrice Bergeron (with 9:24 to go in regulation), the Bruins pinned a 3-2 loss on the Leafs with the help of shootout goals by Tyler Seguin and the ever-steady Bergeron. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask sealed it in the shootout, allowing only one goal (Tyler Bozak) and turning back Nazem Kadri and Nikolai Kulemin to pocket the two points.
“To me, it was a gutsy effort,’’ said Boston coach Claude Julien, his club having gone stale in a recent 1-3-0 road trip. “Not a pretty effort, but a gutsy one.’’
Not pretty: the Bruins took 69 shots and landed only 29. Not pretty: the Bruins owned the faceoff dot (63 percent success rate), possessed the puck much of the night, but failed to turn those pennies into profit. If they were a baseball team, the box score undoubtedly would show that they left 18, 19, or 20 on base, maybe hit into five double plays.
These days, they do all the work, often lethargically, but they don’t find a way to score. Not pretty: they went 0 for 2 on the power play vs. the Leafs and now stand 0 for 11 on the advantage in the last five games. They may have to hop in a cab, drop the power play off at MIT, and hope some mathematical wunderkind can offer a cure, or at least suggest a way to get a five-man body in motion to stay in motion.
Truth is, there is little beauty in Boston’s game at the moment. By Julien’s eye, his club has gone “a little heavy now in our play.’’ That heavy, he explained, is coachspeak for “tired,’’ the insidious creep of fatigue that was inevitable throughout the league after the protracted lockout that ended in January.
When the labor impasse ended, everyone in the Original 30 was left to play 48 games in a little over 100 days. The Bruins now stand 21-7-3, with their age-old nemesis, the Canadiens, due on Causeway Street Wednesday night.
In other words, there is no letup for a team in serious need of giddyup. No surprise, then, that Julien ordered his charges away from the rink Tuesday. Time to rest, hope for a recharge.
“We’ve lost our speed and everything else that comes with it,’’ noted Julien. “Nothing is as quick as it has been. We are trying to figure it out, if there is a fatigue factor. We are a little tired and we have to look into that. We are a little tired now, that’s our assessment.’’
For the better part of a month, if not more, Lucic has been the franchise’s face and legs of fatigue. But he finally had the latter moving against the Leafs, especially once the visitors grabbed the 2-0 lead in the second on goals by Joffrey Lupul (PP) and then Kulemin (on a breakaway triggered by Kadri’s home run pass up the middle). Lucic began the night on a new line with Rich Peverley and Jordan Caron, and they were his linemates when he finally scored only his fifth goal (first since Feb. 24) at 9:49 of the second. He powered into the zone on Peverley’s slick dish in the neutral zone and zipped his shot through James Reimer.
“Once he gets going,’’ said captain Zdeno Chara, “and gets the puck in his speed [stride], there’s not many that can stop him. Nice that he got it going and got rewarded. Once he scored, [something like that] can spark the whole body.’’
More sparks needed, of course. One goal, on a night when he took five shots (two on net), doesn’t guarantee that Lucic has been fully revived. But he also hardly has been alone in the land of the walking unproductive. Nathan Horton went without a shot on net. He has but one goal in March. Seguin also did not hit the net. Those two highly-paid, coveted forwards combined for nearly 36 minutes in ice time and left the night with 0-0—0 to show. Seguin, though, did connect in the shootout.
Bergeron’s tying goal came on a play that had the Leafs sporting more breakdowns than a ’63 Studebaker. Eventually, Dougie Hamilton (0-0—0 in his previous 10 games), the player deepest in the Toronto end (see: ’63 Studebaker), passed off the rear wall to an awaiting Bergeron in the right wing circle. Time stood still. As did Toronto defenseman Dion Phaneuf. Bergeron made the quick pot, with Phaneuf flailing his stick like an old man searching Revere Beach with a metal detector, and the stage was primed for overtime.
The Bruins left with two points, the Leafs with one, on a night that Toronto could show 28:32 in lead time and the Bruins could show 00:00. Ah, the shootout, the wonder of it all.