Sports your connection to The Boston Globe

Bruins aren't better late, tie

Coach Mike Sullivan has held meetings with his players on the subject of how to play with a lead. The coaches have gone to the videotape. They've used the chalkboard. They've given specific examples, they've discussed general principles. What's next, demonstrations with puppets and ventriloquists? Guest speakers? Dream therapy?

Last night, the Bruins had the lead over the Phoenix Coyotes not once, not twice, but three times. And three times, they coughed it up late in a period and were forced to settle for a 3-3 overtime tie.

In the last four games, Boston is winless (0-2-1-1). Not coincidentally, the Bruins had the lead in three of them and couldn't hang on to it. The pattern speaks for itself and is troubling to the Bruins' first-year coach, particularly in how late the Coyotes' goals came.

"The last minute of periods are critical moments, without a doubt," said Sullivan. "We've got to learn the lesson and we've got to have better situational awareness. We've got to understand when those moments occur in a game and we have to play accordingly. We didn't do it tonight and it cost us."

The Bruins started well enough, striking first on forward Travis Green's second goal of the season. Defenseman Hal Gill had the puck in the neutral zone and chipped it up the ice into the Phoenix zone. From there it was a foot race between Green and Coyotes defenseman David Tanabe into the right circle. Green won it and skated to the net, beating goalie Sean Burke with a backhand shot from the top of the crease at 4:54.

Boston had a chance to build on that late in the period when Phoenix defenseman (and Belmont native) Paul Mara was whistled off for hooking at 18:11, giving the Bruins a power play. Instead, it was the Coyotes who cashed in. With 8.1 seconds remaining, left wing Tyson Nash fired a long lead pass for center Mike Sillinger. Sillinger skated into the right circle and fired a shot over the glove of Boston netminder Felix Potvin to tie it at 1-1. It was the first shorthanded goal of the season for Phoenix.

The teams exchanged goals in the second as well, heading into the third deadlocked at two apiece. Rookie center Patrice Bergeron gave the Bruins back the lead when he potted his sixth of the year at 5:58.

The Bruins could've given themselves some breathing room at 12:44 when the Coyotes were hit with a pair of minor penalties, giving the home club a five-on-three for two minutes. Despite six shots on goal and complete control of the power play, the Bruins couldn't get anything past Burke.

"When you get a two-minute five-on-three, the puck's got to end up in the net," said Sullivan. "That's the bottom line."

Instead, the Coyotes again scored late to tie it. Center Chris Gratton, who was the No. 3 overall pick in the draft in 1993 by Tampa Bay, potted his third of the year at 18:58.

For the third time in the game the Bruins went back on top, just 16 seconds into the final period, when right wing Glen Murray converted a feed from center Joe Thornton. Thornton stole the puck from Tanabe behind the Coyotes' net. He centered a pass to Murray, who was in the right circle, and Murray's hard, low shot beat Burke to the far side. It was Murray's eighth goal of the season and first in four games.

But once again, the last 60-odd seconds of the period came back to haunt them. This time, there were 68 ticks left on the clock when the Coyotes tied the contest for the final time. Sillinger beat Thornton on a faceoff in the right circle and Mara, at the right point, faked a shot, which seemed to freeze Potvin. Mara relayed it over to center Shane Doan at the other point and he beat Potvin at 18:52, sending the game into overtime.

The Bruins continue to insist no one is panicking. However, the longer this goes on, the more worried they are apt to become.

"It's getting annoying," said left wing Mike Knuble of his team's inability to put other teams away. "We should have an easier time of it. Every game has been a battle in its own right. We want to make it an easy time where we can play with a lead and finish it off."

last game
Last game / Sunday at home
 Box score         Game log
Next game
Wednesday at Atlanta, 7:30 p.m.
TV NESN Radio WBZ 1030 AM

Interact on

northeast standings
Toronto 12 6 5 2 31
Boston 11 4 4 4 30
Buffalo 11 11 2 1 25
Ottawa 9 8 2 3 23
Montreal 10 11 2 1 23
NESN highlights
11/27 2003 Nomar Bowl TV Special, 8:30 p.m.
11/27 Denis Leary Celebrity Hockey Special, 9 p.m.
11/27 Boston Globe SportsPlus, 10 p.m.
11/28 Bruins vs. Nashville, noon
 Complete monthly schedule
Globe Archives Sale Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months