Lowly Coyotes take a hunk out of revamped Bruins
The Bruins made a couple of good, astute trades Wednesday, thinking a lineup jolt could get their game going again. Lift up the hood, apply jumper cables, turn key, and get your motor running.
Fine idea, but the first night out on the road was full of potholes, most of them created by their own inconsistent play.
The Phoenix Coyotes, their lineup packed with new arrivals and NHL newbies, dealt the Bruins a 2-1 loss at the Garden last night, parlaying goals by Scottie Upshall and Steven Reinprecht into only their 28th win of the season. The Bruins opened with a strong 10 minutes in the first period, then really didn't get their game going again until the third, proving once more that an inconsistent, inattentive effort isn't enough to beat even one of the NHL's weakest franchises.
"It's evident now that we are not winning hockey games because we are not playing the full 60 minutes," said second-year left winger Milan Lucic, who totaled a game-high six hits in his return from an undisclosed injury. "Most goals scored at this time of the year are scored by going to the net and chipping away, and we've got to do more of that."
"It's frustrating," added center Patrice Bergeron. "We have to figure out what's going on, bear down, and start winning battles. We lost it at the end of the first period. It wasn't any good in the second. The third was better, we started to win more bat tles, but . . ."
The Coyotes, aggressive in the trade market themselves Wednesday, moved to a 2-1 lead at 7:52 of the second when Nigel Dawes, just acquired from the Rangers in the Derek Morris swap, dished across the crease for Reinprecht to bang the puck by Tim Thomas at the open right side of the net.
The strike proved to be the winner, despite the fact the Bruins outshot the Coyotes, 17-7 (including 11-4 in the third period), the remainder of the night. Bruins coach Claude Julien, after watching his squad stumble around for the first 40 minutes, changed up his lines in the third period. The changes brought the desired change in play, but not the required finish around the net.
For a month now, the Bruins have been searching for their scoring touch, but it has only been there in spurts. They finished with 26 shots last night, the third time in the last four outings they failed to collect 30 shots on net. Overall, the effort was better, but only in spurts, and the offensive flow followed in frustrating lockstep.
"No reason in the world we can't score more than one goal," said a frustrated Julien, his forwards lacking not only in finish, but in net presence, the critical element of being able to stake out territory in prime scoring areas. "Right now we are in between everything."
A month ago, Julien's charges looked as if they would run off and hide in the Eastern Conference and perhaps set a franchise record for points in a season. Now they are 42-14-3-9, for 93 points, with the Devils only 6 points in arrears.
Overall, the first 40 minutes had the Bruins looking only slightly more charged than during their passionless 4-2 loss Tuesday night here to the Flyers. They hustled a little more, but the speed didn't equate to quality, meaningful play. Not false hustle, but unproductive hustle. The Garden crowd of 16,818 treated them to a smattering of boos after the second period.
"I feel talk is cheap right now," said Julien. "We have to go out and execute."
The Bruins also were loose in their defensive end, leading to both Coyotes goals. Upshall, also acquired in the league-wide Wednesday swap meet, didn't get touched as he rushed across the crease at 12:01 of the first period and potted a backhander for the 1-1 equalizer. Boston blue liner Dennis Wideman lost the puck along the defensive blue line, allowing Joakim Lindstrom to dish over for Upshall to carry home.
Wideman again missed a chance on the Coyotes' second goal, failing to take out Dawes before he dished across for the Reinprecht goal.
The Bruins appeared to be off to a promising start with 7:09 gone in the first when Chuck Kobasew cranked off a shot from the top rim of the left circle and watched it trickle through Ilya Bryzgalov's pads for the 1-0 lead. Linemate P.J. Axelsson contributed with a clever screen near the left post, jumping out from behind the net as Kobasew clicked off what turned into his 15th goal of the season.
But that's about where the good times ended. Zdeno Chara buried newcomer Petr Prucha with a big hit at 10:02 of the first, setting up the Coyotes' power-play goal, and setting up the night for failure.
"It's not for lack of effort," said veteran center Marc Savard. "But we've got to start putting the puck in the net."
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.