Kings 3, Bruins 2 (OT)

La-La Land: Bruins let Kings take over

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / March 20, 2009
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So what will it take next time? A three-goal lead in the third period for the Bruins to scrape out a win?

For the second straight game, the battered Bruins blew a third-period lead. On Sunday, they had a 3-2 lead over Pittsburgh blow up into a 6-4 loss. Last night, they had a 2-0 advantage over a young Los Angeles team on the wrong side of the playoff chase in the Western Conference. But when you're wound as tight as a guitar string and your confidence is just one tap from shattering into shards, all it takes is a nudge of pressure for everything to pop.

Consider last night's 3-2 overtime loss before 17,565 at TD Banknorth Garden - many of whom turned into boo birds by the end - an implosion.

"Earlier in the season, we just knew we were going to win when we were in that kind of situation," said Tim Thomas, who made 35 saves. "I think now, we still believe we're going to win. But it's not 100 percent like it was earlier this year. It's not 100 percent confidence."

The loss underscored some ugly truths about the Bruins. They're playing scared. They're downright polite when they take leads. They think twice about turning in 60-minute efforts. And they're not committed to being as hungry and desperate as their opponents.

"A couple things have to happen," said coach Claude Julien, deep into his checklist of items in an attempt to revive his club. "Basically, all I have to say is that we're going to have to start outworking other teams from start to finish like we were earlier in the season. And your best players have to find their games and give it the best they can for us to get out of it."

With 10:10 remaining in regulation, Kings forward Michal Handzus, after gaining position in the crease, scored a power-play goal after Thomas stopped forward Teddy Purcell's initial shot.

Then with just more than 90 seconds to play, after goalie Jonathan Quick (24 saves) made a game-saving stop on Milan Lucic, defenseman Drew Doughty swept up the rebound and started the rush the other way against the wave-'em-in defense. Wayne Simmonds's first shot glanced off the right post, but Doughty, who had blown through the Boston perimeter, was on top of Thomas to slam in the rebound at 18:24.

LA's three-goal outburst ended with 34.2 seconds remaining in overtime, when captain Dustin Brown crashed the net and banged home a close-range shot, leaving the Bruins with a mere point when 2 looked like a sure thing.

"We know that things are not going that good for us right now," said Michael Ryder. "We've got to find a way to get out of it. We've got to make sure we get it back on track as soon as possible."

One of the most disturbing aspects of the loss was that the Bruins were so strong in the first half of the game. They shuttled pucks out of their zone. They played their puck-possession game in the offensive zone by setting up a strong forecheck and cycling the puck around the LA defensemen. Matt Hunwick put the Bruins on the scoreboard at 14:41 of the first.

Early in the second, Chuck Kobasew sparked a scoring sequence by belting Jack Johnson into the end boards and forcing the defenseman to cough up the puck. Kobasew dished to Patrice Bergeron, who slipped a pass to Mark Recchi under a backchecking Anze Kopitar for Boston's second goal at 3:48.

"I think if we were, we'd be winning hockey games," said Julien, when asked if enough of his players were competing like Kobasew. "He hits, he makes plays, he goes to the net. That's what he does very well. That second goal was all a result of his forecheck, finishing his check behind the net, and turning the puck over. That's how he ended up getting that second goal. It's about winning races, winning battles, and making plays."

And that's when the Bruins decided to quit. At 6:00 of the second, LA heavyweight Raitis Ivanans was sent off for slashing, giving the Bruins their first power play.


Just more than three minutes later, Ivanans was back in the box, this time for boarding Andrew Ference.


"That's the thing in the second period that really hurt us a lot," Julien said. "We were doing well. Your power play gets an opportunity to hopefully get you a goal at some point. Even if it's not a goal, it's got to be momentum. But our power play was totally flat tonight and took away the momentum, I thought. If anything, our PK had better scoring chances than our power play tonight."

Up next: New Jersey, arguably the most fearsome team in the East, swaggers into the Garden Sunday.

"Teams are playing with confidence against us," Thomas said. "It seems to me, whether we're at home or on the road, teams are coming up against us, and it's almost like they've got the upper hand already because they're the more confident team. That's what it seems like. That wasn't the case earlier this year."

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