Following some clever puck movement by Dennis Seidenberg and Joe Corvo, a textbook screen by Brad Marchand, and a crisp power-play snapper by Rich Peverley, the Bruins had cut their deficit against the Hurricanes to 2-1 in last night’s third period.
TD Garden was pulsing with the energy from Peverley’s goal, which busted an 0-for-22 power-play skid. The rink was still buzzing from a third-period Chris Kelly KO of Brett Sutter, which followed a second-period dustup between Zdeno Chara and Jay Harrison.
Then, Nathan Horton decided it was the perfect time to take 14 minutes worth of game-changing penalties. At 10:30 of the third, Horton rag-dolled Tim Gleason in front of the Carolina net. He was called for a roughing double minor and a 10-minute misconduct. Horton wasn’t available for comment after the game.
“A bit of stickwork, he turned around, and went back at him,’’ coach Claude Julien said of the Horton-Gleason encounter. “Didn’t engage, but he chose to stay in the battle.’’
Already down a man, the Bruins continued to file to the penalty box. There was a Chara high-sticking penalty at 11:48, one that Julien believed Jeff Skinner sold to the refs to get the call. A 10-minute Marchand misconduct for getting in Skinner’s face. A Dennis Seidenberg boarding call at 12:10.
So while the Bruins were busy taking pinheaded penalties, the Hurricanes poured in a pair of power-play goals, blowing a 2-1 game into a 4-1 rout before 17,565 at the Garden. The Bruins are 2-4-0, their game and their tempers lost and nowhere to be found.
“We have to take that responsibility upon ourselves and understand the referees have a job to do,’’ Julien said. “I’m sure I’m going to hear later on what was said or why those things happened. You know what? We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot here. We’ve got to battle through it. It’s not what we are right now. It’s what we’re not.’’
The Bruins are at their best when they are angry. Last season, they had three whoppers when their tempers led to fisticuffs: Dallas, Atlanta, and Montreal. Their opponents poked the nest, and the Bruins responded with their fists as well as their sticks.
Last night, they finally showed some emotion. But they crossed the line, taking 72 penalty minutes compared with Carolina’s 22. They devolved into a goon squad instead of a hard-nosed, edgy, tough-to-play-against club.
“I have no problem seeing guys get emotional and get physical,’’ defenseman Andrew Ference said. “But as long as it’s not every night, you’re behind, and you’re just reacting to frustrations.’’
Through the five previous games, the Bruins had played like they didn’t want to spill any of the tea they were seemingly sipping during their shifts. Certainly nothing that qualified as anger. So at 14:19 of the second, with the Bruins facing a 2-0 deficit (goals by Anthony Stewart and Joni Pitkanen), Chara decided it was time to deliver a punt in the rear to his teammates.
Harrison and Horton had been jousting in front of Cam Ward. Chara jumped into the mix, targeted Harrison, and started a fight. Chara was called for instigating, fighting, and a 10-minute misconduct - in hindsight, 17 of the smarter PIMs the captain has taken.
“Nathan was involved, and I was trying to stick up for him,’’ Chara said. “I ran in. It just happened.’’
Tempers flared once more at 10:30 of the third. The primary spark was Milan Lucic, who traded shots with Gleason, his long-time nemesis. Bryan Allen jumped into the mix and gave Lucic some jabs.
But the fireworks took place between Kelly and Sutter. The two had grabbed each other during the Lucic-Gleason-Allen skirmish. As grapples often do, the Kelly-Sutter dance blew up into a fight. The mild-mannered Kelly got the best of Sutter in his first fight as a Bruin. It was little coincidence that the Bruins netted a power-play goal 29 seconds later.
The equalizer never came. Instead, the Bruins racked up 30 penalty minutes, the most crucial the four tagged to Horton. The Hurricanes, gifted with three five-on-three advantages, buried two of them (goals by Eric Staal and Tuomo Ruutu) behind Tuukka Rask (19 saves).
Even Julien got into the act. After Lucic was tagged with a 10-minute misconduct at 16:16, Julien was given a game misconduct. It was unclear whether Paul Devorski or Wes McCauley had given Julien the gate.
“I wish I knew. I really wish I knew,’’ Julien said when asked why he’d been tossed. “I guess when they announced the misconduct to Lucic, I just shook my head. I guess that was merit for being kicked out. That’s all I can come up with.’’
By night’s end, the Garden ice was stained by the beverages chucked onto the sheet by angry fans. It was all-around ugliness - an embarrassing end to what could have been a different outcome had the Bruins kept their emotions in check.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.