The Boston Bruins blew another third period lead and lost again in extra time, falling 2-1 in overtime to the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday night at TD Garden. Columbus winger Pierre-Luc Dubois scored his 14th goal of the season 52 ticks into the extra frame as he finished off a 2-on-1 with defenseman Seth Jones and ripped a one-timer by Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask to hand the Bruins their second straight loss, after winning three straight games.
Despite the loss, the Bruins (24-7-11, 59 points) actually tied the idle Washington Capitals (27-9-5, 59 points) for the most points in not just the Eastern Conference but the NHL by getting a point. They also extended their point streak to nine games going 4-0-5 over that stretch. However, they once again failed to get that second point and that leads us into the first and most important of our Five Takeaways.
Bruins Squandering Valuable Points
At this point, the Bruins may be wondering if they’re better off just conceding the second point every time they go to overtime and saving everyone in the arena some time to get home earlier. The Bruins lost their sixth straight extra session game Thursday night and are now 2-11 when the game goes past 60 minutes. They’re 2-5 in overtime and 0-6 in the shootout. They have not won in overtime since November 29 when they beat the New York Rangers 3-2 in the annual Black Friday game.
With the start the Bruins had in October and November and the distance they created in the Atlantic Division standings by December, complacency likely set in and settling for just a point didn’t seem like a big deal. Well, don’t look now but the Toronto Maple Leafs are 8-1-1 in their last ten games and the Tampa Bay Lightning appeared to have got their act together well as they won their fifth straight game Thursday with a 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens and are 7-2-1 in their last ten contests.
The third place Bolts still trail the Bruins by 11 points and the second place Leafs trail by eight points. That’s still a solid cushion on both for the Bruins but if and when they hit another stretch where they fail to get any points, these lost points in overtime and the shootout could come back to haunt them. Even if the Leafs and Lightning can’t catch the Bruins, these extra time losses will eventually hurt their chance at the top seed in the East and the President’s Trophy. That appeared to finally be weighing on some of the Bruins players’ minds following the loss Thursday.
“It’s frustrating,” said forward David Pastrnak who scored the lone Bruins goal Thursday. “There have been plenty of them this year…probably getting a little bit in our head.”
Well, if the Bruins don’t want to have to go through Washington DC on what they hope will be another run to the Stanley Cup Final or even worse, start to look over their shoulders and have to hold on tight to win the division, they better start finding ways to win after the 60-minute siren sounds.
Pastrnak Hits 30-Goal Mark Again
With his second period powerplay goal that gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead 11:07 into the second period, Pastrnak hit the 30-goal plateau for the fifth straight season. Unlike the past four seasons though, the Bruins sniper accomplished the feat in just 42 games, the fastest since Bruins President and hall of famer Cam Neely did it in 27 games in the 1993-94 season. Pastrnak leads the NHL in goals and powerplay goals with 14 lamplighters on the man advantage. As long as he stays healthy, there’s no reason he can’t become the first Bruin to score 50 goals since Neely did it in 49 games that same season.
Another Gem Between The Pipes Wasted
In their last two games the Bruins have not just given away the lead and the extra point but they’ve done so despite their goalie playing brilliantly between the pipes. On Tuesday, Jaro Halak made 42 saves in regulation and overtime and stopped four of six in the shootout but still took the loss thanks to his teammates in front of him. His goalie mate Rask had to be feeling similar frustration Thursday as he turned aside 31 of 33 Blue Jackets shots and did everything he could to help the Bruins not lose again. Well, let’s just say the Bruins positional players are going to be buying rounds for their two netminders on the road for a bit now until they find a way to stop wasting great games from Rask and Halak.
The Bruins powerplay is arguably their best weapon right now as they have now registered a powerplay goal in nine straight games and scored 11 lamplighters on the man advantage during that span. Even without the services of defensemen Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy in the last three games prior to Thursday, the powerplay was clicking. With Krug and McAvoy back Thursday that only made the Bruins harder to defend with the extra man. Krug made an immediate impact feeding Pastrnak for that blast from the point. If the Bruins can clean up their mistakes late in games and be harder to play against in the final ten minutes of play, they will likely draw some late powerplays and have a better chance to avoid going past the 60-minute mark.
Mixed Reviews For Krug, McAvoy, And Krejci In Returns
Krug and McAvoy returned to the Bruins’ blue line after missing three games with upper-body injuries and center David Krejci came back after missing just the last game with a lower-body injury. Krug had the best game of the three returnees with an assist and plus-1 rating in 20:39 TOI. He did have one giveaway but overall he was a positive factor and helped alleviate some of the extra work his usual defensive partner Brandon Carlo had been doing in Krug’s and McAvoy’s absence.
McAvoy played a physical game but at times it was more of a reckless physicality as he seemed more focused on the hit and took some unnecessary risks. He played a team-high 25 minutes but was on the ice for both Blue Jackets goals. His errant clear around the boards from down low, led to Blue Jackets forward Sonny Milano tying the game 2:06 into the final frame.
Krejci also finished at a minus 2 in 15:18 TOI and didn’t register a shot.
Cassidy clearly used McAvoy’s and Krug’s returns to spell some relief for Carlo and Zdeno Chara who had been playing north of 25 minutes in each game McAvoy and Krug missed. Chara only played 17:14 and Carlo finished at 21:55.