TORONTO – While the Bruins were voicing some frustration about their latest loss, against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, it seemed like some pent up frustration about a poor four-game road trip spilled out as they headed back to Boston.
The Bruins dropped three of four games on a road swing through Pittsburgh and Canada, punctuated by a 3-2 loss to the Leafs at Air Canada Centre where Boston outshot Toronto by a 33-13 margin over 60 frustrating minutes. The B’s finally seemed to get the memo about playing with desperation once Anton Khudobin was pulled in the third period after giving up his third goal of the night.
Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference potted point shots to close the Bruins to within one goal, but it was too little and way too late for any chance at two points. Coach Claude Julien said following the defeat that the Bruins didn’t deserve to win the game, and that was a point nobody was arguing.
“[It was a frustrating loss] for a lot of reasons,” said Julien. “We had a chance to win this game. We had some chances that we missed . . . an open net in the first period. We hit a couple of posts. It was frustrating because we [only] played in the third period after it was already 3-0.
“There was enough fight in us tonight to deserve the win. We need to continue to battle. Once we find a way to play three periods like we did when we fell behind 3-0, then we’ll be okay. The way we gave up goals were mistakes, and the last goal we have up was a weak goal. I had to give our team a jolt somehow, so I put Tuukka [Rask] back in there [in place on Anton Khudobin]. We seemed to play a little more of our game after that, but we shouldn’t be waiting for things like to happen. Those are things I didn’t like from our hockey club.”
The empty net Julien was speaking of belonged to Nathan Horton, who seemingly had an eternity to shoot a loose puck in front of the Toronto net at the end of the first period. But Horton couldn’t pull the trigger on the slow developing play and it became a symbol of the lackadaisical 40 minutes of hockey Boston started out playing.
Then there was his power forward partner, Milan Lucic, who had zero shots and only one hit in 17:22 of ice time while only showing any emotion when he snapped his stick in half after slamming it into the bench following an offensive zone turnover. The Bruins take so much of their emotion and energy from their hard-hitting power forward, but Lucic has looked lost while going without a goal in his last 15 games.
“Guys are aware they haven’t scored in a while. They’d like nothing more than to get that monkey off their back,” said Seidenberg. “We just didn’t really want it bad enough and that’s why we lost.”
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara didn’t play badly in his 25:04 of ice time, but he was on ice for a sloppy sequence in the third period when Toronto enforcer Frazer McLaren found a way to push a puck through Khudobin’s pads to give the Leafs a 3-0 lead. That led to Khudobin getting yanked from the game.
But Chara was sitting at his stall waiting for the media once the dressing doors opened, and he appeared as angry as he’s been after any defeat this season. Boston dropped games to the Penguins, Jets and Maple Leafs on the four game road trip and managed only six total goals in the four games. The Bruins had every reason to play with urgency and emotion-fueled passion so they could finish the lackluster four game trip with a .500 record, but, save for a few exceptions, it wasn’t there.
“For sure, it was a lack of energy and jump in our game," said Chara. "Maybe [we needed] a little more desperation. We were close to scoring a few times, so maybe it was [squeezing our sticks] and maybe it wasn’t. It didn’t seem to be a problem later on [in the third period].
“We need to put this game behind us, regroup and get ready for the same opponent at home. We know with this team that we’re capable of playing a lot better and with a lot more desperation.”
The Bruins displayed plenty of desperation during their two chances to kill penalties, and that might have been their best stretches of hockey over the entire 60 minutes. They were a more determined team once the goalie was pulled in the third period and they were down three goals.
There was no excuse for the Bruins to not come firing out of the gate against Toronto playing that way. At least they didn’t try to make any in a postgame locker room at Air Canada Centre where only Chara, Seidenberg, Matt Bartkowski and the two goaltenders came out to hold themselves accountable in defeat.