RALEIGH, NC – It’s difficult to win hockey games when there are new and different problems sprouting up each and every night.
Sometimes it might be finishing off offensive plays, and at other points it might be a soft goal or a bad penalty taken at the most inopportune time. On Saturday night, even the NHL’s top-rated penalty-kill unit betrayed the Bruins in a 4-2 loss to a struggling Carolina Hurricanes club that had won only once in its previous 15 games.
The Black and Gold allowed a pair of power-play goals to the Hurricanes in their worst performance of the year; the only other time the B’s allowed two PP goals this season was when the Tampa Bay Lightning had eight chances on the man advantage on March 2. Carolina's power play, ranked 26th in the league, had just three chances and was able to score on twice.
That sort of special teams' breakdown had Claude Julien completely mystified after the game.
“We had some brain cramps at times . . . some mistakes on the PK were not helpful either," said the Bruins coach, adding: "But those are things that we’re dealing with. There are some good things we’re doing, but there are also some brain cramps and decision-making that has to be better.”
The first power-play goal was the fault of both the PK unit and goalie Tuukka Rask, who couldn’t contain Alex Semin’s original shot on net and allowed Jeff Skinner to fling a puck at Rask’s back from the bottom of the left circle. The puck bounced off Rask and into the back of the net before the recovering goalie was able to seal off the near post.
The second PP goal was the game-winner in the third period: Joe Corvo wound up from the top of the left circle and unleashed a bomb that Rask would probably like to get another chance to swallow up. Both revealed some blemishes that Boston’s coaching staff would like to clean up.
“We’re starting to turn that corner and I think we’re getting better. But this is the last two weeks and this is where it’s got to happen,” said Julien. “I sense some things coming along, but we just need to push in some areas we need improved: the positioning, giving guys too much time before we get on them and seam passes that should have been covered. On the one-timer, that seam should have been covered.
“You are seeing some good things, and then every once in a while you see a play and you wonder ‘Why are we thinking that way?’ We just need to get a little bit sharper.”
Instead the Bruins PK wasn’t sharp enough and helped earn the B’s their second straight loss, and another wasted opportunity to claim first place in the Northeast Division and clinch a playoff spot at the same time. It’s a safe bet the Bruins penalty kill won’t have many more games like this, and they’d better not given how much Boston relies on them to be automatic with so many other areas to be concerned about.