Haggerty: Bruins waste golden chance to take control

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Haggerty: Bruins waste golden chance to take control

The Bruins had their Black and Golden chance to end any Northeast Division hopes for the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.But they couldnt locate their killer instinct in time and once again the offense failed them without Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley.

With a regulation victory the Bruins could have built up a five-point lead on the Sens with an imposing four games in hand, but it wasnt meant to be and things will continue to be interesting with 21 games to go for the Bs.

Thats because the Bruins simply didnt show up for the first 40 minutes of a vitalgame against Ottawa in their own backyard on the heels ofa marathon six-game road trip, and dropped an anemic 1-0 decision to the Sens. It was their fifth shutout loss in 13 games during the month of February, and left the Bs with an abysmal 5-8 record foran entire month that's now in the books.

We knew it was a huge game, said Patrice Bergeron. I think we could have been a lot better in the first two periods. Still we were still in the game only one goal down in the third period, but we couldnt find a way to get the back of the net.

Its almost fitting thats how it ended for the Bruins, who cant seem to snap out of a funk thats been ongoing since the Bs lost their mojo in a loss to the Canucks back in early January. The Bs have now failed in nine straighttries to win consecutive games since Jan. 12, and continue to wade in the waters of .500 mediocrity.

If the Bruins could have captured two points in regulation things would have been pretty bleak for the upstart Senators: the Bs would have forced the Senators into a situation where theyd need to have a 12-3 record in their final 15 games to catch up to a Boston team playing no better than.500 hockey over their final 21 games.

Those first two periods were really painful to watch and to see. Our guys just didnt have any legs, our game was very, very slow . . . even on face-offs. We just struggled in all areas, said Claude Julien, confirming what everybody else knew. All of a sudden we redeemed ourselves on face-offs, our game picked up in the third, we found our legs and hopefully thats a good sign for next game.

Certainly this was a game we would have liked to have won. We knew the importance of these two points, or what they call a four-point game. We just couldnt muster up enough to get that goal.

But now theyve left the door ajar for a Senators team thats got a host of young players like Erik Karlsson, Kyle Turris and Colin Greening gaining confidence as the postseason approaches. Thats an issue when it appears the Bruins and Senators are girding for a potential first-round battle as the No. 2 and No. 7 seed respectively. Early statements are being made now between the two hockey clubs, and last night wasn't a good one for the B's.

The problem is theres little cushion against the streaking Sens now with Ottawa just a single point behind Boston in the standings, and now theres no psychological advantage for Boston. It's extremely un-Bruins-like to have Joe Corvo toss out veiled threats to a Kyle Turris and then fail to follow up when it counts on the ice --even if it was in terms of physicality and intensity rather than literally dropping the gloves. It all start in the third period of Saturday's win over Ottawa when Chris Neil knocked Johnny Boychuk out of the lineup and then tossed Zdeno Chara to the ice in an ensuing fight. The Bruins haven't responded since that challenge.

The Ottawa winsnapped an eight-game losing streak for the Senators against the Bruins dating back to 2010, and gives them thatsliver of confidence they can beat the Bs in their own backyard even ifTim Thomas is standing on his head.

Thomas was the best Bruin on the ice while making 37 saves against the Sens including an acrobatic number against Erik Condra as he was scrambling toward the net after a carom off the end boards. Thomas madea tough stop on a rebound after Matt Gilroy had smacked a point slapper off his mask in the second period, and snuffed out a Nick Foligno chance sneakily sent through the crease.Thomas stopped just about everything he could.

While the Bs had a built-in excuse with tired legs in their first game on home ice after an 11-day, six-game road swing through distant harbors like Minnesota and Winnipeg, there was no alibi for the teams first 40 minutes. Thomas didnt want to hear the road trip excuses.

I dont think it makes a difference whether youre coming home from a road trip or leaving for a road trip the next day . . . or youve been home for two weeks. Each game it doesnt matter, said Thomas. Your job is to show up and be ready to do the best you can that night and, so, thats what we all try to do.

Aside from a couple of bang-bang Patrice Bergeron-to-Tyler Seguin chances early in the first period, there was no offensive jump while the Bruins finished second to nearly every puck battle.

Daniel Alfredsson sat camped in front of Thomas crease screening him at every opportunity and helped set up Erik Karlssons power play bomb by jumping up in the way of the Bs goaltenders sight line. The Bruins managed only seven shots against a young Robin Lehner in only his third NHL start this season, and had big-bodied Milan Lucic camped on the half-wall rather than in front of the net during their power play chances.

There was no urgency, no energy and nothing resembling intensity for the Bruins. It was made all the more apparent when thedormant B'sfinally flipped the switch with 17 shots on goal in a frenzied final 20 minutes. The hockey gods thankfully didnt reward the Bruins with an overtime point because they surely didnt deserve it.

When the Bruins are going well they crush the oppositions spirit with dominant third periods; when theyre struggling the Bruins can try to negate weak starts to their games with a desperate final period of work.

It was definitely more of the latter than the former against the Senators in their home-and-home rematch. Now they must move on and keep collecting two-point decisions with the full knowledge they couldnt close the deal on Ottawa when given their shining chance.

We do have four games in hand as they have got 17 games left I think and weve got 21. At this time of year its up to us to just do the job, said Julien. This is an opportunity for us to have those games in hand and to take advantage of it. I dont think Im really worried about Ottawa, as you say worry about yourself and just do the job. Well be fine.

Those could be famous last words if the Bruins cant shake free of the malaise that allowed the Senators to scratch their way back into the picture in the first place.

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics make big plays down the stretch

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics make big plays down the stretch

BOSTON – When the fourth quarter rolled around on Friday night, the Boston Celtics found themselves in a down-to-the-wire fight with the Sacramento Kings. 

It was the kind of game that in the past has brought out the scrappy, get-it-done-somehow brand of basketball that has in many ways come to define the Celtics under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens. 

And it was on full display Friday night as the Celtics made all the big plays at both ends of the floor down the stretch to beat the Sacramento Kings, 97-92. 

After Sacramento cut Boston’s lead to 90-87, Al Horford drained a 3-pointer to make it a two-possession game again. 

Isaiah Thomas came up with a pair of free throws that turned out to be huge, because shortly after he made them the Kings got a 3-pointer from DeMarcus Cousins that made it a 95-92 game.

The Kings had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth when Horford was credited with his sixth block of the game, this time on DeMarcus Cousins.

Horford was immediately fouled and went to the free throw line where he sealed the victory by making a pair.

Those were the kind of plays we saw often last season being made by the Celtics who finished in a tie for the third-best record in the East. 

This year, not so much. 

“For the most part we got what we wanted (in the fourth quarter) and we got the stops we needed even,” Thomas said. 

Which is the kind of game Jae Crowder and the rest of the guys who have been here awhile, have grown accustomed to.

“We got back to being the aggressive team,” Crowder said. “We came out and imposed our will early; that helped. But if the game comes down to what it was tonight, we have to be the team that comes out on top. It was like a playoff game, real physical. We have to grit it out, grind it out.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Friday night’s game.

 

STARS

Al Horford

So this is what an ultra-aggressive Al Horford looks like? The four-time All-Star had a season-high 26 points which included knocking down four three-pointers to go with eight rebounds and six blocked shots – yes, six blocked shots.

DeMarcus Cousins

While his fiery temper hasn’t died down completely, his incredible offensive skills and brute strength is what folks are talking more about, finally. He led the Kings with a game-high 28 points to go with nine rebounds, three assists, a steal and four blocked shots.  

 

STUDS

Isaiah Thomas

His streak of being Boston’s outright scoring leader ended at 14 games, but he’s more than happy to take a back seat for one night if it means getting a victory. Horford led the charge on Friday night, but Thomas still chipped in with 20 points, seven assists and two steals. 

Matt Barnes

Although he missed eight of his 11 shots from the field, the 36-year-old Barnes was rewarded for his hustle and effort as he finished with a double-double of 12 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.

Jae Crowder

Boston needed tough plays to be made on Friday and Crowder was up the challenge all night. He finished with 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting to go with three rebounds, three assists and a steal. Good things happened when he was on the floor, evident by his game-high plus/minus of +15.

 

DUDS

Rudy Gay

He finished with 13 points on 6-for-14 shooting but the Kings needed more from their second-leading scorer who finished almost seven points below his 19.6 points per game average. That stands out on a night when the Kings lost by just five points.