Bruins crush Habs in Halifax, 7-3

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Bruins crush Habs in Halifax, 7-3

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

HALIFAX Any win over the Canadiens feels good for a member of the Bruins, so there was happiness in Halifax as the Bs took it to Montreal in their first of back-to-back preseason games North of the Border.

The Bruins scored a pair of short-handed goals and overwhelmed Montreal goalie Peter Budaj in a 30-shot attack that finished with a 7-3 victory for the Bs at the Halifax Metro Centre. It had the extra bit of sweetness when Brad Marchand who grew up just 10 minutes outside of Halifax celebrated his homecoming with a goal.

Joe Corvo and Gregory Campbell opened up the scoring with goals in a chippy first period, and the Bruins really exploded in the middle 20 minutes with an impressive show of special teams. Marchand knocked home the rebound of a Chris Clark shot on the power play, and then both Daniel Paille and Zdeno Chara added shorthanded goals to push Boston far ahead of their ancient hockey rivals.

Tyler Seguin finished things off for the Bruins with a beauty of a goal in the third period. Seguin had a strong effort from beginning to end, and thoroughly beat Peter Budaj after taking it up to the right wing and firing from the face-off circle.

There were plenty of punishing hits being delivered all over the ice, and the first period was punctuated by a bout between Alex Henry and Shawn Thornton that ended up in a draw.

GOLD STAR: Brad Marchand had 50 friends and relatives in the house -- and he didn't disappoint them. Running around doing his agitating thing, Marchand scored in front of the hometown crowd when he potted the rebound of a Chris Clark shot for a power play goal. Appropriately Marchand heard a chorus of mixed boos and cheers when he scored in front of a Halifax barn filled with testy Habs fans, but it didnt take anything away from his hometown moment. Marchand has looked good in camp, and appears as ready as any other veteran to strap on the hockey pads and get after it for another season. It speaks to the work he put in back in Halifax once his Boston partying ways were done after winning the Cup.

HONORABLE MENTION: Tyler Seguin scored a sweet goal on a rush up the right wing and actually assisted on Jordan Carons third-period strike though he was robbed by the Halifax scorekeepers and looked every bit the improved product hes seemed in training camp. Seguin set a tone for the evening by speeding around and getting himself physically involved in the game over his first couple of shifts, and the hard work carried over into offensive production. If Seguin plays like that more often than not, hes going to enjoy a very good season for the Bs.

BLACK EYE: Peter Budaj was brutal for the Canadiens, giving up seven goals. Budaj has to assume he wont play all that often sitting behind Carey Price this season in Montreal, but he needs to stop a puck or two when he is in there. The first goal he gave up to Joe Corvo was a bad angle softie, and things just got worse from there.

TURNING POINT: At the end of a chippy first period that saw the Bruins build a narrow 2-1 lead, Shawn Thornton and Alex Henry pummeled each other to a pretty good draw that seemed to reel things back under control. The bout was a far cry from the beating Thornton put on Henry during the infamous Barber Pole Sweater game in Montreal back in 2009, but the enforcers need to get themselves ready for the hockey season as well.

BY THE NUMBERS: 27 the number of saves for Bruins goaltender Anton Khudobin, who looked sharp in his likely only start of the preseason. Khudobin is a goalie the Bs targeted in the Minnesota organization before dealing for him, and he continues to look like good insurance in case anything goes awry with the Tim ThomasTuukka Rask partnership this season. Hes been called the Euro-Tim Thomas in Bs circles over the last few years, and he looked like it Sunday night.

QUOTE TO NOTE: I think those were the Montreal fans. Theyre a little bitter about the way things went last year, but thats the way it goes. Any time they boo us its a good thing. Brad Marchand talking about the loud mixture of boos and cheers that accompanied his return to the home rink in Halifax playing against a crowd heavy with Habs fans.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Haggerty: Signs of panic starting to show as losses mount for B's

Haggerty: Signs of panic starting to show as losses mount for B's

BOSTON -- For the third straight season, the Bruins are showing all the ugly, telltale signs of a hockey club poised to take a nosedive out of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The short-attention span Bruins returned in a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night at TD Garden, and proceeded to blow three one-goal leads in the second period before totally collapsing in the final 20 minutes of the game. Three unanswered third goals later, the Bruins were understandably downtrodden and accountable for a performance that kicked up so many bad memories from the last couple of seasons.

“We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and we can’t point fingers. Everyone has to step up and if every guy is going to do their job, including myself, then the rest will follow, you know?” said David Krejci. “But we hadn’t done that [against Tampa Bay] at all. The last two games against Toronto and Ottawa, I thought we worked hard. But for whatever reason [against Tampa] – maybe we thought it was going to come easy – we just shot ourselves in the foot.

“Like I said, each player has to be better, including myself, and if we don’t look at ourselves in the mirror that’s what’s going to happen. We’ll be losing and we need to win games. We have a team, we all believe, we know we can play well. We know we can win hockey games. We have a great game plan, but [against Tampa] I guess we just thought it was going to come easy.”

Even worse there were clear signs of panic in Boston’s game as things unfolded in an unsightly manner on the Garden ice.

Clearly it wasn’t about talent on Thursday night, and instead it was about focus, concentration and paying attention to the fine details that can come back to haunt you late in the season. The Bruins scored three goals in the second period with David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and Riley Nash each lighting the lamp, but it took 44 seconds, 24 seconds and 1 minute, 35 seconds respectively in the second period for the Bolts to things up.

That’s the kind of instant buckling and crumbling under pressure we’ve seen in the past from the Bruins late in seasons, and we’re seeing it again despite a different coach and some new, hard-nosed players like David Backes. That lack of composure combined with a pinch of panic is a potentially disastrous mix for the Black and Gold, just as it has been for the last three years.

“Those follow up shifts need to be our best shifts of the game. They’re when you can either bury a team, or when you get scored on to have a great response, and to show that you’re not going away [if you’re the team trailing]. I don’t think they were our best shifts. They were probably some of our least [effective] in the form of execution, least form of desperation and fortitude to just impose what we’re going to do on the other team.

[Tampa] certainly made good on their chances, there’s no question about that. But I think we led into them way too much and the result is the result that we don’t get points again. We’re four [losses] in a row here, but this needs to stop Saturday [against the Islanders] or the bleeding starts to get profuse after that. The guys are in this room. We know it. We’ve seen it. We need to look in the mirror.”

It goes beyond a thoroughly gross second period, however.

The Bruins last line of defense, No. 1 goaltender Tuukka Rask, crumbled in the second and third period as things were falling apart around him. Anton Stralman beat him high to the short-side, glove side for the game-tying goal on a transition play, and Jonathan Drouin snapped one past him from the face-off circle that dipped under his glove hand for the game-winner.

It was a soft, inexcusable goal allowed in a hugely important game, and was part of five goals allowed on 28 shots for the former Vezina Trophy winner. After the game Rask seemed frazzled, his voice getting soft and trailing off when it was his turn to accept responsibility for a giant stink bomb tossed down on the Garden ice.

“You have to [pick up the team]. A lot of the time that’s the case, the goalie has to make a couple extra stops there and today I didn’t,” said Tuukka Rask. “That’s part of my job to accept the fact that sometimes it’s your fault. There were a couple of times I should’ve made the save, but it happens sometimes…”

The high pressure situation with things spiraling out of control even seemed to be getting to their best, most established players with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand forcing things down a goal in the third period. Bergeron and Marchand were put back together with David Pastrnak in the second and third periods with Bruce Cassidy looking for answers, and they attempted to execute a D-zone face-off play that’s worked a few times for them in the last few years.

It involves Bergeron winning the draw, and then either Marchand or Pastrnak immediately releasing for a home run pass that can turn into a breakaway opportunity if the opponent is caught napping. Tampa Bay wasn’t caught unaware when the B’s tried it in the middle of the third period, but then Bergeron and Co. kept trying to make it happen.

They ended up icing the puck multiple times trying to make the goal happen in one quick play rather than working for the tying goal, and it killed any momentum they could have possibly started building up for a third period comeback. It also showed a fundamental lack of confidence that they could scratch and claw their way back in on Thursday night, and that’s a definite cause for concern at this time of year.

“At the end of the day, it is a focus, and it’s urgency, and it’s understanding time and score. We did not have a good comprehension of that tonight, I don’t think, and of late,” said Cassidy. “We’ve let games get away, and you can look back, even this year, we’ve had some goals scored against us late throughout the course of the year. It’s been built in this year, and we’re still fighting through it, to be perfectly honest.

“It’s a mindset that we’ve just got to get harder and understand the stakes, and what’s required after you score a goal. I think winning teams get through that, and we’re fighting through it this year. Some nights, we’ve been good at it. We’ve had resiliency, I think. It’s just, lately, it’s creeping in, and we’ve got to nip it in the bud now.”

It hasn’t been just the young players at the heart of this four-game losing streak, and the Tampa loss should have been a wakeup call that the Bruins veterans need to find a way to step up their focus, their effort level and their composure at this time of year. After their fourth loss in a row, the Bruins have frittered away whatever margin for error they once had with just eight games remaining in the regular season.

Their next wrong move will cause a nosedive straight out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, and that will spell changes far and wide on Causeway Street for the Boston Bruins.
 

Bruin players talk the talk after failing to walk the walk vs. Lightning

Bruin players talk the talk after failing to walk the walk vs. Lightning

BOSTON -- All the Bruins -- the leaders and the core veteran group -- were front and center on Thursday night, taking accountability for what had just happened on the ice.

It was ugly: Boston frittered away three one-goal leads in the second period and then came totally unglued in the third period, allowing three consecutive goals in a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden. There were moments when focus and concentration were clearly an issue, and other moments when the Bruins lacked their usual discipline with veteran players were taking some ill-advised penalties.

With pressure mounting as the Bruins, losers of four in a row, appear to be headed towards their third consecutive late-season collapse out of the playoffs, the players were saying all the right things while vowing to move forward with eight games left.

"I think it's not good enough from top to bottom," said David Backes. "I'll be the first guy to point fingers at my chest and say I need to be better. Tonight was certainly not our best when it's that time of year [and] you need your best every night to win, no matter who you're playing against or what the circumstances may be. This one certainly hurts . . .

"But now's not the time to not be giving ourselves a chance to win and we need to be doing that every night. Tonight, we didn't and we've got eight games left and they all need to be really good-to-great ones so that we can find our way into these playoffs."

Backes finished a minus-2 with just a single shot on net and seemed a step behind Tampa Bay most of the game, so it was proper to him to call himself our for personal ineffectiveness. But as interim coach Bruce Cassidy put it, responsibility for Thursday night -- the low point of the Bruins' season -- rests on "Player 1 through Player 20". And all 20 of the Bruins will be needed to find a successful way out.