BOSTON -- Maybe it was the hockey gods taking away after they’d given so generously Thursday night with a buzzer beater victory over the San Jose Sharks. Perhaps it was the Bruins simply running into the wall playing their third game in four nights after running up four straight victories to put themselves up at the top of their division.
Or maybe it was just one of those nights when normally immortal players like Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron suddenly become all too human, something that happens a handful of times over the course of a long 82 game regular season.
It was likely all of the above in a 4-3 loss for the Boston Bruins at the hands of a New Jersey Devils team that scored two power play goals within 23 seconds of each other late in the third period after trailing the entire game. David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla finished with a pair of goals, six points and a plus-6 along with eight of Boston’s 28 shots on net, and they were just about the only positive development in the collapsible loss.
“Tonight we had one [forward] line going and we needed more. [There were] too many mediocre guys. Whether it was hitting a wall or whatever the case may be, it just wasn’t good enough,” said Claude Julien. “We had the day off yesterday to give those guys a rest, but three games in four nights isn’t always an easy thing to go through.
“You wish you could have pulled this one through and had a real good week, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. We have to regroup, and [we have] another back-to-back and another three in four coming up there next week. So hopefully we learn from that.”
Surprisingly the Bergeron, Marchand and Reilly Smith line managed just a single shot on net, and wasn’t any kind of a threat where another early goal could have been a big difference-maker. Not as surprising as the Bruins penalty kill – ranked No. 3 in the NHL entering Saturday night’s game – faltering against the Devils, and allowing four power play goals after letting up just three PP goals on the season in nine games prior to the Devils loss.
It was the first time the Bruins have allowed four PP goals since the memorable regular season loss to the Vancouver Canucks back in 2012 when Marchand was suspended five games for bridging Sami Salo.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that. They just ripped us apart. I don’t know if they were that good, or if we were just not on top of our PK,” said B’s goaltender Tuukka Rask. “[There were] some weird goals there, but no excuses. You’re leading by two at the end of the first, you should definitely have everything under control. Then we just let up a little bit and someone lets one goal gain and it’s anybody’s game.”
Part of that was the bizarre circumstance at the end of the game when a pair of B’s penalties allowed New Jersey to go on a rare 6-on-3 PP once they pulled Martin Brodeur out of the net. It never helps the cause when both Bergeron and Chara shoot pucks over the glass for delay of game penalties, and New Jersey manages to make the Bruins pay in both instances.
“It’s one of those plays that you want to get it all the way down [the ice] and I thought I was closer to the wall. It’s one of those plays that I make basically every time, but I went a little too hard on that one, and a little too high. I take full responsibility of that play,” said Bergeron. “It is part of the game and I know that. So I’ve got to make that play. It’s one of those things you can’t really be mad about the rule when it happens to you. You’ve just got to do your job, and it does happen. [If] the same thing happens for us, we get a five-on-three, and we’re happy. So you realize that you’ve got to do your job and that’s it.”
The second period was probably the worst 20 minute stretch of the season when the Bruins did nothing to dictate play to a lowly Devils bunch looking for their second win of the season. Too many players didn’t want to roll up their sleeves once the Bruins had their 3-1 lead, and that meant the Black and Gold were in white knuckle territory over the final 20 minutes while attempting to simply hold on.
It looked like the Bruins would walk away with the points while they were still holding a slim one goal lead into the final four minutes of the third period, but a Torey Krug high stick ripped open Damien Brunner’s dental work for a four minute New Jersey power play. The Krug penalty was exacerbated by Bergeron flipping a clearing attempt over the boards, and the lead was officially blown when Marek Zidlicky zipped a power play point bomb past Rask.
Whether it happened in regulation or overtime, it had appeared the Bruins had thrown their best punch of the night much earlier in the evening. Boston’s third loss of the season was coming in either overtime or the shootout, but the Bruins ended the suspense by succumbing to a lucky bounce Andy Greene game-winner on the power play before any of that was necessary.