Haggerty: Bruins show weaknesses in loss

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Haggerty: Bruins show weaknesses in loss

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

TAMPA It never fails that a hockey teams flawsare dutifully exposed once it comes to the playoffs.

Every nightmare, soft spot, Achilles heel, weakness and soft white underbelly was identified within the Boston Bruins, and then came crashing down all around them in the second period of Saturday afternoons 5-3 loss at the St. Pete Times Forum. The defeat leaves the Bruins and Bolts tied at 2-2 apiece in the best of seven conference finals.

The Bruins entered the middle 20 minutes of the game confidently nurturing a three-goal lead and it appeared Boston was about to wrap their gloved hand around the series.

The ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals would have been all but punched.

But instead it was the Bs that got punched in the headover and over again.

Patrice Bergeron is nothing if not a realist, and he wasnt pulling any of his uppercuts after watching the roof cave in on his team after building an all too familiar 3-0 advantage.

The fact it was certified Bruins Killer Simon Gagne just made it all the more eerily similar to the Black and Gold.

Youve got to clean your memory, but at the same time youve got to realize that youve got to execute and be better. That wasnt good enough out there today, said Patrice Bergeron, who actually was good enough in scoring a pair of goals and serving as the only Bs player to win more than 50 percent of his face-offs. But at the same time we cant feel sorry for ourselves. Its a long series and theyre a good team. But so are we. We need to go back what was giving us success.

We got on our heels, we stopped playing and we stopped fore-checking. It was a terrible second period and we have to be better. Going into the third period we were lucky that it was even.

It all started with the bugaboo thats been bugging the Bs all playoffs and really has been a big honking issue since the start of the season.

The Bruins are 4-for-52 on the power play in the postseason, and they managed only two shots while totally wasting two straight PP chances at the beginning of the pivotal second period.

The piggyback power plays on a roughing call to Steve Downie and a goaltender interference infraction on Simon Gagne handed Boston their chance to show off some killer instinct but the Bruins couldnt land that fourth goal that would have truly shut down the Lightning.

The Bs lost some momentum in the power play failures, but things didnt truly break down until Tim Thomas suffered a brain cramp amidst some heavy pressure from the Bolts. With both Ryan Malone and Steve Downie converging behind the net, Thomas played a puck and left it for Zdeno Chara to get immediately crunched as the Bs goalie scrambled back toward the crease.

That led immediately to a Teddy Purcell goal in front of the net, and then a minute later Purcell beat a frazzled Thomas high to his glove hand for his second score that all but erased Bostons lead.

That led to another longtime fly in the Boston ointment: the coaching.

Claude Julien does a lot of things well in creating a disciplined, stable hockey environment for players to thrive in, but the game quickens on him at the worst possible times.

That happened again in the second period following Purcells second goal when Julien had a chance to call timeout, gather his goaltender and players around him and allow them to settle everything back down.

Instead the momentum kept building for the Lightning and Julien did nothing to inject himself into proceedings as his team literally melted on the Florida ice. The two teams played on and Kaberles weak turnover two minutes later made it a tied hockey game while the reeling Bruins attempted to find their footing.

The Lightning tied the game in 3:58 of ice time and the Bruins were never the same again.

After they scored a few goals, we almost looked like we were paralyzed out there, said Julien. We just werent reacting, we werent moving and it just snowballed from there.

Certainly sounds like a good time for a little coaching tactic to break up that paralysis, didnt it Claude?

The final two goals highlighted another season-long boondoggle for the Bruins: the Kaberle disaster.

Bostons much-maligned defenseman followed up a pair of promising efforts with one of his worst of the season in only 11:35 of ice time. Kaberle was weak on the puck and a hockey lamb to the slaughter when Sean Bergenheim dislodged possession from him and pushed it past Thomas to tie the game.

Then Kaberle was part of the problem again on the game-winning goal. Both Thomas and the Bruins defenseman couldnt get on the same page following a brutal Milan Lucic turnover at the blue line that capped off a horrendous day for Bostons top forward group.

The goalie thought Kaberle would block anything at the bottom of the ice if a shot came through, but the Bruins defenseman didnt absorb any part of the Gagne bid that eventually slid right through Thomas pads for the difference-making score.

None of it should be all that surprising with Kaberle at this point.

Kaberle has been atrocious on the power play, and is now tied with a guy thats played only two playoff games (Shane Hnidy) for the fewest hits on the Bruins (one) this postseason a real indictment of how soft serve Kaberles game is during the hardened postseason.

On Gagnes shot I read that the D had low and I high, and he was able to get it through both of us, said Thomas, trying his best not to throw the embattled Kaberle under the Bs bus. It is what it is now. It wasnt on purpose, but they started playing the way they wanted to play and we didnt play the way we did in the first period or during Game Three.

The good news for the Bruins after this debacle had concluded: the series is only tied at 2-2 and the Bs again hold the home ice advantage in whats become a best-of-three match against the Bolts.

Thomas had a game to forget on Saturday afternoon, but he was brimming with Messier-esque confidence when asked how he sees the series eventually going after six or seven games.

Yeah. Were gonna win, said Thomas. I dont know how its going to be at any one point in time or any one game, but whats important is we come back in Game 5 and win that game.

Thomas cocksure bravado is admirable, but it better be flawless hockey the Bs goaltender has in mind if hes going to help carry his club where they want to go.

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

Bruins rebound from 3-0 deficit but wind up losing to Caps in overtime

Bruins rebound from 3-0 deficit but wind up losing to Caps in overtime

WASHINGTON -- The Capitals didn't exactly end their overtime victory with a raucous celebration.

No, instead Washington held a players-only meeting, still salty over blowing a three-goal lead.

Nicklas Backstrom scored 1:36 into overtime, helping the Capitals beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 to avert a disastrous defeat Wednesday night.

Justin Williams scored twice and Daniel Winnik also had a goal to put Washington ahead 3-0 about six minutes into the second period.

After Winnik's tally, Washington went over 26 minutes without a shot on goal. Boston dominated the final five minutes of the second period, when Dominic Moore and David Pastrnak beat goaltender Braden Holtby. Colin Miller's power-play score 8:19 into third tied it at 3-3.

Backstrom saved the day, but not the Capitals from feeling uneasy.

"In the second and third period they outplayed," Backstrom said. "We were lucky that we came up with two points. We're not satisfied at all. We're happy with the two points, but not the way we played."

The locker room remained closed for approximately 15 minutes after the win, Washington's second in a row after losing three straight.

"We had a little talking here," said T.J. Oshie, who returned to the lineup for the first time since injuring his shoulder on Nov. 18. "There are some things we've got to clean up. I think it's more of a mentality more than it is the systems or anything like that. ... Once we get a step up on someone, we have to get that mentality that we're going to finish them off."

Evgeny Kuznetsov had two assists for the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin got his first point since Nov. 26.

Boston arrived in Washington 4-0-1 over its last five games with three wins in a row, including a 4-3 overtime triumph against Florida on Monday night. The Bruins outshot Washington 34-20.

"Hell of an effort. We got a big point for us. To comeback from 3-0 against Washington, it's not that easy," Pastrnak said. "Too bad we couldn't get the two points, but in this case the one point is huge for us."

Backstrom patiently waited on the right side before firing the winner past goaltender Tuukka Rask, who entered second in the league with a 1.68 goals-against average. Rask allowed three goals in his previous outing, too.

Williams had two goals over the first 24 games this season, but he matched that total less than eight minutes in against the Bruins. He redirected Kuznetsov's lofted centering pass past Rask for a 1-0 lead just 23 seconds into the first period.

"To be honest it's nice to see the puck go in the net," Williams said. "I've been pressing and working hard. Hopefully this can springboard me to some more production."

Matt Niskanen left with an upper-body injury and did not return. With the Caps down a defenseman, Boston outshot Washington 11-2 in the second period.

"In the second period, we just sort of sat back," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "It's hard to protect leads in the league."

The Capitals' second goal also occurred in front of the net. Williams emerged from a scramble with a shot that slithered under Rask.

NOTES: With his 673rd career win, Trotz passed Mike Keenan (672) for eighth place on the NHL's career wins list. ... Williams' first goal was the fastest for Washington since 2012. ... Boston assigned F Noel Acciari to the Providence Bruins two days after the 24-year forward returned to practice. Acciari injured his right leg on Nov. 7. ... Holtby improved to 10-2 career against the Bruins. His first career win came in relief against Boston in November 2010. ... The three-game season series resumes Feb. 1 in Washington.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Host Colorado on Thursday night.

Capitals: Play at Buffalo on Friday night.