BOSTON (CBS) – I’m not going to sit here and tell you it isn’t at least a little distressing that a team that went 32-0-0 when leading after two periods has now blown four third-period leads only halfway through a 48-game schedule.
The Bruins obviously have work to do in their transition game and with gap control.
But don’t for a second put the Bruins’ collapse Tuesday night in Pittsburgh in the same class as their losses of multi-goal leads in Washington and at home to Montreal. While those losses were inexplicable, falling to the Penguins is nothing to cry in your soup about.
For the first time all season the Bruins played road games on consecutive nights, and it would’ve been difficult to find two tougher opponents. After grinding out a win in Ottawa, they got to Pittsburgh in the middle of the night and then had to take on the highest-scoring team in the entire NHL.
When the Bruins lost to Washington, the Capitals were looking up at most of the NHL and they’ve since sunk back to that low perch after a brief hot streak. The loss to Montreal was inexcusable considering that the Habs were playing the second half of a back-to-back and on the road at TD Garden. The Penguins, especially at home, are one of the most lethal teams in the league.
I’m not an excuses kind of guy, but it was a pretty tough task to expect Boston to put in a full 60 and leave with two points.
Of course, they could’ve made life a lot easier on themselves, and gotten away with firing just four shots on net in the third period, if they did a couple things:
- Taken better care of the puck and kept their shifts shorter.
- Avoided a couple offensive-zone penalties that were uncharacteristically taken by Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.
- Buried their chances when they had them. Nathan Horton is in full snake-bit mode with most of his chances coming close enough to the net he could kiss the goalie. He hasn’t scored in seven games, while Milan Lucic is without a goal in his last nine.
But there were plenty of positives to take from the loss, which capped a 1-1-0 road trip:
- Anton Khudobin was outstanding for 53 minutes, and wasn’t to blame for any of the three goals.
- The Bruins showed they could kill at 5-on-3 against a potent power play, even with Bergeron in the box.
- Rich Peverley, who was the lone forward on the ice for more than one minute of Penguins 5-on-3 time, showed he could fill Chris Kelly’s skates as the third-line center with an assist and a 10-for-13 success rate on faceoffs (he was averaging just six attempts a game before the Pittsburgh game).
The Bruins will have two more shots against Pittsburgh in the regular season, and then maybe we’ll get a look at what would be a great playoff series between the two teams. Evgeni Malkin will eventually be back for Pittsburgh, and Boston might have its top line clicking soon enough.
This won’t be the last chapter of the Pittsburgh-Boston feud.