BOSTON (CBS) — After a red hot start, the Boston Bruins are in a bit of a skid. They lost their fourth straight Tuesday night at TD Garden, and did so in embarrassing fashion against the Florida Panthers.
Heading into the third period with a 4-0 lead is usually pretty safe in the NHL, especially on home ice, but the Bruins decided to only play 40 minutes of hockey on Tuesday. Boston coughed up that four-goal advantage over 20 frustrating minutes in the third period, eventually falling 5-4 in a shootout.
It’s the first time the Bruins have blown a 4-0 lead in the third period in franchise history.
Florida began to chip away immediately after the puck dropped in the third, as Aaron Ekblad fired a deep one-timer from Keith Yandle by Tuukka Rask just 50 seconds into the frame. It was a shot the netminder said he should have stopped, but instead gave Florida some life.
Then a pair of Boston penalties came back to hurt the Bruins. With Chris Wagner in the box for a slash, former Bruin Frank Vatrano fired a one-timer from Jonathan Huberdeau by Rask. The Panthers pulled closer a few minutes later, with Sean Kuraly now in the sin bin for hooking, when Mike Hoffman sent a backhand by Rask. It was another softy of a goal, one that Rask no doubt feels he should have saved as well.
At that point, the Bruins were just hanging on and hoping to escape with a win. Florida, however, kept pushing, and it paid off. The equalizer came with just 1:39 left in regulation, when Keith Yandle cleaned up a loose puck in front of the Boston net and sent a wrister by Rask.
The Bruins never responded from that lifeless third period, either, and were lucky to even get to a shootout. Rask saved a breakaway bid by Hoffman in the final seconds, a stop that didn’t really earn Boston anything in the end. Following that scoreless overtime frame, the Panthers won in a shootout, with Vincent Trocheck and Hoffman beating Rask to give Florida the W. Boston only put one by Sam Montembeault (off the stick of Charlie Coyle), with Brad Marchand, Chris Wagner and Charlie McAvoy each being sent away by the Florida goalie.
After allowing three goals in the final 10 minutes of regulation, Rask shouldered the brunt of the blame for Boston’s collapse.
“I should have been sharper in the third period,” said the Boston netminder. “Gave up a soft goal that let the team get momentum. It’s a 60 minute game, and we’ve been on the other side. You never give up, and that’s how teams build character. Good for them, I guess. But it’s a 60 minute game and a lot of it is mental. I take most of the blame for that third period.”
“It’s on us,” added captain Zdeno Chara. “We played the first two periods, solid hockey with some strong plays. In the third, we gave them too much space and time, and any time you do that teams take advantage. We need to look at that and play the same way for 60 minutes.”
This isn’t the first blown lead for the Bruins this season, though it’s the first time it’s led to a loss. They let a 3-0 second period lead slip away against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 4, but escaped with a 6-4 victory after a three-goal third period outburst.
With a different outcome on Tuesday, the Bruins are hoping an embarrassing loss will make it clear that they can’t let their guard down against anyone.
“It’s a strength of our team to close out games,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the loss. “We had a [4-0] lead going into the third period. It’s a trademark of this team. Yeah, it is a concern.”
“There’s so many good players and good teams, especially these days, no lead is safe,” said Rask. “You have to be on your toes at all times and kind of build that into your game throughout the season. I guess you’ve got to just take the positives and learn from these kind of mistakes and hope that they never happen again.”
Boston is now 0-1 in overtime and 0-3 in shootouts on the year. After their hot 9-1-2 start in October, the Bruins are now just 2-2-2 in November.