BOSTON – So where does it leave the Bruins when they lose an absolute must-win game at the beginning of February?
That’s the exact question the B’s were hoping they weren’t going to have to answer, but now they will be after dropping a 6-5 decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden on Saturday night. The B’s gave up a goal to James van Riemsdyk in the final few minutes of the third period after Boston had scratched and clawed twice to tie things up in the final period, and that just further added to the exasperation level afterward.
On a night where the Bruins could exert some level of control on their own possible playoff destiny, they instead lost to a young, exciting Maple Leafs bunch that leaves Toronto just a point behind the Bruins in the playoff race with five games in hand. Any way one slices it, the Bruins are in major trouble with 27 games remaining in their season and opportunities to help themselves simply slipping through their fingers.
“We are disappointed about this game. We couldn’t get it done even though we came back so many times, you know? There’s…we always make one mistake, they got a goal,” said David Pastrnak, who scored a pair of goals in defeat. “So it’s too bad. We can’t hang our heads; we have to learn from this and be ready for next game.
Clearly it wasn’t entirely a train wreck for the Black and Gold, and they did at least manage to provide an entertaining product for the fans climbing back from a three-goal deficit in the second period. There was physicality and an epic heavyweight fight between Adam McQuaid and Matt Martin, and there was plenty of offense with the combined 11 goals scored, including five from young stars and former Swedish League teammates William Nylander and David Pastrnak.
But the comeback and the clutch goals only served to further add to the frustration level for head coach Claude Julien, who is not looking for moral victories in the thick of a playoff race.
“You’re always disappointed when you lose a game like that because it was a real important game for us, and you lose it. So you say, ‘What do you take from it?’ Well, I think I can still take the fact that we battled back, and [Adam] McQuaid stood up and woke some of the guys up with that scrap,” said Julien. “It seemed to give us some life, so I think the guys, when they’re down 4-1, they didn’t pack their bags and leave.
“We fought back, so you like those kinds of things. But at the end of the night, it’s about winning hockey games. I have to say that tonight that we found a way to lose. So that’s the disappointing part.”
So now the Bruins get a break in the regular season schedule, and only play a handful of games over the next three weeks with little way to help themselves while their playoff competition catches up with all of their games in hand. It’s not a particularly safe feeling for a Bruins team that hasn’t done a good enough job building up any kind of cushion in the standings. Now they must fatefully hope that teams like the Maple Leafs, Panthers, Flyers and Islanders keep losing hockey games rather than blowing right past them in the standings on the way to edging them out of the postseason picture.