Haggerty: Bruins 'find a way to lose' big game against Maple Leafs


Haggerty: Bruins 'find a way to lose' big game against Maple Leafs

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.

Bruins resiliency on full display in third-period comeback vs Stars

AP Photo

Bruins resiliency on full display in third-period comeback vs Stars

GOLD STAR: Every once in a while Brad Marchand wills the Bruins to a win that they probably wouldn’t have otherwise had, and that happened again on Friday night with a three-point explosion for No. 63 in the final 20 minutes. Marchand finished with a goal and three points in 19:57 of ice time along with a plus-2 rating, and played a key role in the three-goal outburst that allowed the B’s to vanquish a 2-0 deficit. It was Marchand that opted not to shoot from the face-off dot with a look at the net in the closing seconds, and instead dropped it down low to David Pastrnak as he curled around the net and pushed a puck past Kari Lehtonen for the game-winner. Marchand finished with two shots on net, eight total shot attempts and a number of big plays in the third period redirecting pucks in close, kicking off shorthanded scoring plays and then setting up clutch game-winners in the final 15 seconds of the game. It’s the kind of night where Marchand played like an MVP even if he isn’t going to get much of a sniff at the Hart Trophy. 

BLACK EYE: Jamie Benn scored a shorthanded goal for the Dallas Stars, but he also jumped up in the air and clobbered Brad Marchand from behind with a completely unnecessary hit in the third period that went without a penalty being called. Instead it seemed to incense Marchand, who never gave up in the final sequence and ultimately fed a pass to David Pastrnak down low for the game-winner with just 11.1 seconds remaining in the game. Benn finished a minus-2 for Dallas while being on the ice for a pair of goals against, had a brutal 1-for-7 performance in the face-off dot and really acted like a punk on the play with Marchand in the third period. Benn is a better player than that and shouldn’t be resorting that level on a fellow star player like Marchand. 

TURNING POINT: Once again the Bruins really turned things around in the third period while outscoring the Stars by a 3-0 margin, and really flooding the Dallas net with 10 of their 36 shots on net for the night. It all started with a relentless shift from Boston’s top line where Riley Nash made a pass from his knees before taking a big hit, and then Brad Marchand redirected a David Pastrnak shot from the slot off his leg and into the net for Boston’s first goal. That first score finally allowed the Bruins to begin building some momentum, score each of the next two goals as the game slipped away from Dallas and once again proved themselves as a hockey club that one doesn’t ever doubt in the third period. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Tuukka Rask had a career-high 40 saves and turned away some really good looks from the Dallas offense while showing exactly what the Bruins can be capable of when their goaltending is on point. The only goals that beat Rask were a first period score with droves of traffic in front of the net, and a second period shorthanded score for Jamie Benn where he pulled one of those unconventional finishing moves on Rask at the very end. Rask made 11 saves on the Dallas power play alone during a trio of PP chances, and made a crucial leg pad save on Antoine Roussel in the third period that helped open things up for the goal-scoring outburst late in the game. Hopefully the strong, resounding performance from Rask answers some of the questions about some of his recent so-so performances between the pipes.   

BY THE NUMBERS: 29 – the number of goals this season for David Pastrnak as he readies to become only the ninth Bruins player to hit the 30-goal plateau in back-to-back seasons over the last 35 years of franchise history. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Resiliency. We didn’t want to go quietly for sure. We can live with the end result as long as we play the right way. The end result went our way again in the end, and I think that’s a credit to the guys.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN about another comeback win for the Black and Gold.

Pastrnak scores with 12 seconds left to lift Bruins over Stars, 3-2

AP Photo

Pastrnak scores with 12 seconds left to lift Bruins over Stars, 3-2

DALLAS - David Pastrnak broke a tie with 12 seconds left and the Boston Bruins scored three straight goals in the third period to rally past the fading Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night.

A scramble followed a faceoff in the Dallas end, and Brad Marchand passed to Pastrnak in front. While falling down, he put the puck past Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.

TALKING POINTS: B's resiliency on full display vs Stars

Tuukka Rask made a season-high 40 saves for the Bruins. Marchand scored Boston's first goal and also assisted on a short-handed goal by Tim Schaller that tied it midway through the third period.

The second-place Bruins won for the first time in three games (1-0-2) to move within four points of Atlantic Division leader Tampa Bay. Boston has already clinched a playoff berth.

The Stars are winless in their last seven games (0-5-2). They remained four points behind Colorado for the second Western Conference wild card.

Dallas led 2-0 on a first-period goal by Esa Lindell and Jamie Benn's short-handed score late in the second.

In the third, Marchand tipped in a shot by Pastrnak before Schaller scored on a 2-on-1 with Marchand.

Lehtonen finished with 33 saves.

Lindell scored 2:26 into the game. Jason Dickinson tried to deflect a shot from the right point into the net but the puck went wide right. Curtis McKenzie picked it up behind the goal line and passed to Lindell high in the left faceoff circle. His wrist shot went in off Rask's right arm.

Benn missed two good scoring opportunities early in the second period, but connected at 19:22. He took a pass from Tyler Seguin at the Dallas blue line and had a breakaway when Matt Grzelcyk fell down. Benn slid a backhand under Rask.