Bruins

Bruins vs. Wild takeaways: Win streak comes to uninspiring end

Bruins

So much for a perfect 2022.

The Boston Bruins finally suffered their first loss of the New Year following three straight wins, dropping a disappointing 3-2 decision to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night at TD Garden.

Due to the postponement of the Detroit Red Wings-Anaheim Ducks game, the Bruins maintained their hold on the second and final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 36 points (17-11-2). But it was a missed opportunity against the Wild, who hadn't won since December 9 (0-4-1).

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Minnesota (20-10-2) had played only one game since December 20, the Winter Classic against the St. Louis Blues, a 6-4 loss at Target Field in the coldest game in NHL history (minus-9 degrees).

Here are some of the key takeaways from the game, for which the Bruins were without No. 1 defenseman Charlie McAvoy:

Revolving door at penalty box prevented consistency

The Bruins had a season-high in penalty minutes as a team...by the end of the second period, ultimately finishing with 28 for the game.

Trent Frederic alone had 16 PIMs -- in just 7:05 of ice time -- including two fighting majors, each of which was accompanied with a minor penalty that left the B's shorthanded.

Frederic had a bad hit along the wall on Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov in the second period, for which he received a minor for boarding that was served by Craig Smith, but wound up with five for fighting after Dmitry Kulikov rushed to Kaprizov's defense. Kaprizov, the reigning Calder Trophy winner as the league's top rookie, would not return to the game after the hit.

 

Later on, in the third period, Frederic was guilty of high sticking on Marcus Foligno -- Nick's younger brother -- and again put the Bruins shorthanded -- but not before having to answer the younger Foligno with another fight that sent him away for five minutes.

The Wild didn't score after either Frederic fight, nor after his unsportsmanlike conduct minor in the first period, but they scored on two other power play opportunities.

A first-round pick in 2016, Frederic had scored in consecutive games for the Bruins prior to tonight. But if those goals represented two steps forward, the game against the Wild was three steps back.

Even strength offense sputters

It's not just that the Bruins scored both of their goals on the power play, it's that they had so few quality scoring chances at even strength.

Or, any chances at all for a long stretch of the third period.

Despite having 39 shots on the goal, Boston went nearly seven minutes without landing one on Minnesota netminder Kaapo Kahkonen from the 8:18 to go mark until only 1:23 remained.

With Jeremy Swayman pulled, Bruce Cassidy reunited David Pastrnak with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and while the trio generated a few shots late, were unable to force overtime.

It should take more than one game to pull the plug on the experiment of separating Pastrnak from Bergeron and Marchand, especially as Taylor Hall (power play goal) continues to wake up from his season-long slumber. But the leash can't be too long, either, given Boston's standing in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Marchand had the second Bruins goal, which came with the team trailing 3-1, at 15:35 of the second period on the man advantage.

Goaltending rotation only beginning

The Bruins have alternated goalies through their first four games of the New Year, with Linus Ullmark getting the nod in the first and third contests and Jeremey Swayman between the pipes in the second and fourth.

Swayman was fine against the Wild -- his 27 saves on 30 shots were tied for his fourth-most of the season -- but don't expect either netminder to be playing back-to-back games anytime soon with Tuukka Rask all but officially back in the fold.

On the one hand, it's never a bad thing to have three NHL-caliber goaltenders available, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other, how are any of the goaltenders supposed to get in any rhythm if it becomes a three-man rotation for a time?

The Bruins have a brief two-game road trip coming up, beginning Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7 p.m.