Bruins

Haggerty: These blown leads are becoming a plague for the Bruins

Haggerty: These blown leads are becoming a plague for the Bruins

PITTSBURGH — If it happened once or twice, it could be shrugged off as a coincidence.

But the Bruins have blown three-goal leads three times this season, including two in the last week alone. That gives them one of the NHL's worst records when leading after two periods, with seven losses already this season.

To put Sunday's 4-3 loss at Pittsburgh in perspective, the Bruins went into the contest 200-1-6 since 2010-11 in games where they’d held a three-goal lead. 

It came down to a couple different things on Sunday, but you can start with their sloppy second period. They basically did nothing for the first 10 minutes coming out of the first intermission. That opened the door for everything that followed.

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First, Sidney Crosby made a couple of All-World plays to set up goals and get the Penguins back in the game. Then, it came down to the Bruins dooming themselves with mistakes, allowing two more goals without any offensive response. 

On the third goal, their top power-play unit stayed out on the ice far too long, and a gassed Brad Marchand couldn’t catch Jack Johnson as the trailer unloaded a shorthanded bomb. Then in the third, Evgeni Malkin stripped Charlie McAvoy behind the Boston net and set up Bryan Rust for the Penguins' game-winner.

To a man, the Bruins said it wasn’t about taking the foot off the gas pedal. Instead, they pointed to mistakes made while crediting Pittsburgh for pushing back.

“It’s typically how does it happen? We saw some poor defending and some poor goaltending in Philly, and tonight it was more of the same to be honest with you,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “Not so much on the goalie. They were good goals. But we get beat off the wall and the last one I can’t tell you what happened to be honest with you.

“I saw them bump their urgency up. The goals we are giving up against a good team…what is it a lack of focus? Do we lose our urgency? Because they are gifts a little bit. You can get outplayed by good teams, and you will in stretches. But these were gifts today.”

But it sure feels like the mind-numbing results fly in the face of their denials. Instead, something feels inherently wrong with a team that consistently plays down to the worst teams in the league, and seems to ease up once they build a comfortable lead. Those are the kinds of team traits that don’t go away as things get more challenging, and will certainly crop up when things are heightened. It’s also a shocking development for a Bruins team that’s been very good at closing out other teams over the years.

“We just need to bear down and you can’t just have a good effort and be satisfied with that, and then come back in the next game and just play for half of a game or whatever that was,” said Patrice Bergeron, who scored his 21st goal of the season and won 20-of-25 face-offs. “We need to take it upon ourselves. We all need to take responsibility and be accountable for how we’re able to play in this locker room.

“It’s one of those games where we’re playing a good team and they’re going to give you a push, but you can’t let that go by. It’s a 3-0 and you know there’s a lot of game left, so you need to play the right way and keep pushing in order to increase that lead.”

The good news for the Bruins is that they still have a half-season to figure things out. But it also makes one wonder if something has to change from the outside to improve things for a Bruins team that's almost the same as last season’s Stanley Cup finalist.

It remains to be seen what’s going to right the ship, or if it will ever get righted at all. But the list of problems is growing for a Bruins team that can’t live off its early-season success for much longer.

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Bruins-Flames Talking Points: Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand spark B's after sluggish start

Bruins-Flames Talking Points: Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand spark B's after sluggish start

GOLD STAR: Patrice Bergeron helped the Bruins get back almost by himself after they fell behind by a 2-0 score to the Calgary Flames. Bergeron scored a pair of goals in the first six minutes of the game to withstand the three-goal barrage from the Flames, and now has goals in five consecutive games and seven in his last seven games during a red-hot offensive period.

Bergeron finished with two goals, the plus-1 rating, three shots on net and three takeaways in 15:59 of ice time. He won 13-of-19 face-offs in a dominant showing in pretty much every facet of the game. In other words, it was just another great effort from No. 37 in another win for the Bruins.

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BLACK EYE: No shots, no hits and no anything from Sean Monahan in 19:31 of ice time for the Flames in a nothing performance from one of Calgary’s best players. It was Monahan that failed to tie up  Bergeron on his second goal of the night after a David Pastrnak shot bounced off the end boards with a carom right to Bergeron in front.

Really, it was a team-wide no-show for the Flames after scoring the first three goals in the opening seven minutes of the first period. After that they managed just a handful of shots in the second period before a better third, but they never got another goal past Jaroslav Halak after Brad Marchand's go-ahead goal.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins clearly weren’t ready to go at the start of the game as they allowed a goal 20 seconds into the game and then fell behind by two goals less than three minutes into the first period. Perhaps Halak could have made a better attempt to stop the shot on Calgary’s second goal, but it was still a scorched one-timer on an odd-man rush. The goals allowed were much more about lax defense by the Bruins even if Halak allowed three goals on six shots faced in the first period.

After that, though, the B’s defense tightened up and went into shutdown mode after allowing one more goal in the first period. Once they got through that rough opening few minutes, the Flames offense was held down and the soft Calgary defense was exposed by the Bruins en route to the one-goal win for the Black and Gold.

HONORABLE MENTION: Brad Marchand ended up with the game-winner when he scored the lone goal in the second period after redirecting a Brandon Carlo point shot. Marchand did a nice job of stepping into traffic to redirect the outside shot, but it was also a byproduct of Calgary failing to lift his stick once he got ideal position in front of the net.

Marchand finished with a goal, two points and a plus-1 rating in 18:36 of ice time, had five shots on net and had a hit and a takeaway in a very active game for the entire Perfection Line. Give Marchand and Bergeron credit for refusing to allow the Bruins to lose even after they dropped behind by a couple of goals just minutes into a wild, crazy game out in Calgary.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7 – the number of teams to win a game in NHL history after allowing three goals in the first four minutes of the game. The B’s became that seventh team when they pulled out the 4-3 win in Calgary.  

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I’m a physical player, so those games are comfortable. I’m just trying to help the team win. It was really physical. It was a good game to be a part of for sure.” –Jeremy Lauzon on the night where he got in his first NHL fight with Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk.

Watch Jeremy Lauzon drop gloves with Matthew Tkachuk for first NHL fight

Watch Jeremy Lauzon drop gloves with Matthew Tkachuk for first NHL fight

Jeremy Lauzon officially has his first NHL fight under his belt.

The 22-year-old tussled with Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk during the second period of Friday night's game to mark the first bout of his NHL career. Tkachuk certainly gave Lauzon a challenge, but the Boston Bruins defenseman held his own.

Watch below:


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Not a bad first scrap for the B's youngster.

While Tkachuk may have won the fight, Lauzon and the Bruins were the winners in the end as they defeated the Flames 4-3 in a thriller. Boston now has won 11 of its last 12 games.