The worst part of Game 3 for the Bruins was that they simply rolled out a complete crap sandwich of a performance against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
There wasn’t anything to build off and it devolved into a complete breakdown from top to bottom while battles were being lost and the Lightning enjoyed a red light special at Boston’s expense.
There was little first period fight from the Bruins once they fell down by a couple of goals in the period based on challenging circumstances (tick-tack penalty calls, linesman knocking Jeremy Lauzon out of the play for a Tampa breakaway) and there was even less pushback in the second period once they fell down by three goals and pulled Jaroslav Halak.
It ended in a one-sided 7-1 final score that serves as one of the worst blowout losses for the Bruins in recent Stanley Cup Playoff history, but it also amounts to just one game in a seven-game series when keeping it all in perspective.
After the game, Bruce Cassidy was confounded by the early penalty calls against the Bruins that saw Tampa get three power plays to zero for the Bruins in the first period. And for good measure, linesman Devin Berg threw a moving pick on Jeremy Lauzon to free up Yanni Gourde for the aforementioned breakaway that made it a quick 2-0 lead for Tampa.
All of that signaled to the B’s that this wasn’t going to be their night and playing the third game in four days sapped the Bruins of their usual ability to circle the wagons amidst trouble.
“A little bit of the first period, a call on [Nick] Ritchie happens 100 times a game, we happen to get flagged for it, right? [I am in] complete disagreement with that particular infraction, not even sure Brandon [Carlo’s penalty] was. So, you’ve got an official injecting themselves into a game with two of the best teams in the National Hockey League playing that I thought that wasn’t necessary personally,” said Cassidy, aiming some criticism at Wes McCauley. “But, that’s his decision, he’s here for a reason. Second goal, I mean come on, the linesman runs our D out of room. Good for Yanni Gourde for taking advantage of a break given to him. When do you see that play happen in the National Hockey League? All of a sudden you’re two down and we need to kill a penalty obviously better.
“Our penalty kill let us down tonight. It’s been terrific all year. Really good in the playoffs so far, we didn’t get it done on the PK. Now you’re in a 2-0 hole and you played not a bad period. The rest of the game, we didn’t respond. Like I said, the disappointing part about that is that we weren’t able to get ourselves back in the game by killing any further penalties, or creating offense, or having our push back. That’s what we lacked tonight for whatever reason. But it’s over. We’re going to focus on game 4. Seven to one, 2-1, a loss is a loss. They’re up two to one [in the series]. I know we have a good group in there. They’re resilient. We’ll lick our wounds tomorrow, get away from the rink and get ready for Game 4.”
The best part about moving on from a stinging loss for the B’s like Game 3 is that so much of what transpired during the blowout isn’t going to have a lasting impact on the series. Shutdown defenseman Zdeno Chara was on the ice for three Tampa Bay power play goals and the entire Bruins penalty kill was a disaster after it had been among the NHL’s best through the rest of the tournament.
In one no-good, horrible night, the Bruins matched as many power play goals (three) as they had given up in the first 10 games they played in the Toronto bubble.
That’s the definition of an outlier rather than a trend, particularly when coupled with Tampa not even having a power play goal in the postseason until last night’s game.
Halak was yanked after giving up four goals on 16 shots and 23-year-old rookie Daniel Vladar endured a baptism by fire in the second half of the game as continuous B’s defensive breakdowns continued all over the ice.
At the other end of the ice, the Bruins were stuck at an anemic 10 shots on net with five minutes to go in the second period.
It was a complete offensive no-show with zero puck possession and no Grade-A chances aside from the Brad Marchand power play strike they managed in the second period. The older veteran Bruins looked tired and sluggish playing their third maximum-intensity game in four days and the younger players were unable to carry the older B’s players on their shoulders, as Cassidy had hoped in the morning prior to Game 3.
“Typically, we’re really good on the kill so we'll talk about that. Five on five, how we can obviously generate more offense? We talked about it before, we want to get our D involved a little more, find ways to get pucks through to the net, so that's an area we can talk about,” said Cassidy. “We've got guys in the middle of the lineup we challenged to be better, to drive the bus on a night like tonight where young legs matter.
Clearly that didn't happen enough and we’ll continue to push that message. But as a whole, let's face it: they were better than us in every facet of the game, so we’ve got our work cut out for us. It's one loss and [we need to] put our best foot forward in Game 4 try to even the series by playing a lot better and a lot smarter.
The Bruins are much, much better than they showed in an ugly Game 3 loss. The Lightning are not as good as they looked in a game where everything went their way and they continue to push their depth with Ryan McDonagh and Steve Stamkos out of their lineup.
This series is pretty evenly matched and still feels like a seven-game series where the Bruins clearly dropped a stink bomb in the middle of it. There’s no reason to think any different after one bad game preceded by a Bruins win and a tight loss in overtime in what was a very winnable game for the Black and Gold