There are crisp, satisfying, and aesthetically pleasing wins. The 4-1 victory the Bruins recorded over the Florida Panthers Thursday night did not satisfy any of those requirements.
“We were just pretty bad out there tonight,” said goalie Tuukka Rask. “Our heads were not in it at all. That shorthanded goal tells a lot about that.”
They were good enough to claim 2 points, which are valuable currency in the shortened season. The Bruins grabbed a 2-0, first-period lead. The Panthers netted a shorthanded strike at 3:10 of the second, a period that had Claude Julien wincing for most of the 20 painful minutes. It was one of the lazier and more careless periods the Bruins have submitted.
“Try being behind the bench watching a second period like that,” the Bruins coach said. “No doubt, it wasn’t a pretty period. Certainly there’s times where you’ve got to bite your bottom lip and let things happen. Between the second and third, all they had to do was talk to each other. I think our guys are smart enough to know they had to go back out there and be better.”
The Bruins saved their best for last. Shawn Thornton and his fourth-line mates delivered a jolt of espresso to wake up their snoozing teammates at 12:43, giving the Bruins a commanding 3-1 lead. Patrice Bergeron added an empty-net goal to give the Bruins one of their more deceiving three-goal victories.
“I don’t think we were in synch,” said Bergeron. “We were bobbling the puck a lot. Too many turnovers as well. When you don’t have the puck, it’s tough to put the puck on net. I think it’s about managing the puck a little better.”
The Bruins are in a valley. They believed they had discovered their trademark efficiency in a 3-0 win over Philadelphia last Saturday. They skated well. They managed the puck. They rolled four lines and wore down the Flyers. Rask was airtight in goal.
But the Bruins’ shortcomings were on display again on Thursday night, two days after they turned some similar tricks against the Penguins. They didn’t manage the puck well in the neutral zone. They iced the puck unnecessarily. They took shortcuts instead of being thorough and workmanlike with their habits.
The most glaring misplay took place on Florida’s lone goal. The Bruins were on the power play after Erik Gudbranson was called for interference on Jay Pandolfo.
On the power play, Milan Lucic controlled the puck in the offensive zone. Lucic, assuming Dougie Hamilton was stationed at the point, sent the puck to the blue line.
Hamilton, however, wasn’t set. Shawn Matthias went the other way, diving for the puck and upending Hamilton. With Hamilton out of the picture, Matthias tucked the puck behind Rask. It was the first shorthanded goal the Bruins had allowed this season.
“Dougie had a step on him,” Rask said. “I was yelling at him to pass it to me, because that was the only option he had. But it was a yard sale between him and the other guy. I lost my edge and he scored.”
But the mistakes didn’t cost the Bruins. Even when they weren’t playing their best in the first period, they scored timely goals to grab the lead. Zdeno Chara cracked a puck past Scott Clemmensen at 3:55 for the opening goal.
Later in the period, the Bruins put on a puck-moving clinic. Dennis Seidenberg started the breakout by passing to Andrew Ference.
In turn, Ference sent an indirect pass off the right boards to an in-stride Tyler Seguin. The right wing used his speed to back up Gudbranson and Brian Campbell. Seguin found Brad Marchand on his left.
At the same time, Bergeron slipped behind Campbell at the far post. Before Campbell could recover, Marchand connected with Bergeron, who had an easy tap-in at 14:56.
Bergeron (two goals) has 17 points in his last 13 games. He has been the team’s best all-around forward and is a big reason why Marchand and Seguin are clicking offensively.
Once Bergeron gets some offensive support, the Bruins might reclaim their usual swagger.
“We may not be as sharp as people are used to seeing,” Julien said. “We’ve just got to battle through those things and find that game that makes us a real good team. Right now, we’re average at best. We’re still finding ways to win. There’s a lot to be happy about with your team, when you don’t feel you played well. Through the course of a season, that’s a sign of a good hockey club.”