The Bruins tried to argue that their five-day break was a positive, allowing them time to practice and work on integrating the team’s new members. They mentioned the toll the Stanley Cup run had taken, that some rest wasn’t all bad.
Their play proved otherwise Thursday night, as a rusty, slow Bruins team was overwhelmed in the first period by the flying Avalanche. Though the Bruins recovered, playing faster, smoother, and better as the game went on, that first period — in which Colorado scored a power-play goal — was the difference.
It was a game that on other nights the Bruins might have won, a game in which they played well enough to win. But the Avalanche had Jean-Sebastien Giguere, 36, turning back the clock with 39 saves; they had the first power-play goal against the Bruins this season, and ultimately they had the 2-0 win in front of 17,565 at TD Garden.
“It’s one of those things where you really have to grind it out,” coach Claude Julien said. “Some nights goals don’t come easy and what we had to do was get a little bit more traffic in front of a hot goaltender and take his eyes away. And we didn’t do a good enough job of that.”
He acknowledged it helps a team when it gets on a roll — as the Avalanche are — and that it hurts to be off for so long. He said the team was “a little rusty.”
But his team wasn’t using that as a reason for the loss.
“It shouldn’t [be],” defenseman Torey Krug said. “Maybe it did. I don’t know. If it did, that’s a poor excuse. We had a lot of time off and we were skating every day. So if it did, shame on us.”
The Avalanche scored twice, the second coming on an empty-netter by Matt Duchene with 26 seconds to go. But, really, this was a 1-0 game, with the Bruins just missing so many times against the vintage Giguere, who was subbing for Semyon Varlamov.
“I think a shutout is a team thing,” Giguere said. “We have to be proud of the way that we killed the penalty tonight. It wasn’t pretty the whole game but getting two points in this building is a great sign for our team.”
The Avalanche got the game-winner at 19:20 of the first period, when Andre Benoit sent a shot in from just inside the blue line. Ryan O’Reilly tipped it high past Tuukka Rask for the first power-play goal allowed by the Bruins this season. The team had come in a perfect 7 for 7.
So it is the Avalanche who remain undefeated on the season, at 4-0-0, with the Bruins suffering their first loss. They were shut out for the first time since Feb. 28, 2012, breaking a streak of 71 games — including the entire lockout-shortened season.
Earlier in the day, Avalanche rookie coach Patrick Roy was asked whether the game against the Bruins was a measuring stick for his young, fast-starting team. He said his team would be challenged, that it would get a chance to see the areas that still need improvement.
There weren’t many.
“They were moving their feet,” Patrice Bergeron said. “They were first on pucks in the first period, and we were slow getting there. They played a good game from the get-go. But still we’ve got to be ready right from the start, because after that I thought we had some good looks in the second and third.”
But they couldn’t get anything past Giguere, including on their three power-play chances.
“Of course we could have done more,” Krug said. “The goalie stopped us, all our good chances. We’ve got to do a better job of taking away his eyes. That’s something we did very well against Detroit [on Saturday] and it’s something that we’re going to have to do better moving forward.”
Part of that was an inability to get close to the net and collect loose pucks. As Loui Eriksson put it, “I thought we maybe made it a little bit too easy for them, too. We didn’t have that traffic in front. We need some more guys to go in front and screen [Giguere].”
The Bruins seemed “a bit emotionless” early in the game, Krug said. But that ended with less than a minute to go in the second period when Milan Lucic got into a shoving and shouting match with Gabriel Landeskog. Of course, Lucic was doing most of the shoving and most of the shouting.
He was still steaming after the game.
Lucic received a two-minute roughing penalty plus a 10-minute misconduct — a call Julien labeled “a bit soft” — and was lost for more than half of the third period, which certainly didn’t aid the Bruins in their comeback attempts.
Ultimately, though, the game had come down to the first 20 minutes — a period in which the Avalanche came out with speed and determination. The Bruins didn’t.
“I just think we weren’t skating,” Rask said. “They broke up forecheck and then their wingers were coming 100 miles an hour and our D was just standing there with nobody supporting them. So it’s kind of tough for them to do anything to kind of stand up and cut the speed away when you get no backup.
“I think we were just not skating fast enough in the first, but then readjusted after that and we limited their chances on rushes.”
But it wasn’t enough. The Avalanche had scored their goal. The Bruins wouldn’t score theirs.
And so Colorado leaves town atop the NHL.
“Honestly, we don’t really have expectations,” Roy said. “We just want to surprise the world of hockey.”