Of course. Who else could it have been?
When the Bruins and Stars finished up a scoreless overtime and headed to a shootout, it seemed like the ending had been scripted. Tyler Seguin. Rich Peverley. Who else?
Patrice Bergeron scored in the first round, and Seguin matched him in the second. Neither Loui Eriksson nor Alex Chiasson could convert in the third, so it went to David Krejci vs. Peverley. Krejci couldn’t score. Peverley did.
And there it was: a 3-2 shootout loss for the Bruins at the Garden, their fourth loss in five games.
“You face them in practice, it’s a different scenario,” Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said. “You think you know what they’re going to do and they do something else. You knew they were going to score at some point. That’s how it goes when you play against your old team. Find a way to score a goal.”
That’s what Peverley did. “I didn’t even think about [winning the game],’’ said Peverley. “I was just trying to go in with some speed, and maybe fool him going five-hole. Luckily, it snuck through.”
When asked about his former players providing the margin, Bruins coach Claude Julien said, “I don’t care about that. Give it a break. And I’m mad because we lost. Next.”
Julien had reason to be unhappy. It was yet another loss for a team that should be better than it has shown of late. Because, while that ending might have been dispiriting, the rest of the game was the real problem.
“It came down to a shootout because we played at the level of the other team,” Julien said. “Not to take anything away from them, but I like to think we’re a better team than we showed tonight. First 10 minutes were good, and then we got back to some of our old habits and eventually when you play that way you find ways to lose hockey games; and that’s what we’re doing right now, we’re finding ways to lose.”
Of late, the first period had been their kryptonite. The Bruins had come out sleepy, relaxed, hardly their usual hard-charging, hard-forechecking selves. They had played their way into deficit after deficit, needing miraculous conclusions to eke out a point or two, when they could manage that.
It was different on Tuesday. Against Dallas, the Bruins came out strong, like they had found some reserve that had been hidden. They dominated early, outshooting the Stars, 15-1, halfway through the period.
Then, it stopped. The Bruins’ efforts quieted. Their energy slowed. The Stars climbed back in, eventually pulling ahead at 23-22 in shots late in the second period.
“It’s great that we had a good start, but unfortunately we had a pretty big lull for the next 30 minutes,” Milan Lucic said. “Right now I think that’s the biggest problem with our group. We’re not playing as a team for a full 60 minutes.
“It just seems like everything’s out of synch right now. We’ve got to do whatever we can to get ourselves out of this jam, out of this funk. Frustration is not going to help us get through it. We’ve got to dig deep and start doing things the right way if we want to play better.”
The Bruins almost sneaked away with a win.
The Stars scored first, as Zdeno Chara tried to bat the puck out of the zone. But it went right to the stick of Jamie Benn, who snapped it over Rask’s blocker at 3:38.
But just 38 seconds later, Reilly Smith took a puck off his skate to his stick, and flicked it to Torey Krug, just to the left of the net. Krug slipped the puck past Kari Lehtonen for his fifth of the season, giving Smith a point against his old team.
After a scoreless second, the Bruins got their second on a Lucic tip of a Dougie Hamilton shot from the point at 11:39.
It was Lucic’s seventh goal of the season, matching his 46-game total from 2012-13.
They held the lead with fewer than three minutes to go in the game.
Then came an error, the kind the Bruins don’t usually make.
A bad line change by Chara and Dennis Seidenberg led to Seidenberg bringing Vernon Fiddler down from behind at 17:26. Fiddler was awarded a penalty shot and converted, tying the game.
“Bad change on the tying goal, real bad change,” Julien said. “So it’s not just young guys, it’s good players, it’s everybody right now. So we’re not playing well right now, and we’re finding ways to lose vs. finding ways to win.”
That has to change.
“It’s never going to be perfect from the first game to the last, but as a player and as a professional you have to worry about the things that you can control, and that’s work ethic and your effort and your commitment and focus and all that type of stuff,” Lucic said. “And it seems like those are the things that are costing us right now.”
Lucic said that it has to be done as a team — “line by line, pairing by D pairing, and everyone.”
“You can’t let frustration kick in, it only makes things worse,” Lucic continued. “It’s like you’re in quicksand right now, right? If you try working too hard, you keep digging yourself a bigger hole.”
But work needs to be done. There are still periods in which the Bruins come out flat, without the push they need to be successful. They need, as Krug said, “to find that spark.’’
“Every team goes through these all year because of the number of games that you have,” Julien said. “The only thing that you can take is I know we’ve worked our way out of it [in the past]. And sometimes when you get tired enough of losing, you react. And that’s what you hope the guys are going to do here very soon.”