For those good at reading lips, the Bruins were an interesting group on Tuesday night. There was cursing from Claude Julien, more from Milan Lucic, and a whole lot of unhappiness — which was well-directed at themselves.
Amid a host of bad penalties and worse bounces, the Bruins allowed four power-play goals to the lowly Islanders, the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference, in a 5-3 New Year’s Eve loss. It was the second time the Bruins suffered a bad loss to the Islanders after the ugly defeat at the Nassau Coliseum Nov. 2, and it was the team’s second straight defeat overall.
“Obviously you’ve got to give [them] credit for the good game, but a lot of it is our own doing – not playing the way we should and taking too many penalties,” Patrice Bergeron said. “We knew they had a good power play [18th in the league] and we didn’t do a good job on the PK. We can give them credit, but still we could’ve played a lot better.”
Julien agreed with the notion that the loss was in many ways self-inflicted.
“I think when we took the 3-1 lead we kind of relaxed and they came back hard and they kind of got the momentum back and we couldn’t regain it,” he said. “They made their own breaks.”
He added, “A lot of things I didn’t like tonight. Obviously our penalty kill wasn’t very good, some of the decision-making, even again, we talked about our forecheck — we were late, we weren’t winning battles, they dominated the battle areas — and when you start losing those kind of things, to our team it’s certainly not a good sign.”
The four power-play goals against tied a season high for the Bruins, who allowed that many to the Devils Oct. 26, in their last regulation loss at TD Garden. The Bruins had gone 13-0-2 in Boston since that game.
“We’ve got to be a lot better, everyone, everyone that’s on the ice,” Bergeron said of a penalty kill unit that lost Dennis Seidenberg and his 2:24 of shorthanded time per game over the weekend. “We all take a lot of pride in our PK. We’ll have to look at videos and compete and be a lot better.”
Of course, that wasn’t just on the power play. The Bruins were assessed 10 penalties, including three to Lucic on one play at 16:03 of the third period (boarding, unsportsmanlike conduct, game misconduct). Some, the Bruins thought, were bad calls. Others were poor choices on their part.
But the four power-play goals against — for a team that entered the game third in the league (87.1 percent) on the penalty kill — were truly problematic.
Pressed on the penalty kill issue, Julien attributed it to one thing: “Sloppiness.”
And that sloppiness couldn’t be cleaned up, as it is so often, by Tuukka Rask. The goalie allowed five goals on 31 shots one game after being pulled after allowing three goals on 12 shots. That last game, though, Rask discounted as an aberration after he wasn’t scheduled to start. This one, he took on himself.
“I couldn’t stop the puck when it mattered, then get those bounces, so that’s the result,” Rask said. “It feels like everything’s going in, one way or the other.”
One of those bounces saw the tying goal — credited to Kyle Okposo — go off Brad Marchand’s left skate and slip past Rask with three seconds left in the second period. There was the delay of game penalty on Rask that gave the Islanders the power play — their third in a row — that resulted in that tying goal.
The Bruins appeared to be taking control of the game, scoring two goals in 25 seconds in the second period, with Bergeron notching a power-play goal at 12:33 and Daniel Paille adding a tip-in of a Zdeno Chara shot at 12:58 to go up 3-1.
But Frans Nielsen took a Thomas Vanek pass and put it past Rask at 16:30 for his second of the game, after Gregory Campbell failed to clear the puck on the power play. And then there was that dagger with three seconds to go in the period.
The winning goal came just 32 seconds into the third, as Bruins killer Vanek set up John Tavares for a wrister to make the score 4-3.
“It’s frustrating, obviously, when you have two leads and it ends up going the way it does,” Lucic said. “They get two goals behind the goal line and everything else that went on, but at the end of the day we lost a game and it [stinks] losing that way.”
The Islanders added their fourth power-play goal at 13:17 of the third, after a double minor for roughing by Marchand. Tavares also tallied that one, giving him a four-point night.
The Bruins started the scoring at 4:25 of the first, on David Krejci’s 100th career NHL goal, a second-effort flip past Evgeni Nabokov. New York tied it on Nielsen’s first of the night at 5:56, the Islanders’ first power-play score of the game.
“Our penalty kill didn’t do a very good job, but it’s not just them, it’s the whole team,” Krejci said. “We win as a team and we lose as a team. Obviously it’s a disappointing loss, but we have to move on.”