ANAHEIM, Calif. — It was not the news the Bruins needed, not before a game against the Ducks at the Honda Center. Milan Lucic was not well enough to play, scratched just before the game with an illness.
That left the Bruins taking on the only unbeaten team at home in regulation with a mixed-and-matched 11 forwards and seven defensemen, a prospect that couldn’t have been enticing to coach Claude Julien.
And yet, the Bruins came out strong, getting nine shots before allowing the Ducks their first, at 9:48 of the first period, and outshooting them, 16-3, for the period. But the Bruins were the victims of “sloppy” special teams play, according to Daniel Paille — allowing three power-play goals and one shorthanded — en route to a 5-2 loss to the Ducks.
The Ducks are now 18-0-2 at the Honda Center.
“I thought we played a good, solid game,” Julien said. “In the first period, I thought we should have come out of there with at least a couple goal lead with the quality chances that we had. Unfortunately those power-play goals they got in the second period kind of got them a comfortable lead.”
It was a lead the Ducks nearly surrendered, with the Bruins coming within one goal in the third period. But they couldn’t come any closer, and allowed two late insurance tallies.
“I thought we played a great game. You look at the scoreboard, it’s 5-2, you wouldn’t think so,” goaltender Tuukka Rask said. “But they didn’t get a lot of chances. When they got them, they somehow put the puck in the net.
“We made mistakes that cost us too much, I guess. Got to clean that up.”
He added, “It’s one of those games where no matter what you do, they score. Today they got those bounces, despite our good effort.”
Penalty killing seems to be an increasing issue for the Bruins, who no longer have the services of defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who is out for the season.
“He’s really good,” Rask said of Seidenberg. “He’s really strong in front of the net with his stick. It’s tough to replace him. Guys are trying, but it’s not the same out there obviously. But we’re doing our best. I don’t think it’s because of our defense. It’s overall our penalty kill.’’
Just one week earlier, the Bruins allowed four power-play goals to the Islanders at home, and lost to a team at the bottom of the standings. Against one of the best teams in the Western Conference, they didn’t have much chance by allowing three power-play scores.
It was a surprising power-play outburst for the Ducks. Anaheim entered the night 24th in the NHL with a 14.5 percent success rate. The Bruins stood in the league in penalty kill, at 85.3 percent.
But that wasn’t all that went wrong for the Bruins. One thing that particular perturbed Julien — but it wasn’t necessarily the fault of his charges.
With the Bruins down, 3-2, and on the power play after a Saku Koivu high-stick on Torey Krug at 12:07 of the third, Brad Marchand was called for interference on Daniel Winnik for kicking the stick out of his hands. That negated the penalty just 28 seconds in.
“You get a call like that against you, it’s mind-boggling sometimes,” he said. “We could have tied it. It’s not like he pushed it. He’s skating backwards. I think it was based on the reputation, it’s as simple as that.”
Anaheim started its scoring on a chip by Mathieu Perreault off a feed from Teemu Selanne at 5:53 of the second period on the power play. They got another, also with the man advantage, at 8:29, as Rask couldn’t hold onto the puck after a shot. Corey Perry was able to clean up the loose puck for the 2-0 lead.
And the Ducks kept adding on, with a shorthanded goal at 17:10 of the second period, off a bad play by Reilly Smith in the Bruins’ end on the power play. The puck ended up bouncing in front of Rask, and was swept in by Andrew Cogliano.
The Bruins did manage to get one back with 15.1 seconds to go in the second. Justin Florek, in his second NHL game, created a turnover, and helped finish it off with a feed across the goal mouth to Paille, who finished it off. That marked the fourth goal in six games since Paille made his return from a concussion Dec. 27.
And the Bruins cut the deficit to one on a goal by Dougie Hamilton at 7:19 of the third period. After Jarome Iginla and Carl Soderberg failed to knock the puck past Jonas Hiller, Hamilton finished off the chance. It was the defenseman’s first goal since Nov. 2, a stretch of 19 games without a score.
But, ultimately, it wasn’t enough to come back from the three-goal deficit.
“We have nobody but ourselves to blame on [the power-play goals],” Julien said. “I thought we didn’t do a very good job there on the PK again tonight. That set us back a little bit, but again we battled right till the end. I wish we would have had a better chance at tying that game up.”Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.