LOS ANGELES — Just 1:45 into the second period, Claude Julien knew he needed to make a change. He pulled goalie Tuukka Rask — who had allowed three goals on 18 shots — and installed Chad Johnson in net, the third time this season Rask had been pulled.
It has not been a good road trip for the Bruins, their penalty-killing unit, or the goalie, who had given up five goals to the Anaheim Ducks two nights earlier.
Against the Kings, it all happened so quickly. Trailing by a goal after one period, the Bruins went down two more in the span of 61 seconds in the second.
They wouldn’t come back, not against a team that had come into the game 14-0-0 when leading after the second period. Instead, the Bruins dropped their second straight game of the trip, 4-2, in front of a full house at the Staples Center.
“I couldn’t help the team enough, and we also didn’t play our best, so it was a combination of two things,” Rask said. “You’ve got to do something to shake things up. I think it worked again. It’s just a sad thing that we have to give up three goals before we start playing. It [stinks] for me, but it’s a team game.”
So while Johnson allowed just one third-period goal to the Kings, stopping 16 of 17 shots, the Bruins couldn’t put enough offense together against a team allowing just 2.00 goals per game, tops in the NHL. (Boston is second, at 2.14, but the Bruins have allowed 21 goals in the six games since Dennis Seidenberg was lost for the season.)
The Kings’ second goal came after Dougie Hamilton landed back in the penalty box just three seconds after he had left it. Hamilton had sat out the final 23 seconds of his first-period penalty for tripping, but caught a pass with his stick while his feet were still in the box as he exited. Hamilton was called for interference, and returned to the box.
The Kings capitalized with a one-timer by Justin Williams, making the score 2-0 just 44 seconds into the period. The power-play goal was the fourth the Bruins had given up in two games on this West Coast trip.
Then came a strike from Alec Martinez that chased Rask from the game.
It was not the way the Bruins wanted to start out this trip, already having lost to Anaheim, and with another tough test in the Sharks on Saturday night.
But it wasn’t as if it was unanticipated. Boston knew that Los Angeles would provide a tough test, despite having struggled of late, having gone 1-5-1 in its last seven games before facing the Bruins.
“I think there’s consistency in their game, so you never get an easy game against them,” Julien said beforehand. “When you look at their goals against, they’re very stingy.”
The Bruins finally scored on a nice play by Hamilton, who created a turnover and got the puck to Carl Soderberg. Soderberg fed the puck to Matt Fraser, who unleashed an excellent shot, beating Jonathan Quick at 9:54 of the second.
The Kings had gone up early on the Bruins, taking advantage of an error by Johnny Boychuk to score at 10:32 of the first period. Boychuk flailed on a pass near the Bruins’ blue line, and Anze Kopitar swept up the puck and took it in on Rask. The goalie made the first stop, but Jeff Carter put it past him on the rebound.
The Bruins, meanwhile, couldn’t get much going in the first period, unlike in Anaheim when they came out strong from the drop of the puck. They managed just five shots, being outshot by Carter alone (six), and won just 7 of 20 faceoffs.
The Kings added an insurance goal by Dustin Brown at 12:22 of the third period, which looked even bigger after Johnny Boychuk wristed a shot that was tipped in by Justin Florek for his first NHL goal with 2:13 left in the third period.
“I think that we know we can be better,” Zdeno Chara said. “That’s maybe one of those things that it’s a bit frustrating, that we know we can play much better than we are right now. We need to get that game back and it’s not going to happen overnight and it’s not going to happen trying to make some high-risk plays or taking risks. We’ve just got to stay patient, and slowly gain our game back.”