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In a troublesome trend, Bruins were slow to recover from Ducks’ quick start

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask turns his head to watch the puck slowly slide over the line for the Ducks second goal of the game, a 2-0 deficit that proved insurmountable in Monday night's 5-3 loss to the Ducks.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

While the Bruins were piling up wins this month, they were also overcoming early deficits.

No team in the NHL has had a hotter month than the Bruins, who won nine of their first 12 games coming out of the restart at the beginning of the year. Over that same span, they’ve allowed teams to score the first goal six times.

More often than not, they found ways to overcome it.

They climbed out of a 2-0 hole in a 7-3 win against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 10 before the first period ended, tying it at 2. There were also times when they let early deficits snowball, such as the 7-1 loss against the Carolina Hurricane on Jan. 18 when the Hurricanes buried the Bruins with five first-period goals.

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Going into their matchup against the Anaheim Ducks Monday night at TD Garden, the Bruins had allowed each of their previous four opponents to strike first, but managed to come back three times, failing only to weather the maelstrom against the Hurricanes.

But the pattern was enough for head coach Bruce Cassidy to point it out before the game. Coming in, the Ducks were 16-6-3 when they got on the board first. The Bruins were 9-7-2 when they gave up the first goal.

On the way to a 5-3 win, the Ducks struck first again and made the Bruins their latest victim. Cassidy was at a loss for reasons for the the slow starts.

“Clearly we need to be better, a little more on our toes,” Cassidy said. “I can’t sit here and say exactly why today. Teams are coming in here ready to play. Anaheim played Friday, well-rested. We had a day off, should be well-rested as well.

“That’s one we’ll have to continue to identify. That’s one of the things we did talk about. Didn’t execute the start we wanted obviously.”

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The Bruins erased a hooking penalty against Charlie McAvoy 44 seconds into the game, but dug a hole for themselves later in the first period when Oskar Steen slammed Nicolas Deslauriers into the boards. The hit was ugly. Steen rammed Deslauriers in the numbers and drove him into the wall. But officials, who initially called for a five-minute major, only doled out a two-minute minor boarding penalty.

What the Bruins didn’t pay in penalty minutes, they paid on the scoreboard. Derek Grant delivered a power-play goal for the Ducks at the 9:59 mark, finding a slap shot from the right side past Tuukka Rask for his seventh goal of the season.

Anaheim's Sam Steel leaps in celebration in front of Tukka Rask after Steel's teammate Troy Terry scored in the third period against the Bruins Monday night.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

“Take a penalty early, sometimes that works against you to get it back,” Cassidy said. “They build a little momentum.”

The Ducks have scored first in 26 of their 44 games this season.

“I think that we just have to be ready for teams to be ultra prepared for us,” Taylor Hall said. “We’ve had a really good run here and teams know that. For us, it’s not some special way of playing that we have to do off the start. It’s just a simplified mind-set and a way of playing that let’s us feel good about our legs and good about our game right off the bat

“Instead of turnovers in our neutral zone putting our D in a bad spot and then having to play in our D zone, the goal should be for the first 10 minutes to go play down there in their end, and start feeling good about our game that way. So that’s going to be our focus from here on.”

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Four years removed from their last winning season, the Ducks are third in the Pacific Division and possibly still sneaking up on opponents.

“You can’t take anyone in this league lightly,” Hall said. “When I first came into the league, there were some nights where you couldn’t have your ‘C’ game and get away with it. Your skill would take over, if you were a fast team. Every team’s fast now, every team has their legs right off the bat, every team has a fast way of playing.

“We’re the same way. We can do the same thing to teams. When we were winning games, when we were scoring the first goal, we were up 2-0 10 minutes in. We were putting the pressure on teams and right now we’re the team that’s kind of sitting back and having to play in our end when we don’t have to.”

Brad Marchand skates by as Anaheim's Greg Pateryn, Hampus Lindholm and Isac Lundestrom celebrate a second-period goal Monday at TD Garden.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Regrouping has been one of the Bruins’ calling cards this season and Cassidy said starting games stronger will be something the team emphasizes going forward.

“All in all, not good enough,” Cassidy said. “Chased the game for a number of reasons tonight — not just the start. It’s something we’ve got to correct, especially at home.”


Julian Benbow can be reached at julian.benbow@globe.com.