The first time the Bruins allowed a goal in the last minute of a period this season, it was a blip that hardly registered.
Bruce Cassidy had more to be disappointed with after a 6-3 loss to the Flyers on Oct. 20 than Joel Farabee’s power-play goal with 8.9 seconds left in the first period.
A few empty-net goals at the end of losses weren’t reason to raise eyebrows. But it happened again Nov. 13 at the end of the second period against New Jersey. The Bruins couldn’t get the puck out of their zone and that gave Jesper Bratt a chance to punch one past Jeremy Swayman.
It didn’t sit well with Cassidy, but a 5-2 win made it relatively forgivable.
But when it happened again two weeks later in a loss to the Rangers, Cassidy couldn’t brush it off anymore.
“Understand where you are in the game,” Cassidy said at the time. “There’s going to be goals that are scored because guys are stronger than you or faster than you and they make plays. That happens. Calls or whatever. But you’ve got to play winning hockey at the right time. That’s where we get away from our identity and start having those breakdowns that are, to me, they’re pretty straightforward.”
As the saying goes: One’s an incident, two’s a coincidence, three’s a pattern. That would make 23 serious cause for concern.
The Bruins have given up 23 goals this season in the last minute of any period — the most in the league, according to Stathead.com. Throw out the seven empty netters and it’s still 16 last-minute goals, which is tied with Montreal for second most in the league.
|March 1||Anaheim||W||Adam Henrique||1||19:03|
|April 5||Detroit||W||Dylan Larkin||1||19:20|
|April 2||Columbus||L||Gustav Nyquist||1||19:32|
|Jan. 22||Winnipeg||L||Andrew Copp||1||19:34|
|March 26||New York Islanders||L||Brock Nelson||1||19:48|
|Oct. 20||Philadephia||W||Joel Farabee||1||19:51|
|Nov. 26||New York Rangers||W||Ryan Strome||1||19:54|
|Dec. 14||Las Vegas||W||Jonathan Marchessault||1||19:59|
|Jan. 1||Buffalo||L||Alex Tuch||2||19:11|
|Nov. 13||New Jersey||L||Jesper Bratt||2||19:24|
|April 4||Columbus||L||Zach Werenski||2||19:44|
|March 12||Arizona||L||Clayton Keller||2||19:59|
|Oct. 20||Philadelphia||W||Sean Couturier||3||19:01|
|April 5||Detroit||W||Sam Gagner||3||19:13|
|Nov. 6||Toronto||W||Mitch Marner||3||19:17|
|Jan. 26||Colorado||W||Gabriel Landeskog||3||19:23|
|Nov. 26||New York Rangers||W||Jacob Trouba||3||19:23|
|March 7||Los Angeles||W||Trevor Moore||3||19:34|
|Oct. 27||Florida||W||Owen Tippett||3||19:34|
|Oct. 28||Carolina||W||Andrei Svechnikov||3||19:35|
|March 1||Anaheim||W||Trevor Zegras||3||19:38|
|March 16||Minnesota||W||Ryan Hartman||3||19:55|
|March 5||Columbus||L||Jakub Voracek||3||19:57|
Since Jan. 1, the Bruins have been one of the best teams in the league, putting together a 30-11-3 run. That success has largely made the 14 last-minute goals (two empty-net goals) allowed over that span an afterthought.
But the Bruins are 8-13-2 when they’ve let a team steal a goal in the final minute of a period.. Of those eight wins, they had to pull out two games in overtime and one in a shootout.
Columbus temporarily hijacked momentum Saturday with a goal by Gustav Nyquist at 19:32 of the first period, then tied the game 42 seconds into the second. But the Bruins walked out of the Garden with a 5-2 win. Two nights later, the Bruins gave up a tying goal to Zach Werenski with 16 seconds left in the second period before winning in overtime.
But some lapses have cost them games. The Red Wings erased a 2-0 Bruins lead Tuesday in Detroit on the way to a 5-3 win and the tide started turning when Dylan Larkin scored with 40 seconds left in the first period.
No two goals are alike, so it was hard for Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron to pinpoint a common thread.
“I think it’s attention to details all the way through,” said Bergeron. “You can’t have your foot off the gas pedal at the end, especially late in periods. Sometimes that gives the other team momentum. So definitely need to rectify that.”
The concern as the Bruins look ahead to the postseason is having one of these lapses when stakes are high. The majority of teams currently sitting in playoff spots don’t have the same problem. Of the 10 teams who’ve given up the most last-minute goals, Minnesota (20, 12 not counting empty-net and penalty shots) and Edmonton (20, 14) are the only other teams currently in playoff position.
“It’s come up,” said Brandon Carlo. “It’s been evident within our game. That’s something that you can’t really hide from.”
The Bruins have been prone to these lapses no matter where they’re playing. They’ve given up 14 on the road and nine at home.
“That’s been a problem for us,” Cassidy said. “That’s why sometimes we have a few of these up and down games is we make it hard on ourselves sometimes. But you have creative players. You want to let them play. But those are the situations they have to learn from. We’ve got to do a better job with that and they’ve got to do a better job of understanding too. A lot of these mistakes are not young guys or guys that haven’t been in long. They should know.”
The Bruins have allowed 11 goals in the final minute of the third period, but seven were empty-net scores. They’ve let three games slip away because of last-minute goals in the third.
“Obviously, you talk about momentum swings within a game, you can’t be doing that, at the end of the period especially,” Carlo said. “It gives other teams some juice going into the locker room and coming out for the next period. So that’s something that we’ve got to focus on here. I don’t necessarily think it’s going to be an issue as long as we dial in and just take care of certain things. Simplify in those last couple minutes.”
The pattern has been sitting just under the surface all season. Now the Bruins have 12 games to resolve it before the consequences become more serious.
“Overall, I think it’s just focusing on taking care of the little details within those moments,” Carlo said. “And I’m very confident within our group that we can accomplish that.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.