CHICAGO — Their focus not nearly where it needs to be, especially with the dream of a Stanley Cup dancing in their heads, the Bruins stumbled along to a shapeless, shabby 6-3 loss to the Blackhawks Tuesday at the United Center.
On the heels of Sunday’s loss in Detroit, yet another non-playoff team, it was the first time in 2022-23 that the Black and Gold suffered consecutive regulation losses, and it was the third straight time that they yielded the game’s opening goal.
For a club that has been a trend-setter all season, powering to the top of the NHL standings and winning 50 games faster than any team in league history, the trend they have set of late has them concerned.
“Clearly, we’re not checking well enough,” said coach Jim Montgomery, sounding miffed over the continued inconsistency of his club, which fell to 50-11-5 and stands 1-3-0 in the last four. “We’re also not holding on to pucks well enough.”
Keeping in line with recent troubles, the Bruins again were blanked on the power play (0 for 2), fell a touch short on the penalty kill (2 for 3), and overall were outplayed by a near-no-name squad that in no way resembles the Chicago powerhouse that not long ago rattled off three Cup titles over six seasons.
Taylor Raddysh scored his first career hat trick, zipping No. 3 into an empty net with 45 seconds to go. It was Boris Katchouk, with a dipsy-doodle move around Derek Forbort (minus-3 with partner Connor Clifton), who provided the back-breaker, snapping a 3-3 tie with 6:59 gone in the third.
The Bruins thought they had it knotted, 4-4, with a Tyler Bertuzzi power-play strike just over four minutes later (11:14), but replay showed that his shot went crossbar-post-and-out … and for the Bruins, it was over. Raddysh connected for his second, on a power play, to make it 5-3 with 3:52 to go.
Vezina sure-shot Linus Ullmark, who rarely has had a rough ride this season, gave up five goals on 28 shots, marking the end of the Swedish stopper’s eight-game winning streak. He looked off his mark from the start, yielding MacKenzie Entwistle’s game-opening goal on a puck that rolled off the forward’s stick blade as he approached the net.
“I think right now we are disconnected,” noted Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron. “We’re not playing the right way. We are cheating and, you know, I think this league is going to humble you if you do that.
“That’s what we’re getting right now. It’s not good enough.”
After twice battling back to tie with goals by Hampus Lindholm and Trent Frederic, the Bruins moved ahead, 3-2, on Pavel Zacha’s 17th goal of the season at 3:02 of the third.
But the Hawks answered quickly, with Ullmark down and out, and a pig pile of bodies around his crease. It was Raddysh, swapped to Chicago a year ago from Tampa Bay with Katchouk, who provided the chip shot for his 18th goal of the season. The strike came only 53 seconds after Zacha’s shot angled in off the right boot of ex-Bruins defenseman Jarred Tinordi.
A brief flurry of goals late in the second, the Bruins twice providing the equalizer, left the clubs tied, 2-2, at the end of the second period.
Lindholm’s goal, which delivered a 1-1 tie, was the 35th from the Bruins backline this season. The Black and Gold are now 24-3-0 whenever a defenseman scores.
The Blackhawks, among the clubs in contention to land top pick Connor Bedard via the draft lottery, pulled back into the lead less than two minutes later on Joey Anderson’s fourth goal of the season. Katchouk set it up with a pass through the crease after his failed attempt on the left side. Anderson, with a step on Forbort near the right post, made the easy forehand deposit before Ullmark could slide across for the stop.
Frederic provided the 2-2 equalizer, set up at the top of the crease by a short feed into the middle by Bertuzzi. Frederic had position on Connor Murphy and jammed the puck by Alex Stalock, sending the two sides deadlocked into the break.
Stalock took over the Hawks net from starter Petr Mrazek 8:48 into the second just under a minute after the starter was rattled by a steaming Dmitry Orlov slapper that hit the lower portion of his mask.
Mrazek, looking a bit rattled, fussed with his mask and played until the next whistle, 59 seconds later. But with an on-ice official at his side, the goaltender made his way to the bench and disappeared into the dressing room, not to be seen the rest of the night.
The Bruins, who make their way to Winnipeg Thursday, need to sharpen their game in all three zones.
“The energy, the emotion of our team right now is very, very … .at levels I have not seen all year,” said Montgomery.
A matter of focus?
“Maybe,” said Montgomery. “But our focus has been there. Now it’s two stretches [this season] we haven’t had it, right? The first one I thought it was physical, fatigue. This one, there’s no reason for physical fatigue, and we look like we are tired.”
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.