The Bruins gave up four power-play goals. They had to stare down a late-game six-on-three situation when Torey Krug (high-sticking double minor) and Patrice Bergeron (delay of game) were parked in the penalty box. After taking a 3-1 lead into the second period, the Bruins eased off the gas.
But those weren’t the primary reasons the Bruins dropped a 4-3 game on Saturday night to New Jersey, which had entered TD Garden with just one other win.
The Bruins had far too many passengers hitching on for a free ride.
“Tonight, we had one line going,” said coach Claude Julien, referring to his first unit of Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Jarome Iginla. “We needed more. Too many mediocre guys. Whether it was hitting a wall or whatever the case may be, it just wasn’t good enough. We had the day off [Friday] to give those guys a rest. Three games in four nights isn’t always an easy thing to go through. You wish you could have pulled this one off to have a real good week. But unfortunately that wasn’t the case.”
Julien didn’t name any of his anchors. The scoresheet did the talking.
No. 2 right wing Brad Marchand: 0-0—0, zero shots, no presence. No. 3 left wing Carl Soderberg: 0-0—0, one shot, replaced by game’s end by Daniel Paille. No. 4 center Gregory Campbell: 0-0—0, two shots, 3 for 11 on faceoffs.
With at least one scuffler on each line, it was no surprise the Bruins didn’t get any whiff of four-line traction after an excellent first period. For every strong shift the power line submitted, the other units killed the forward momentum.
The Bruins were in great shape after the first. Krejci and Co. had turned in one of their best 20-minute stretches of the season. Lucic was in front and Iginla was the disher on Krug’s game-opening power-play goal. With Lucic and Krejci providing net drive, Iginla whipped a shot that deflected off Damien Brunner and beat Martin Brodeur.
Adam Henrique answered with a power-play goal at 11:24 of the first. But the Bruins grabbed a 3-1 lead after more good stuff from the first line, this time starting in the defensive zone.
Krejci won a D-zone faceoff against Dainius Zubrus. As Krejci pulled the puck back to Dennis Seidenberg, the Bruins rolled out a set play. Iginla sprinted toward the right-side wall. Seidenberg went to Dougie Hamilton. As soon as Hamilton received the pass, he rolled the puck up the boards, knowing that Iginla would pluck it off the wall.
That led to a rapid three-on-two rush. Lucic capped the flurry with his team-leading sixth goal at 19:04 of the first.
Things went sour after that.
The Bruins should have put the game out of reach in the second. Their offensive millstones said otherwise.
At the other end, the Devils got late life with a power-play goal in the final minute of the second. Rask thought he had pushed from left to right to kick out Brunner’s sharp-angle shot. But Brunner’s shot banked off Rask’s right pad and squeaked over the line. Rask tried to pull the puck back into play, but the goal was good.
“You’re kind of there,” said Rask (28 saves). “But it hits your toe. It’s barely in. What do you do?”
The Bruins, while being outplayed, still had at least a point in their sights. But at 16:45 of the third, Krug carved Brunner open with a high stick.
Then at 18:11, the Bruins lost their best penalty-killing forward. Bergeron corralled the puck and cleared the zone. Trouble was, Bergeron’s clear careened into the stands.
“I thought I was closer to the wall,” Bergeron said. “It’s one of those plays I make basically every time. I went a little too hard on that one and too high. I take full responsibility for that play.”
The Devils, up two skaters, were soon up three. With approximately 90 seconds remaining in regulation, New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer pulled Brodeur to create a six-on-three situation. The Devils made no mistake.
Steve Bernier planted himself in front of Rask. Marek Zidlicky wound up at the right point. Zidlicky, one of the league’s hardest shooters, cranked a slap shot past Rask at 18:52 to tie the game at 3-3.
“A six-on-three for a minute and a half, that’s a good chance,” Iginla said. “You want to kill it. But they had a good screen and they put it right in the top corner. So that’s a good shot.”
Twenty-three seconds later, the Devils scored the winner. With Krug still in the box, Jaromir Jagr set up Brunner for a net-front one-timer. Brunner fanned on the shot, but the puck dribbled to Andy Greene at the far post. Before Rask could recover, Greene found the back of the net at 19:15.
“We had the lead, we had momentum, and we let it slip by,” Bergeron said. “So we definitely let this one get away from us.”