NASHVILLE — At other times, in other situations, the Bruins’ 3-2 shootout loss to Pekka Rinne and the Predators would have represented a good outcome. It was a road point against the best goaltender in the NHL, a chance to keep moving up in the standings despite facing a team that had gone 11-2-1 at Bridgestone Arena this season.
But for the Bruins, this isn’t a normal time. And this certainly isn’t a normal situation.
Boston, now with two teams (Panthers, Rangers) between it and the final wild-card spot, is in desperate need of two-point games. The Bruins fell just shy on Tuesday night, with a Derek Roy score past Tuukka Rask providing the margin in the shootout.
And so it was that after the game the Bruins sounded far more disappointed than heartened by their performance, as they referenced the standings and the games passing and the chances lost to move up.
“The thing is you can’t get too down,” Milan Lucic said, sounding rather down. “Obviously it sucks losing and we hate losing. We don’t want to be in the position that we’re at, but it’s just the reality of things. We don’t want it to be a routine thing in this dressing room. We don’t want to accept losing.
“It’s tough to swallow when you keep losing games, but I think we have to start looking at things from a positive standpoint. We played a good road game, and the level was there. But it can go up another notch.”
Added Tuukka Rask, “It was a good road game. But same old story: Just fell short for one goal.”
The Bruins, in the end, did not play poorly against the Predators. They just — once again — couldn’t score enough, marking the 11th time in their last 14 games that they couldn’t get beyond two goals.
They came close, though, with Lucic nearly ending the overtime with 1:11 remaining. The winger picked off a pass at the blue line, and came in alone on Rinne. But he couldn’t get the Bruins their third goal.
“It’s pretty obvious that their goaltender has been standing tall for these guys,” coach Claude Julien said. “We had some real great opportunities that I think probably against most goaltenders would have gone in, but he’s been their best player so far this year is what I’ve been told, and it showed tonight.”
Rinne came into the game leading the NHL in most statistical categories, contending not just for the Vezina Trophy, but for the Hart as well, with a 1.75 goals against average, a .937 save percentage, and 19 wins.
He would make it an even 20 on Tuesday.
But Rask was nearly his equal, allowing two goals on 40 shots in regulation and overtime, and allowing just the one shootout goal to get past him.
“You look at the opportunities we had and the game we played, I don’t think there’s anything to be disappointed in,” Julien said.
“Right now it’s just we talk about a little fraction here, a little fraction there that’s going to make the difference in losing that point or winning that point. We’re getting close to it.”
The Bruins in fact, got on the board first, with a Lucic goal at 4:04 of the second period. Boston came alive in the period, finishing with 15 shots, and putting constant pressure on Rinne. They capitalized when Lucic put home a rebound on a Chris Kelly shot just eight seconds after a power play ended.
But at 19:30 of the second, after a Lucic hooking penalty on Seth Jones, the Predators tied the score on the man advantage.
A shot from Shea Weber ticked off Mike Fisher and trickled between the pads of Rask, giving the Predators their first power-play goal at home since their season opener, on Oct. 9.
“Over my career I’ve been pretty good at not taking penalties with my stick,” Lucic said. “Unfortunately I take one tonight and it cost us.”
Nashville went up early in the third period, with a Mike Ribeiro one-timer beating Rask from the right circle. The puck bounced to Ribeiro from the end boards, and he made it count for the tie-breaking goal at 1:31, a play that Rask called “a little mistake in our own end.”
Less than two minutes later, Reilly Smith knotted the score at 3:28 of the period, on a pretty move through the offensive zone (and around James Neal) to beat Rinne. It was a play on which, as he said later, he was looking to pass until he realized he didn’t have any other option but to put the puck on net. It worked out.
That would be it for either team, until the shootout.
“It just takes one good game and a win to get back in that groove,” Rask said. “When you’re struggling, wins are tough to come by. When you’re not getting the bounces and you’re having a tough time scoring, you really just have to grind it out and get that win and then keep going, keep that going in the right direction. I think that’s what we need right now is a good solid 60-minute game and a win and we’re going to keep it going.”
He added, almost as an aside, almost as if he didn’t believe it, “Good road point today.”
Because he knew, and his teammates knew, that they need more than the one point. They need wins, both in the standings, and to get past the mental difficulty inherent in having won just one of their last seven games.
“We saw a lot of good things tonight,” Julien said. “We’re just lacking that extra point that we were hoping to get.”