In the first moments after Bruins coach Claude Julien uttered the words “they suck,” it was unclear exactly what he meant, whether he meant shootouts stink or that his players stink at shootouts. Both are arguable.
Including the first six rounds Thursday against the Calgary Flames, the Bruins had been unsuccessful in 27 consecutive shootout attempts. And as soon as they broke that streak with a seventh-round goal by Patrice Bergeron, the Flames matched it with a goal by Josh Jooris.
Calgary won it with a sweet eighth-round move by defenseman David Schlemko for a 4-3 victory. Boston is 2-7 in shootouts this season, and the only consolation is that there are no shootouts in the playoffs — if the Bruins make the playoffs.
The Bruins’ lack of success wasn’t helped by the ice, which was deemed terrible by the players in the shootout, part of the reason that multiple Bruins (Ryan Spooner, Torey Krug) lost the puck before even getting off a shot.
Still, the last Bruin to score in a shootout before Bergeron was Krug, back on Dec. 31 against the Maple Leafs. The Bruins lost that one, too.
“It’s no secret, we have to do a better job of winning games in the shootout,” Milan Lucic said. “Tuukka [Rask] has been really good in the shootout giving us a chance to win, but at the end of the day it’s up to us to make sure it doesn’t even get there with the opportunities we’re creating. We have to do a better job of bearing down.”
Instead of the two points the Bruins should have had, they got just one, a sting that was eased a bit by the Panthers also getting just one point in their shootout loss Thursday night against Dallas. But in a game of missed chances, missed shots, missed nets, the Bruins could only sigh afterward.
“Our lack of finish is probably the biggest concern right now,” Julien said. “So I think we had the better of the game tonight five on five. There’s no doubt we played a lot more in their end than we did in ours.
“If we finish around the net, it’s over. I think we had some good chances in the second period, so right now that’s our biggest challenge is the finish around the net area.”
Finishing certainly was a challenge for the Bruins, specifically Loui Eriksson. The right wing could have had two goals in addition to the one he scored at 11:40 of the third period to make it 3-3.
The third period also featured a rush up ice by Carl Soderberg on a four on four that could have turned into a score. Soderberg passed the puck across to Eriksson, who had a wide-open chance and missed it wide. Eriksson also was foiled at 5:02 of the third, as he attempted to put the winning goal past Karri Ramo.
“I felt I had the chances to score a hat trick, for sure, but I have to be a little bit more — I don’t know — when I get the chance I have to bury those and be a little more patient maybe and score those goals,” said Eriksson, who led the team with seven shots on net. “Today I had a lot of chances to get some goals.”
The teams traded goals in both the first and second periods, the Bruins scoring first in each. They got their first lead on a wraparound goal by Brad Marchand at 7:46 of the first, followed by a power-play strike by Calgary’s Sean Monahan at 18:49.
That came after the Bruins were called for the second of their three penalties in 3:30 to finish the period, starting with a momentum-draining boarding call on Max Talbot in his Bruins debut. For the game, Boston was tagged with a whopping seven penalties, two of which led to Calgary goals. The Flames were called for three penalties.
Lucic put the Bruins back on top at 2:30 of the second, taking a pretty feed from Spooner, who himself took a pretty backhanded feed from David Pastrnak behind the net. At 14:26, though, Jiri Hudler converted a rebound of a pad save by Rask (29 saves).
Then came the Flames’ second power-play goal, at 4:59 of the third by Johnny Gaudreau, after which Eriksson scored his 15th of the season. That led to overtime. Overtime led to frustration.
And there’s only so much more frustration the Bruins can withstand this season.
“Nineteen games left, especially with this stretch,” Lucic said. “Today was the start of 11 games in 18 days, and we know this is our season. If we want to be in the playoffs, this is the most important time of the year for us to get our game going and get points and not give points away, kind of like we did tonight.
“I’m more than confident with the group we have, it’s just a matter of being confident in those areas where we’re creating scoring chances and burying them.”