Monday’s game would have been a handful under normal circumstances.
The Bruins had spent the previous day flying from one coast to the other after concluding their three-game trip to western Canada. They were squaring off against a good Nashville team that skates well, especially coming off a rest day.
The circumstances became bleaker once the Bruins decided to make the penalty box their preferred habitat.
After allowing two power-play goals and spending 9:30 on the penalty kill, the Bruins knew their shorthanded time played a big role in their 3-2 loss at TD Garden. They had taken 14 of 16 points in their last eight games before Monday’s regulation loss, their first since Nov. 17 against San Jose.
“The discipline was a big factor tonight, to lose momentum every time we had good shifts,” Patrice Bergeron said.
Referees Dean Morton and Tim Peel did not hesitate to make good use of their whistles. The Bruins deserved most of them.
Brad Marchand spent nine minutes serving time for his crimes, five courtesy of a second-period bout with Roman Josi. Marchand leads the Bruins with 13 goals. He cannot score (zero shots in 15:36 of ice time) when he’s feeling shame in the box.
Tyler Randell was also a nine-minute visitor to the box. The tough guy made the most of his five-minute chunk by hammering Eric Nystrom in a one-sided fight in the second. While Nystrom skated off for repairs, the ice crew had to scrape up splatters of blood that Randell forced out of his opponent’s face.
But the fourth-liner also was called for boarding in the second and tripping in the third. The Predators didn’t score on either penalty, but grinders like Randell are not encouraged to take minor penalties and disrupt their team’s four-line rhythm.
“There’s no doubt it had a certain element to tonight’s game,” coach Claude Julien said of his team’s travel itinerary. “But at the same time, to overcome that stuff you’ve got to be smarter. I think we took a lot of penalties that just kind of gave them momentum and overtaxed a lot of our players. I think we needed to be smarter in that area.”
Josi paced Nashville’s offense with two man-up goals. In the final minute of the first, with Zdeno Chara off for high-sticking James Neal, Josi played give-and-go with Mike Ribeiro. The passes through the penalty-killing box gave Josi enough room to fire the puck through Jonas Gustavsson at 19:35 to tie the game at 1-1.
After Loui Eriksson put the Bruins back up with a second-period power-play goal, Josi answered with his second man-advantage strike. This time he scored 12 seconds after Bergeron was nabbed for hooking.
The smooth-moving defenseman charged to the net, arrived in the house before Adam McQuaid could slide over, then beat Gustavsson at 11:20.
Josi’s tying goal set the stage for Viktor Arvidsson’s third-period winner. Cody Hodgson chipped the puck up to Arvidsson. Kevan Miller lost an edge, giving Arvidsson room to charge to the net. Arvidsson cut to the middle and slipped the puck through Gustavsson (30 saves) at 15:04.
The Bruins tried to rally. But their legs were gone because of the self-inflicted strain of killing seven power plays.
The Bruins took another hit when Joonas Kemppainen was slowed by an undisclosed injury in the first period. The puck was about to drop on the second period when Kemppainen finally emerged from the dressing room. But the center left the ice later in the second, this time for good. Kemppainen skated only five shifts for 3:04 of ice time.
Kemppainen is one of Julien’s regular penalty killers. So with Kemppainen unavailable, the heavy lifting went to the players Julien would prefer to use elsewhere: Bergeron (4:00 of shorthanded ice time), Eriksson (3:59), David Krejci (3:17), and Marchand (2:44). This did not leave their legs fresh for attacking situations.
The Bruins put only four pucks on backup goalie Carter Hutton in the second. They managed just six shots in the third.
“It’s a lot of skating out there when you’re down one man,” Eriksson said. “Of course you get tired after a while. I thought we did take a couple too many today. It wastes our energy a little bit extra coming out from a trip like that.”