PREDATORS 5, BRUINS 3
MARK HUMPHREY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
NASHVILLE — In a city known for country songs filled with soulful lyrics, the Bruins dusted off a time-worn golden oldie here Monday night: the too little, too late Black-and-Gold blues.
Faced with a 4-0 deficit early in the second period, the Bruins rallied to close within a goal early in the third, but ultimately danced the two-step hot-foot out of Bridgestone Arena with a 5-3 loss to the Nashville Predators.
“Diggin’ yourself a 4-0 deficit is certainly not a good recipe to win games,” said Bruins winger David Backes, who picked up his 500th career point amid the third-period rally. “The second half of the game was much better for us, but too little, too late.
“We need to be starting on time. They scored on their second shift of the game. And even then, it’s early, we can start being harder on pucks . . . but it took us halfway through [the game] to get that, and by then they had four in the back of our net.”
Amid the early meltdown, coach Bruce Cassidy brought out the hook for starting goalie Anton Khudobin, who entered the night with a near-pristine 7-0-2 record. But due in large part to shoddy all-around defense — not unlike what Tuukka Rask saw for the first five weeks this season — “Doby” allowed four goals on 14 shots by the opening five minutes of the second period.
“That was more on the team,” said Cassidy, whose squad had won six of its previous seven games. “One of those things, it wasn’t going our way. Anton made a big save on a 2-on-1 in the first, got beat by a few. So we went in another direction [to Rask] to get the guys’ attention as well.”
Rask needed only to make three saves over the remainder of the second, and the Bruins finally saw some light late in the period when Charlie McAvoy ripped home a Danton Heinen pass for a power-play strike. It was only the club’s third power-play goal in 13 games — a disturbing trend for a club with sights on reaching the playoffs for a second season in a row.
The Bruins made a strong push early in the third, with both Zdeno Chara and David Pastrnak connecting within 75 seconds of one another, trimming the Predators’ lead to 4-3.
Chara, with help from Backes, notched his on a 57-foot wrister that eluded goalie Pekka Rinne after it took a funny hop upon bouncing about 3 feet in front of his crease. Pastrnak ripped his home from the left circle after the puck stayed alive deep in the Nashville end when it ricocheted off a linesman. It looked perhaps like the Bruins might salvage a point out of the mess.
Sensing the potential upset, Nashville coach Peter Laviolette called a timeout when Pastrnak’s goal went in at 5:48. Their heads cleared, the Predators needed only 34 seconds for another Boston boo-boo to occur — a bollixed puck at Boston’s offensive blue line — and Filip Forsberg raced in to bury the 5-3 dagger.
“That happens many times, probably when a game is not going your way,” said Khudobin, clearly frustrated by his night in the net, highlighted by his early exit. “You have to change something, maybe to keep the guys going or whatever.”
Had it not been for Craig Smith, the former Wisconsin Badger, it wouldn’t have been a bad first period for the Bruins. But Smith, who turned pro in 2011 after two years in Madison, connected twice, leaving the Bruins in a 2-0 deficit at the first intermission.
It took the Bruins about 10 minutes to get their legs going, but they controlled the flow for much of the back half of the first period. Tim Schaller and David Krejci each had solid attempts among the Bruins’ 13 shots, both snuffed out by Rinne. And at the other end, Khudobin robbed Roman Josi at the end of a 2-on-1 rush.
In their previous seven games, which included six wins, the Bruins had allowed only 13 goals, just under two goals per game. The Predators needed only 20 minutes to break through that barrier. Their five goals allowed in regulation added up to the Bruins’ worst night since Game 3 of the season, a 6-3 loss in Denver that had Khudobin relieving Rask after 40 minutes.
It grew worse in the second. Ex-BU standout Nick Bonino supplied the 3-0 lead at 2:15, shoveling the puck into an open left side after Viktor Arvidsson’s shot from the high slot was blocked and kicked left. On his knees, Bonino collected the loose puck and popped it home, Khudobin unable to scurry to the left post after having committed on the Arvidsson attempt.
Kevin Fiala knocked home the 4-0 lead, leading to Khudobin’s exit at the 4:10.
Enter Rask, who had started the previous three games. Cassidy had little choice but to exit Khudobin stage left. Of the four goals, Khudobin might have been at fault on Smith’s first, having given up a fat rebound into the slot. But all in all, the Predators feasted off good chances, while the Bruins were unable to generate the same quality offerings.
“We gave up some really good scoring opportunities,” noted veteran winger Brad Marchand. “You can’t do that against that team. They are pretty deep and play hard. They didn’t deserve a lot, we kind of gave it to them. Tough to lose like that.”
Finally, working with their first power play of the night, the Bruins put one up on the board at 10:14 of the second. McAvoy ripped it home from the right circle, set up perfectly by Heinen, who dished a pass from behind the goal line.
“When we made mistakes, we allowed them the good ice, uncontested,” said Cassidy. “You can’t do that against any team, let alone a team like Nashville. Some mistakes there that were big ones.”
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