DUCKS 3, BRUINS 1
Barry Chin/Globe Staff
Slower to get going than a Siberian farmer’s frozen tractor on a January morning, the Bruins suffered a series of losses Tuesday night, including a bit of their pride, in a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks at TD Garden.
First off, they saw their dazzling 14-0-4 streak come to end, an 18-game run that was better than anything they’d cobbled together since 1968-69, back in the days when Bobby Orr was growing out his buzzcut and the B’s stood taller in this town than even the 37-foot Green Monster up Storrow Drive.
Then there were the casualties, specifically the loss again of rookie Anders Bjork (“He’s going to miss some time,” said coach Bruce Cassidy) and veteran David Backes.
The Bruins offered no firm update on either of their hors de combat forwards when the night was over, but the upshot was that the Cassidy finished the game with only 10 forwards, on a night when it took some 30 minutes for the Black and Gold to find its shooting stride.
The overall frustration finally bubbled over with 2:57 to go when team captain Zdeno Chara, rarely one to vent, took after the Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf after the veteran forward hacked Chara on the back of the legs following a whistle. Getzlaf was responding to Chara’s hit moments before that leveled Adam Henrique, which was Chara’s response to the earlier high hit by Nick Ritchie that felled Backes.
“Maybe the hit I made [on Henrique] a few seconds prior to that play,” said Chara, explaining what he felt sparked Getzlaf’s hack. “I stepped up in the neutral zone, and maybe [it was] something he didn’t like about that. Obviously, I responded — so that’s kind of what happened.”
Chara’s hit on Henrique was a clear tit-for-tat reaction for Ritchie’s smack on Backes, which came one long second after the veteran winger fired a long-range shot toward the Anaheim net. Ritchie hit him from the blind side, hit him high, and it took a couple of minutes for Backes to get back on his feet and make his way to the dressing room.
“Nobody wants to see your teammate being carried off the ice,” said Chara. “Again, that is something officials, or the league, has to make another look at it.”
Neither the hit on Bjork nor Backes was tagged for a penalty by referees Chris Rooney or Peter MacDougall.
Overall, it was a night when the Bruins clearly missed their top scorer, Brad Marchand, and their top young blue liner, Charlie McAvoy. Without Marchand (serving Game 2 of a five-game suspension), they didn’t have his, let’s say, engaging zip on the wing. And without McAvoy, they lacked perhaps their best puck mover. Two large assets gone on a night when the Ducks, eager to chisel back into a playoff spot, were on them at every turn in the opening period.
“But that is the ‘What if?’ game,” said Cassidy, after noting the absence of the two important players. “You can’t worry about that stuff . . . But yes, we missed them all. But once we got playing, we were fine.”
The playing didn’t really begin for Boston until midway through the second, after being limited to only 10 shots through 30 minutes. By then, the Ducks had the win tucked away, on the strength of first-period goals by Jakob Silfverberg and Henrique.
The Bruins didn’t finally put a puck in the net until Ryan Spooner whistled in a long-range shot with 42 seconds to go — with Anton Khudobin out of net for a 6-on-4 advantage during a power play. Only 35 seconds later, though, Henrique fired a 160-footer into an empty net for the 3-1 closer.
“Not ready, not executing, not fast . . . they jumped us . . . and not winning pucks,” said Cassidy, detailing the parade of horribles that beset his team in the first period. “All of the above.”
Hard for Cassidy to be too harsh about a team that had not lost in regulation since Dec. 14 vs. the Capitals. The six-week roll all but guaranteed the Bruins a reservation in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
However, it was the eighth consecutive game that the Bruins allowed the night’s opening goal. Not a prescription for success. They went 6-0-1 in the previous seven, but it was inevitable that getting behind early would eventually decimate their glorious run.
As for the chance of overcoming a two-goal in the third period, consider: prior to Tuesday night, 174 NHL games this season had teams entering the third period with a two-goal deficit. Their record: 13-150-11, or a 7.5 percent win rate. With such odds, coaches might be better to start the final period with their goalie pulled for an extra attacker.
The night ended with Cassidy mulling what to do if both Bjork (hit by Francois Beauchemin) and Backes will miss time. If so, it’s likely there will be call-ups, perhaps Wednesday, from AHL Providence to fill those wing spots. Austin Czarnik (40) and Kenny Agostino (33) are the WannaB’s leading scorers.
“That’s something we’ll definitely have to look at in the morning,” said Cassidy, his team now 29-11-8, with nothing guaranteed, but a comfortable cushion not to have to panic.
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