Jaroslav Halak and the Bruins were a mess as the Canucks piled it on
The Bruins finally got some production from beyond their top line.
Unfortunately for them, it didn’t matter who touched the puck for the Canucks. It was probably going in.
Boston (8-5-2) was on the wrong end of a 13-goal affair, in which the hottest goaltender in the game, Jaroslav Halak, came crashing to earth and a turnover-happy defense played to the tune of “Yakety Sax.” The result: a season-high in goals allowed, eight on 33 shots, and 8-5 loss to the visiting Canucks on Thursday night at TD Garden.
It was uncharacteristic, coming off a win Monday over Dallas in which they managed the puck exceptionally well. It was concerning, with two charged-up teams coming to town this weekend (Toronto on Saturday, Vegas on Sunday).
Yeah, it was a mess.
Giveaways (14 of them) led to Canuck chances at even strength. Failures in shot-blocking created goals on the penalty kill. Halak and Tuukka Rask didn’t offer nearly enough saves.
“We’ll look at a lot of different reasons,” said coach Bruce Cassidy, preparing for a lengthy film session Friday, in advance of the Atlantic Division-rival Leafs.
He’s got a choice to make in net. He yanked Halak after the starter allowed four goals in the second period Thursday, sitting him after his worst performance of the year, by far: 34:53 and five goals on 19 shots. In relief, Rask gave up three, none of them pretty plays.
“You try to go out there and do some damage control,” said Rask, who easily finds sarcastic humor when finding the puck is difficult. “I was just trying to keep it under 10.”
Two goals from Jake DeBrusk, including one that tied the game at 3-3 at 9:00 of the second, helped the Bruins keep pace early. But their last lead came 36 seconds into the middle frame, on a Patrice Bergeron marker that made it 2-1.
“When you play that open-ice hockey, that’s not our style,” Bergeron said. “That’s not how we’re going to win.”
They had been stingy in front of Halak, who had been the hottest goalie in the league, best in the game in save percentage (.952), goals-against average (1.45), and shutouts (two, tied with three others). But the Canucks quickly found cracks in the 33-year-old Slovak, and the coverage around him.
“One of those nights the puck found a way,” said Halak.
Bo Horvat scored 2:46 into the game for a 1-0 lead. After picking up a turnover from David Backes and Danton Heinen, Horvat used defenseman John Moore as a screen to beat Halak from 48 feet.
The Canucks, 4-0-1 when scoring first, withstood the early blows from Matt Grzelcyk (set up by a DeBrusk rush from the defensive zone, and Krejci, who hit the trailing defenseman), and Bergeron, who cashed in a rebound off a Torey Krug point shot.
But Krug’s fumble behind his net created a flurry of Vancouver chances, and Loui Eriksson, the ex-Bruin, backhanded a bouncer past a prone Halak to tie the game at 7:02 of the second.
That started a run of three goals in 1:58, including Canucks defenseman Ben Hutton’s long wrister, DeBrusk’s tip of a Krejci pass (a play DeBrusk started by diving to shove a pass to linemate Joakim Nordstrom), and Eriksson’s deflection of a point shot from Hutton.
The fifth goal, a low-angle centering pass clanked home by Antoine Roussel at 14:53, caused Cassidy to swap his goalies for the first time since opening night in Washington. Afterward, he wondered aloud if he should have done it, adding that it didn’t much matter on a night like that.
“I didn’t see it coming,” he said. “Eight goals against. We’ve been pretty — other than opening night — pretty reliable defensively. So yeah, it’s frustrating.”
DeBrusk scored his second, at 17:18 of the second, with a power-play tip of a Krug pass. But Rask didn’t see a puck Erik Gudbranson sailed toward the net — 6-4 — leaving the Bruins with work to do in the third.
The hardest work was done by the visitors.
Vancouver — which scored eight goals in total in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals against the Bruins — got their seventh on a high-comedy misplay by Rask, who came out to challenge a shorthanded Horvat, couldn’t clear, and was left gliding back to the crease after an empty-netter.
“Wanted to get some more wood on it,” he said. “Hopped up.”
Less than two minutes later, Rask couldn’t find a knuckling slot shot from Jake Virtanen.
On the power play at 13:38 of the third, Heinen scored his first of the year, to make it 8-5.
“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel good,” he said.
But he wasn’t exactly pleased, and neither was Krug. With 2:12 left, the defenseman — 5 feet 9 inches and 185 pounds — traded angry blows with Darren Archibald (6-3, 210) after the Canuck fourth-liner took a run at Nordstrom. Krug picked up the 2-5-and-10 for instigating.
He wasn’t alone in his frustration.