Bruins didn’t play the right way, blew a two-goal lead, and lost in a shootout
NEW YORK — The Bruins might have come up with an answer to their offense here Wednesday night, but they ended the evening with a troublesome question:
What in the name of Hell’s Kitchen happened to their defense?
After cobbling together three quick goals in the second period — due in large part to coach Bruce Cassidy rearranging his top two lines — the Bruins blew a two-goal lead they built through 40 minutes and suffered a 4-3 shootout loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Tony DeAngelo, New York’s seventh shooter in the extra session, beat Boston goalie Jaroslav Halak with a crisp forehander to the top right corner for the win. Earlier, as the Bruins fourth shooter, Brad Marchand kept Boston’s hopes alive with his shootout strike, just moments after Mika Zibanejad tallied for the Blueshirts. But Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, and David Krejci all followed Marchand, and none of them could solve Rangers goaltender Alexander Georgiev.
Cassidy was encouraged by the pop delivered from the line changes, but was understandably peeved by letting a sure W fold up faster than a game of three-card monte out on Seventh Avenue.
“You never want to lose a lead . . . we did . . . we didn’t play the right way,” he said after watching Kevin Hayes and then Filip Chytil pull the Rangers even, 3-3, less than 13 minutes into the third.
“We get beat through the middle of the ice on a pretty nondescript play — to be honest with you, veteran guys, young guys alike. Then we don’t backcheck . . . don’t finish the job in front.”
The season is getting late and the Bruins need to find a way to broaden their goal scoring. Perhaps Cassidy’s switches provided at least part of the answer.
Down by a goal after a tepid first period, he changed the mix of his top two lines, moves that helped deliver the three quick strikes — by Heinen, David Pastrnak, and Patrice Bergeron.
Reluctant all season to pull Pastrnak off the No. 1 line, Cassidy shifted the Czech star to the second line and moved Heinen up to top-line duty with Marchand and Bergeron.
Pastrnak filled out an all-Czech trio, riding with veteran center Krejci and young left winger Peter Cehlarik.
Heinen started the three-goal rally, standing at the top of the crease and tipping home a 55-foot slapper off the left point by Matt Grzelcyk at 10:37.
Pastrnak, riding with his fellow Czechmates, slipped to the top of the crease and provided an easy tip of Krejci’s feed across from the left wing circle, only 1:12 after Heinen delivered the equalizer.
Finally, working on a power play in career game No. 1,001, Bergeron notched his third goal in two nights with his mid-slot deflection of Torey Krug’s shot off the right point.
It’s the kind of offensive pop the Bruins need if they hope to develop sound two-line scoring for the playoffs, something that proved their bugaboo last year in Round 2 vs. Tampa Bay. But they also have to prove they can live off the profit of those goals and close out games.
“Very upsetting, I think it’s unacceptable,” said Bergeron, reflecting on the costly letdown. “Especially when you are up by two, heading to the third on the road. You have to play a solid third and obviously we didn’t do that . . . we let the game slip in the third and that’s where it played out, basically. We shouldn’t be going into overtime.”
Sluggish after their 3-1 win the night before over the Islanders, the Bruins needed most of the first period to get their legs moving. They placed only two shots on net in the opening 10 minutes, and by the end of the first, they were working with the 1-0 deficit.
Zibanejad, among the league’s most prolific performers the last month, drove home the 1-0 lead for the Blueshirts with a blistering one-time slapper at 17:45 of the first. Linemate Mats Zuccarello shook off Grzelcyk’s check behind the net and dished a soft-serve pass into the slot, where a charging Zibanejad put down the hammer on a 25-footer.
The Rangers squeezed off 22 shots in the first and landed 12 on Halak. At the opposite end, the Bruins managed only 16 attempts, nine of which had to be handled by Georgiev.
Zibanejad, originally an Ottawa draft pick (No. 6 overall n 2011), picked up his eighth goal in the last 12 games with the 1-0 strike, increasing his line to 11-8—19 over the last 3-4 weeks.
Cassidy kept to his reformed lines in the fateful third, a period that tightened up at 9:24 when former Boston College winger Hayes knotted it at 9:24, followed by Chytil’s equalizer on a power play at 12:41.
Halak, 1-4-2 now in his last seven decisions, turned back 36 of 39 shots, including a couple of tough ones in the five-minute OT when the Rangers outshot the Bruins, 6-1.
“Something we’ll have to correct,” said Cassidy, whose squad gets back to work Saturday with the Kings in town for a matinee, “and we’re usually pretty good in those situations.”