Bruins’ 19-game point streak halted in Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH — Fatigue caught up and good fortune ran out for the Bruins here Sunday night at PPG Paints Arena, where a 4-2 loss to the Penguins clipped their 19-game point streak at 15-0-4 and also left them with a banged-up defenseman, Matt Grzelcyk, on the sidelines indefinitely.
Grzelcyk, felled by an injury to his right arm early in the second period, did not suffer a fracture in the mishap, but coach Bruce Cassidy made it clear in his postgame comments the former BU defenseman likely will miss some time after hurting his right forearm and elbow in a hit along the wall by Patric Hornqvist.
Otherwise, the Bruins came out of the night relatively unscathed, other than having their collective egos dented from suffering their first regulation “L” since Jan. 19. They didn’t play flawless hockey over the last seven weeks, but they have been among the Original 31’s hottest teams, which included thrilling comeback victories in the final minute of their previous two games.
But here, in the Mansion that Mario built (and PPG painted), the Bruins couldn’t muster enough mojo to rally back for a 43rd win this season. They fell behind by a pair (goals by Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann) in the first, and spent the rest of the night futilely chasing a deficit — like a pack of greyhounds chasing Swifty at the old Wonderland race track.
End result: 42-18-9 through 69 games and still on track to host the Maple Leafs in Round 1 of the playoffs set to begin April 10.
“We were light on all the battles in the first,” said Cassidy, his club in a 13-3 shot deficit after McCann potted a shorthander for a 2-0 lead.“You could tell they were better prepared to win pucks — cost us a couple of goals. But eventually we got it going. We bounced back. We were in the game. But that was going to be a tough one to overcome against a team with the pedigree they have.”
Only two minutes after losing Grzelcyk early in the second, the Bruins halved the Pens’ lead, 2-1, on a power-play strike by David Krejci (goal No. 19), with help from Danton Heinen and Brad Marchand. The outcome might have been different if the Bruins could have nursed the one-goal deficit into the third, but moments after missing a shorthanded chance of their own, they allowed an odd-man rush the other way and Jake Guentzel, off the sweetest of lead dishes by Sidney Crosby, converted at the right post for a 3-1 lead. Two goals. Too much.
It’s one thing to erase one-goal margins in the third against the likes of Florida and Ottawa — as the Bruins did before arriving here — but it’s another against the NHL’s other Black and Gold. It was all the rougher given that they also were down to only five defensemen for the better part of the final 40 minutes.
“Not easy losing manpower along the way,” conceded Cassidy. “We’re used to it, but still, tonight it [two games in two nights] and four in six — so now you’re really up against it — against a forward group that is arguably the best in the National Hockey League. So that’s the last place you want an injury, on the back end. We did our best to get through it — it just wasn’t quite enough.”
The 15-0-4 run will stand as the second-longest such streak in franchise history, only four games short of a run in 1940-41 in which the sons of Milt Schmidt won 15 and tied eight en route to winning the Cup in ’41.
“I think we can be proud of that, but not satisfied,” said Boston defenseman John Moore, who dialed in a 50-foot wrister with 1:10 remaining in regulation, cutting Pittsburgh’s lead to 3-2 and seemingly setting the stage for another heroic comeback. “No reason we can’t get right back to work on Tuesday. That is the special part about this group — guys really push each other and we expect a lot out of each other.”
Moore’s goal came with goalie Jaroslav Halak pulled from the Bruins’ net. He was also back on the bench when McCann sailed in an empty-netter with 21 seconds to go, clinching the victory for a Penguins team that looks like it might need to fight to Game No. 82 to clinch one of the 16 postseason bids.
If not for the sluggish start, compounded by the Grzelcyk loss, the Penguins might have suffered their second loss in as many nights. Cassidy tinkered a little with his lines, hoping for an energy surge, but it wasn’t there.
“It’s been exciting,” said defenseman Charlie McAvoy. “Streaks are meant to be broken in the end, that’s just the reality of it. Unfortunately, I think we didn’t come out as hard as we wanted to . . . didn’t get the bounces. Our goalie played well. We did manufacture some chances, but ultimately it wasn’t enough. So now we start a new streak.”