PHILADELPHIA — The Bruins rolled to a three-goal lead early in the second period here Monday night at Wells Fargo Center, poised to celebrate captain Zdeno Chara’s 1,000th regular-season game in Black and Gold, but leaving red-faced after their most embarrassing loss of the 2019-’20 season.
After an array of Keystone Kops-like defensive lapses helped the Flyers pull even on Travis Sanheim’s goal with 7:02 remaining in regulation, the Bruins lost, 6-5, in yet another shootout defeat, this one punctuated by Brad Marchand almost comically overskating the puck at center ice on Boston’s fifth and final shootout attempt.
Marchand, eager to blitz down Broad Street on goalie Carter Hart after Travis Konecny’s shootout strike, only grazed the heel of his blade over the puck in his attempt to pick it up for his break-in from center ice.
The puck moved forward by only 2-3 inches, like the guy who leaves his wallet behind at the checkout counter, only to have the officials correctly deem it a failed shot attempt and rule the night over . . . and . . . out. Dim the lights. Party over.
No shot. No goal. No victory. No “Chara 1,000” celebration. No nothing. Just a loser point to pin in the NHL’s prize-in-every-box standings, and the end to Boston’s three-game win streak.
“Yeah, I know the rule . . . touch the puck on the penalty shot, and that’s your shot,” said a chagrined Marchand, who earlier in the night, when things were hunky-dory, picked up an assist for his 63rd point in 47 games. “It’s unfortunate. A tough way to lose on a play like that, but . . . we have to be better when we have the lead.”
It was a colossal collapse in the second, developing not long after goals earlier in the period by David Pastrnak (league high No. 36), Charlie Coyle, and David Krejci (No. 2 for the night) had the Bruins sailing along, 5-2, with only 7:21 gone.
Then, the deluge.
Sean Couturier connected at 13:12, gathering the puck in front after losing it in the slot, no one in Black and Gold eliminating him or the puck. Only 94 seconds later, rookie Connor Bunnaman moved in front without resistance and tipped home Mark Friedman’s shot through a crowd from the right-wing circle.
Hapless much of the night, the Flyers had hope. Then they cashed in hope for two points, vital in their bid to clinch a wildcard playoff berth.
“You can talk about our goaltending. You can talk about our [defense] in front of him,” said an uncharacteristically irked Bruce Cassidy, his Bruins 0-7 in shootouts, and also with a league high 12 post-regulation losses. “I think they both can take their share of some of the blame for those goals.”
The one that really irked Cassidy was Sanheim’s equalizer, which came with the sides skating four apiece following matching minor penalites to Torey Krug and Joel Farabee.
“I mean, we had three different guys circling out of there,” said the perturbed Cassidy, whose squad fell to 27-8-12. “It’s inexcusable. You’re in the third period. You’ve got a lead that’s gotten away from you. We’re pretty good at buckling down . . . I don’t know what to tell you on that particular play. No compete in front of the net. No urgency to keep the puck out of the net from three of our players . . . clearly not a good enough job.”
The guilty on the equalizer included Marchand (up ice), Charlie Coyle, and Matt Grzelcyk, neither of whom offered resistance in front of Halak (34 saves on 39 shots). Brandon Carlo was exempt, engaging his guy behind the net.
The Bruins, with only a week to go before starting their bye break, will face the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night in Columbus.
Chara, who earlier in the day embraced the milestone in his career, was left to wish the outcome had been vastly different.
“You obviously want to win these type of games,” said Big Z, only the second NHLer (with Joe Thornton) to log 1,000 games with a team after first amassing 500 played in the league. “That’s just the way it goes. You can’t win ‘em all.”
Chara, who will be 43 in March, came to Boston as an unrestricted free agent in July 2006, the key acquisition in the franchise turnaround that didn’t truly begin until the following year, after new GM Peter Chiarelli dismissed Dave Lewis after one year behind the bench.
Chara, 29 upon arriving in the Hub, now is the NHL’s oldest player, as well the tallest (6-foot-9) ever to suit up in the game’s history. He eventually will retire (maybe?) and duly be considered the club’s best free-agent signing, and arguably the best UFA signing in the game’s history.
What made it all work?
“It’s a good question,” he said. “There’s a number of things involved. Obviously, you have to be lucky, too. But I think it really comes down to loving what you do, having passion for it, and you have to have the will — whether it’s sometimes going above and beyond and sacrificing and doing all the things that eventually will pay off. And believeing. You have to accept that it’s not always going to be great. You will hit some adversity and challenges, but that’s just the nature of our lives, no matter what you do. You hit those and you have the mindset that you’ll never give up — go after it.
“You gotta love what you do.”
Including the love it takes to get by a bad night.
“So,” said Big Z, “we get ready for tomorrow night.”