There are some nights where a team just doesn't have it. Where they come out of the gate flat, for whatever reason, and never really find a breakout plan or an offensive zone set-up that really works, and as a result they're never really in the game.
Then, there are games like last night's contest at TD Garden, where the Bruins pitched an otherwise solid effort in the trash in the span of 3:30 of the second period.
Loui Eriksson had given the Bruins a 3-2 edge in the first couple minutes of the second, as his stick-side bomb off a feed from David Krejci whistled by Sharks goaltender Martin Jones. This was basically the last good thing that happened for the Bruins in the first half of the second. While his overall play still wasn't up to speed, Dennis Seidenberg grabbed his second assist of the game on this go-ahead goal.
In truth, the Bruins' demise began with an even strength goal right before the penalty parade, when the Zdeno Chara-Zach Trotman pairing got pulled too far to the right. This left a dude named Joe Thornton wide open behind the Bruins net and, in what Jack Edwards noted was sort of Thornton's signature move, Jumbo Joe found Melker Karlsson crashing the net, Karlsson scored off the post, and it was 3-3.
32 seconds later, Adam McQuaid was whistled for interfering with Matt Nieto, and the Bruins much-maligned Penalty Kill was on the spot. They were within ten seconds of killing McQuaid's minor when the B's were whistled for the Bruins classic Too Many Men penalty, giving the Sharks a ten-second 5-on-3 and, obviously, almost another full Power Play after that.
The Sharks needed all of the 38 seconds to convert on this second chance, with Patrick Marleau breaking the tie by roofing a rebound over a sprawling Kevan Miller and past Tuukka Rask. Claude Julien opted to use his challenge at this point, hoping that Joe Thornton's stick contact with Rask might be ruled as goaltender interference. The goal, however, stood, possibly because the initial contact actually involved more Miller pushing Rask than anything the San Jose center did. 4-3.
The Bruins weren't done with the penalty parade, though, as Ryan Spooner tripped Tomas Hertl 11 seconds later, sending San Jose right back to the man advantage. This time, it was Thornton himself who converted, as he ripped him a shot from the slot off a tic-tac-toe set of a passes between himself, Joe Pavelski, and Brent Burns. At 9:21 of the second, Boston had gone from a 3-2 lead to a 5-3 deficit in the span of three-and-a-half minutes, with two of the goals against being PPGs on the latter two of three straight penalties. Tyler Randell would add a fourth on a classic retaliation minor about two minutes later, though the Bruins did actually manage to kill that one. 2-for-4 is great and fine in baseball, but for penalty killers, that doesn't cut it.
The game went how you might expect from there, as the Bruins had their chances but were largely shut down by Martin Jones, who played extremely well from the halfway point of the second to the end. Boston would add a third period PPG, a beautiful stick-side-high one-timer from Patrice Bergeron off a nice zone entry play and pass from Ryan Spooner. That made it 5-4, and suitably set up the Bruins to lose by the closest margin possible.
The first period was as weird a twenty minutes of hockey as you'll see all year, as San Jose scored on their shot of the game--Joe Pavelski tapping home a rebound after a Karlsson shot hit the post--and Boston scored on its second. In-between the Sharks' goal, which happened 42 seconds into the game as Miller and company puck-watched and totally lost Pavelski, and Tyler Randell's game-tying tip of a Dennis Seidenberg shot, there were only three other SOG in a span of almost nine minutes.
The game pace quickened a few minutes after Randell's goal, and David Krejci drew the first penalty of the night when he was hooked by former Washington Capital Joel Ward. The Bruins converted on the ensuing Power Play--it wouldn't be a 2015-16 Bruins game if they hadn't, because this is Bizarro Year--when Brad Marchand's attempted cross-crease pass somehow slid through Martin Jones. Zdeno Chara (8) and Brett Connolly (5) grabbed the assists on what was, at the very least, some nice set-up play, even if the goal itself was pretty strange.
The Sharks would tie it at 2 when Joonas Donskoi re-directed a Paul Martin wrist shot from the point to go top corner on Rask at 15:08, which was the way the score stayed until Eriksson's blast at the beginning of the second. It put the exclamation point on a first period where the chances started out few and far between, yet both teams scored twice and both goaltenders were called upon to make some tough saves in the last five minutes.
Quick notes, in no particular order:
- The Patrice Bergeron line had a tough time dealing with Joe Thornton's unit, and Brad Marchand was back to taking at least some of his shifts with them. It's been awhile since we've seen a Bergeron-centered group struggle at even strength, but that's exactly what was happening.
- Martin Jones and Tuukka Rask both had their shaky moments, but on the whole the goaltending was much better than a 5-4 score would indicate. Jones robbed at least one Bruin during the empty net stage, while Rask's poor numbers primarily center around being stuck with an awful penalty kill. And yes, on the latter score, I'm looking at you, Kevan Miller, and the defense in general to some extent. Notably, the Tyler Randell roughing penalty--which occurred two minutes after the Sharks had extended their lead to 5-3, was killed off primarily by the Bruins forward tandems refusing to allow San Jose a clean entry, not by anything particularly good from the defensive pairings.
- There was an incident down the stretch where Adam McQuaid pinned Joe Thornton against the boards, and was crosschecked in the face for his trouble. The Bruins did get a Power Play as a result at 12:40 of the third, on which they had one good chance that they weren't able to convert. Much was made of Thornton trying to sell that he was the one injured after, you know, crosschecking McQuaid in the face. Not saying that it wasn't an attempt to draw a matching call, but replay did show that McQuaid's stick probably got Thornton in the personal region as they first went into the boards. Make of that what you will.
- While Miller was the lowlight on defense, specifically on the penalty kill, there were stretches where Chara and Trotman looked a bit out of synch, including Karlsson's goal where they simply lost net-front coverage. I wouldn't be surprised to see Colin Miller back in soon, though I'm not suggesting Trotman be benched.
- On a night where the big guns were scoring for the Sharks and Bruins, the Bruins had trouble getting anything going in the bottom six after Randell's goal. Perhaps the relative struggles of Bergeron and Marchand's lines both played a role in their re-unification. Regardless, I'd keep an eye on the practice lines.