Well, we knew to expect a close game. It was definitely that. Both Tuukka Rask and Robert Luongo were in top form, with Luongo making more saves and Rask making a couple highlight reel-worthy stops. Florida's adopted style was on display in terms of choking off the middle for much of the game, though the Bruins would have easy had the lead in this one early if it weren't for Luongo stopping a lot of chances from the slot. Through two periods, while SOG were 19-17, the Bruins had more than doubled Florida's scoring chance total. That's a good thing when some of them go in. But it doesn't count for a result if, as in this game, the opposing netminder is in top form and several rebounds refuse to take a friendly bounce and the Bruins have trouble finishing.
So when Jimmy Hayes, a Florida Panther, broke the ice on a feed from Dave Bolland at 14:41 of the first, it seemed like the inevitable conclusion to yet another period of play where Boston was generally the stronger team. Bolland backhanded a feed by Dougie Hamilton to the low slot from the left corner. Hamilton was beat to the puck, but the pass was more a good play by Bolland than anything else., Unfortunately, Seidenberg was the DMan on the right side for this sequence (I'm not entirely sure why Hamilton was playing on his off-side, now that I think about it), and if you know anything about the way Seidenberg has been playing of late, you probably could've guessed that Jimmy Hayes was able to crash the net without so much as a stick-lift. Physical errors'll happen, but getting caught puck-watching when you're responsible for the low slot is pretty brutal. The Cats were up 1-0. Jussi Jokinen grabbed his 33rd Assist of the season on the secondary.
Did I mention that this first penalty of this game was Seidenberg totally unnecessarily (in every way) running over Luongo? And that he took another penalty, so he was responsible for 4 of 6 Boston PIMs? And that he rather inexplicable skated into Hamilton's path at one point, causing a turnover? Seriously, it's just been an amazingly woeful week for #44. The only Bruin who might be able to identify with Seidenberg was Reilly Smith, who was a (kind of) surprising healthy scratch for this one after he spent most of the Ottawa game turning Power Plays into chances the other way. Brian Ferlin was back in and Daniel Paille was the RW on the Bergeron line and my head hurts just writing this. To be clear, I did not object to Smith getting a game off, I'm just wincing at the thought of Paille on the Bruins best line in a game they needed.
Anyway, the Bruins would killed of the early Seids penalty so it didn't really end up causing lasting damage, and then they would also kill off a slashing call on Zdeno Chara to start the second period. Not a minute after finishing the kill, they would go on the Power Play thanks to Chris Kelly's face meeting Dave Bolland's stick. The No.1 PP unit of Bergeron, Spooner, Krug, Hamilton, and Eriksson had looked good on their first opportunity but ended up doing virtually everything but score. This time, after an extended O-Zone shift, Patrice Bergeron took a beautiful feed from Ryan Spooner in the high slot and whipped it through Luongo's pads. It was St. Patrice's 20th of the year, from Spooner (7) and Bruins-assist leader Hamilton (32). And we were tied at 1. This was pretty much the highlight of the game for the B's.
The Bruins would lose a member of that unit, however, as Hamilton left after the midway mark in the second. Initial NESN reports suggested was an equipment failure, but, after a brief cameo at the very end of the second period, Hamilton went down the ramp and did not return. For the last 25 minutes plus, the Bruins were forced to roll five defenseman. And in the longview, a serious Hamilton injury is a blow to an already very-thin defensive corps. There was no report on what Hamilton's injury was at the time I posted this recap. Naturally, the injury hiked both Z's and Seids's minutes of the 25 minute mark, so no rest for the weary.
Florida would take advantage of this to make a push late in the third, which was the only period that you could reasonably say that they outplayed the B's, but Rask absolutely robbed Dave Bolland on the best chance that the Panthers would get in regulation, reaching back with his stick to deflect Bolland's open-net attempt. While Bolland epically fudged what should have been a goal by nubbing the puck at approximately 1 MPH (I'm being generous), Rask still needed to make a ridiculous adjustment to make the save. Rask would rob Johnathan Huberdeau's attempt on another play, to go along with a stellar glove save on a Brian Campbell slapper earlier in the game. Rask was on point. On the Bruins side, Claude adjusted and added the stylings of David Pastrnak to the Bergeron line, which produced a couple very good shifts, including one where Pasta circled the net and only a key block from a Panther stopped an out-of-position Roberto Luongo from conceding the GWG.
To overtime we went. Claude started three forwards and Krug, perhaps realizing that the Bruins needed to be aggressive what their lack of SO prowess this year. It didn't exactly backfire, but it didn't yield much in the way of offensive zone play. The thought was good one, though. It turns out Campbell and Aaron Ekblad aren't exactly easy to go around.
Rask would once again save the Bruins in OT (what else is new?). He and Zdeno Chara combined to stop Florida on a 2-on-1 with around two minutes left. That came on the rush after Patrice Bergeron had shot just wide after a night hesitation move at the top of the left circle. Another effort by Bergeron at the very end of the OT period would turn into a rush the other way, but the Bruins were saved by a shot going wide and good backchecking on the rebound. Another game where the Bruins had been the better team--marginally this time, mind you, their performance at even strength in this game was uneven--for long stretches was going beyond OT to...
The Shootout Did you need a recap of the SO? Here's your recap: the Bruins suck at SOs. The end. They're not quite on the level of last year's Devils, but they're close.
After today's loss, they're 3-9 at them this year. Brandon Pirri scored the only goal, and he plays for the Florida Panthers. You could argue that the Bruins didn't deserve any better, but Rask certainly did so that kind of stinks. I'm not going to spend a bunch of time complaining about SOs, because by the look of it, the post-game report has that completely covered with some awful segment about how slow SO goals aren't "hockey plays." I don't like the SO, but complaining about the way someone scores against your favorite team in one seems awfully petty. At this point, I'd take it if a Bruin scored by heading the puck into the net.
The end result is that the Bruins now are clinging to a single-point lead over the Ottawa Senators. The Sens won 5-3 against Toronto tonight, and the Ottawa hockey club still has a game in hand. The Panthers picked up a point on the Bruins and are now 4 back of Boston and 3 back of Ottawa.
I just wanted to hightlight, again, that tonight was Shawn Thornton's 600th career NHL game. Congratulations to him on that! He's also apparently the only player ever to play 600 games at both the AHL and NHL level, which sounds like a future trivia question if I've ever heard one!
Now possibly sans Hamilton, tomorrow is going to come awfully quickly for the B's. They play in Tampa at 5 PM, against a team that was off today. As good as the Bruins looked before that game with the Capitals, their post-season chances are falling now falling into serious jeopardy. We're now at the point where, what with another Ottawa win, Boston officially does not control its own playoff destiny.
10 games to play. Time to make 'em count.