BOSTON — Perhaps the Bruins could point the finger at the officials after their 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Perhaps the Bruins could have said that they had to kill too many penalties, too.
But one thing that is common, even though they voiced some displeasure at the officiating Tuesday night at the TD Garden — and some noted that they were behind the 8-ball from the get-go — the fact remains that they are holding themselves responsible for what they didn’t do.
And what they didn’t do is obviously more concerning for the defending Stanley Cup Champs.
“We’re not focused for 60 minutes,” said head coach Claude Julien. “We’re a frustrated team…We’re not playing for 60 minutes the same way.”
And a full 60 minutes is indeed missing with this Black and Gold club early on this year.
Despite playing well in sprits, the Bruins found themselves having to play from behind early when Anthony Stewart put the Canes ahead 1-0 just 2:47 into the contest. Boston, despite some sloppy defense and sloppy passing, did manage to get 13 shots towards Cam Ward (33 saves) in the opening 20 minutes, but could not capitalize.
Shortly after defenseman Joni Pitkanen put the ‘Canes ahead 2-0 midway through the second, the Bruins’ emotions got the best of them.
“Obviously I thought we got back into the game and we got overly emotional,” said forward Patrice Bergeron, “and it cost us.”
The Bruins were trying to engage the ‘Canes on several occasions to drop the gloves, most notably, ‘Canes defenseman Tim Gleason. Gleason would not oblige with the Bruins’ challenges, but some of his teammates, like Harrison and Ward, did get their hands dirty.
As the frustration grew Bruins captain Zdeno Chara got called for the first of the team’s five misconducts at 14:19 of the second after being assessed an instigator after his fight with Harrison. During that scene, Chara even got up in Ward’s face, which then prompted Tuukka Rask (19 saves) to try to challenge Ward to a fight too. But the Carolina goalie did not oblige.
But the chunk of the instigators came moments after Rich Peverley pulled the Bruins within one midway through the third period with his third of the year as Julien, Brad Marchand, Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic, were all handed 10-minute misconducts.
Having two 5-on-3 situations for a good chunk of the third, the Hurricanes capitalized on the opportunity with goals from Eric Staal and Tummo Ruutu 1:32 apart.
“[It’s] pretty obvious when those penalties mounted and we were killing 5-on-3’s,” Julien said. “We did a good job early, but you can only kill for so long and they got a couple of goals out of it and put the final nail in the coffin.”
All in all, the Bruins were assessed 72 penalty minutes to just 22 from the Hurricanes.
Discipline was certainly on the ‘Canes side.
“We have to play a disciplined game of hockey,” said Carolina coach Paul Maurice. “We don’t take a lot of penalties, but we play hard. We finish checks and if we’ve got to take some time a little bit for the win, then we have to do that.”
Maybe the defending champs will get the message now that teams aren’t going to fall for some of these tactics that helped made them successful last year. After all they did come together in games against Atlanta (now Winnipeg) last January and they had emotional wins over Dallas and Montreal last February in similar fashion.
But now, Julien and company will need to get back to the drawing board and right the ship in the early part of the 2011-12 regular season.