When the Boston Bruins held the lead after the second period, it convinced many fans in The Hub of Hockey that a victory was within sight. That has not been the case for the month of March, however.
Consider last season where the Bruins went an astonishing 32-0-0 when leading after 40 minutes. It was a staple that the Black and Gold took great pride in, and when it came down to crunch time, they delivered.
That trend, however, is going in the other direction (at least for the time being). The Bruins are 6-4-1 in the month of March and four of their five losses came after holding a second period lead. The most recent collapse happened last night at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg.
The Bruins, up 1-0 after two periods, seemingly had control when Brad Marchand took advantage of a crazy bounce and scored his 13th of the season eight seconds into the middle frame. But it all came crashing down midway through the third period when Jordan Caron took an unnecessary hooking penalty at 10:07. Blake Wheeler made his former team pay when he tied it up at 11:44 on the power play – his first of two goals – and Evander Kane netted the game-winner 57 seconds later to spark the Jets’ 3-1 comeback victory.
“Not good enough. Everyone should be [ticked] off in here,” Shawn Thornton said after the loss. “It’s becoming a habit. It’s not acceptable.”
This bad habit is certainly alarming recently. In the last few weeks, the Bruins entered the locker room with leads against the Montreal Canadiens, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and obviously the Jets. Granted two of the losses – against the Habs and Penguins – came on the second game of a back-to-back and another pair – versus the Jets and Caps – happened during their the third game in four nights.
But even with the busy schedule in March, the Bruins aren’t making any excuses, nor should they.
“Being strong in the third period has always been a big part of our game and we need to get back to that,” Marchand told CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty. “[Blowing a third period lead] can’t happen.”
Perhaps the injury bug is haunting the Bruins, too. With David Krejci (day-to-day, knee) and Chris Kelly (out indefinitely with a broken tibia) missing, Boston was already shorthanded going into Tuesday’s contest. Things didn’t get better, either, as Adam McQuaid left the game with an upper body injury after taking a hard hit from Jets forward Chris Thoburn during the first period.
But even then, with these third period collapses, the Bruins are wasting golden opportunities to jump the Montreal Canadiens in the Northeast Division. They had another chance last night when the Habs lost to the Buffalo Sabres in overtime, but now find themselves trailing by two points with a game in hand. And in previous circumstances, the Black and Gold had other opportunities to pass their arch-rivals the last two Tuesday’s, but could not hold on against the Pens and Caps.
It’s a harsh reality when the Bruins squander a third period lead in four of their last 10 games. It’s even harsher when it’s an ongoing trend. And it’s why GM Peter Chiarelli will need to acquire a few extra pieces before the April 3 Trade Deadline.
While this is the first time the Bruins face this type of adversity in 2013, the good news is they’ve dealt with it in the past and did quite well. They are well equipped to deal with the situation, and it’s why they aren’t written off as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.