Claude Julien and the Boston Bruins could not have asked for a better start on Monday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Julien saw his team capitalize with two power play goals early on — from David Krejci and the first of two tallies from Loui Eriksson — to take an early 2-0 lead against Ben Bishop and company.
In the first 15 minutes of the first period, the Black and Gold controlled just about every aspect of the game: stick-to-stick passing, forechecking, goaltending and finishing — something the B’s have trouble doing early on this season.
While Zdeno Chara returned to the lineup, giving the B’s the boost they needed on the back-end, things began to go south in the later part of the first period where Ondrej Palat scored a power-play goal to cut the deficit in half before Brian Boyle evened the score at 2-2 before the first period ended leaving the Bruins’ faithful at TD Garden in a state of disbelief.
While the Bolts took the lead in the second period on another Boyle goal, Eriksson and the B’s clawed back to tie it at 3-3 again on the power-play. From that point forward it was all Tampa, resulting in another embarrassing loss where Tuukka Rask allowed six goals on 23 shots.
“It doesn’t matter what the situation is, we’ve got to be better defensively,” Julien said after the Bruins’ 6-3 loss on Monday. “The amount of goals, from the goaltender on out, defense, the forwards coming back, we’ve just got to be better. It used to be our strength and right now it’s our weakness.”
The B’s did score three power-play goals in the loss for the first time since January 25, 2014, against the Flyers and while Julien acknowledged their success on the man advantage, he reiterated his concern for the blue line.
“Well, you know the power-play was definitely good tonight,” Julien said. “I thought they’d been a tough team to penetrate and I thought our guys did a good job of getting some speed through the neutral zone, putting pucks behind them, getting in on the forecheck. I think our game offensively was good, so there’s a lot of things I can take out of this game, but we go back to the same old topic again-can’t allow five, six goals a game and expected to be successful. We’ve got to be a little bit better from the blue line in.”
Rask put a lot of the blame on his own shoulders for his lackluster performance Monday afternoon and realizes he needs to be better even when the focus is on the defensemen in front of him.
“Well you know, I mean, I want to be good,” Rask said. “I want to deserve my playing time too. I think that’s my biggest concern now, is to play good hockey and give us a chance to win and not let games like tonight happen. So that’s where my head’s at.
One of the few Bruins who is off to a good start is Krejci. The veteran has at least one point in each of the first three games, including a three-point game on a goal and two assists on Monday.
Still, Krejci remained speechless during his session with the media.
“It’s frustrating,” Krejci said shaking his head. “I mean, if you look at the big picture, 16 goals in three games. That’s not how we play, so losing sucks and you know, I just honestly don’t even know what to say right now.”
Even Patrice Bergeron, who took two penalties in Monday’s loss, is having a hard time putting things into words.
“It’s hard to find words right now to say the least,” Bergeron said. “To be honest with you, it’s one of those things where we have to be a lot better. We have to realize that we have to be better mentally and at this point we all know the system and we have to go out there and execute and don’t be on our heels too much.”
A look at the box score indicates that the hometown team scored three power-play goals with a returning Zdeno Chara. That usually means a good day for Bruins fans. But the defensive breakdowns continued Monday while another opposing team hung a crooked number on the Black and Gold.
It’s the first time since the 1999-2000 season the B’s have opened the year with three consecutive losses. It’s even more alarming to see them allow 16 goals in those three games, all of which were started by Rask.
The Black and Gold begin a mini road trip on Wednesday in Colorado, which could be just what the doctor ordered for their first win of the season.