When Jimmy Hayes became the first Bruin to score on Braden Holtby in a year and a half — a power play tally at 12:47 of the first period — the Black and Gold had everything they wanted to start this three-game road trip. They were strong on the puck, created good opportunities and were able to quiet the crowd at the Verizon Center.
On this night, however, they couldn’t keep the momentum going. A combination of defensive breakdowns and untimely penalties came back to haunt the Bruins, and Alex Ovechkin and company seized their chance to take over after his late first period goal to tie things at 1-1. It was all Capitals from there as they handed the Black and Gold their first road loss of the season Thursday night, 4-1.
Here is a pair of things that we learned from the B’s second straight defeat.
Sloppy penalties put slumping penalty kill in a hole
Entering Thursday’s game as the league’s worst penalty kill, and without Chris Kelly and Dennis Seidenberg, the last thing the Bruins could afford was to put their shorthanded unit(s) in a bigger hole two nights after allowing three power play goals to Tyler Seguin and the Dallas Stars. Unfortunately for head coach Claude Julien and company, that is exactly what happened in the second period.
With the Capitals leading 2-1, Hayes and Brad Marchand each took unnecessary slashing and roughing penalties, respectively. Marchand’s penalty, in particular, came after the whistle at 6:52 of the middle stanza to give the Caps a two-man advantage. Washington capitalized on the opportunity when John Carlson ripped a one-timer from the left faceoff circle past Tuukka Rask to give his team a two-goal lead.
Against a stingy Holtby and the rest of the Caps defense, Carlson’s goal proved to be the back-breaker on this night.
“The first 10 minutes were good. I thought once we scored that goal, that’s when I thought we took our foot off the gas and let them get themselves back into the game,” Julien told reporters following Thursday’s loss. “Second period was a matter of some real bad penalties that kind of hurts your team and gives them some momentum. Third period we had to claw our way back into it. They’re a good defensive team, and we didn’t get enough shots on net, and we didn’t get enough players in that area as well to be able to score some goals.”
The Bruins managed to kill a bench minor for too many men on the ice early in the third period. At that point, however, the two-goal deficit was too steep to overcome.
Defense leaves Tuukka hanging
Somehow, someway, Bruins fans will find a way to point the finger at Tuukka Rask again. While he has struggled and deserves responsibility for some of the B’s losses this year, Rask was hung out to dry Thursday night.
From Kevan Miller’s turnover that led to Ovechkin’s tying goal late in the first period to Joe Morrow being outmuscled by Brooks Laich that resulted in the go-ahead goal in the second, the young Bruins D was exposed, again. That doesn’t bode well with a trip to Montreal looming.
Somehow, someway, the Bruins D will need to get a consistent effort from start to finish inside the hostile Bell Centre Saturday night against the rival Canadiens. Otherwise, they may be looking at an uphill climb from the get-go.