What we learned: Overtime losses getting in the Bruins’ head
The Boston Bruins wanted to leave their extra session struggles in 2019.
So much for that New Year’s Resolution, at least initially.
Thursday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets marked Boston’s 11th loss in the extra session — overtime or shootout. And clearly the frustrations with the constant OT struggles have reached a boiling point.
The Bruins carried a 1-0 lead into the third period — on the heels of David Pastrnak’s 30th goal of the season — before Sony Milano’s pass to the crease deflected off of Matt Grzelcyk and past Tuukka Rask (31 saves) for the equalizer a mere 2:06 into the final stanza. They pushed to retake the lead late in regulation, but they “waived” at their chances for late-game heroics.
The 17,580 in attendance at TD Garden — many of whom partook in that third-period wave — left for the exits early in OT as Pierre-Luc Dubois one-timed a Seth Jones pass past Rask for his 14th of the season just 52 seconds into the 3-on-3 session.
“It’s another lead going into the third period we weren’t able to close out,” head coach Bruce Cassidy assessed. “That’s as frustrating as anything.”
Here’s what we learned after the Bruins dropped to 2-5 in overtime following their 2-1 loss to the Blue Jackets.
How costly have the OT losses been?
“It’s frustrating obviously,” Pastrnak said. “There have been plenty of them this year and it’s probably getting a little bit in our head, and we want to win a lot of those [OT games]. We’re missing some confidence there because we haven’t been doing well in those, so obviously it’s frustrating.”
The Bruins found different ways to win during the first two months of the season. Yes, the shootout struggles began in earnest during their first loss in the glorified skills competition against the Lightning in mid-October, but that didn’t deter them from nabbing two points through blowout wins, tight-knit contests or even a pair of overtime winners from Torey Krug and Pastrnak via come-from-behind fashion in late November.
Nowadays, the Bruins’ fans feel a proverbial dark cloud hovering over them whenever a game reaches the extra session. The team hasn’t won a 3-on-3 OT game since Pastrnak’s tally over the Rangers on the day after Thanksgiving.
The Bruins are now a combined 2-11 in overtime and shootout play. Their one point against the Blue Jackets pulled them even with the Washington Capitals — both with 59 points — atop the Eastern Conference standings. Just think: they’d have sole position of first place if they had one more win, and they’d be sitting in a good spot had they been anywhere close to .500 in the extra session.
Krug, in his first game back from an upper-body injury sustained in the Caps game on Dec. 23, alluded to this during his postgame interview session. But, he also pointed out that even some of the doom and gloom from the OT struggles have a silver lining.
“Luckily they don’t play 3-on-3 overtime in the playoffs,” Krug said. “But for now, we’re capturing points and we have to find a way to capture a few more. Even if we go 50 percent [in overtime or shootout games] with what we’ve done in the past, we’re probably up five [or] six points probably. So we have to find a way to do it.”
As long as they’re tallying points, Krug and company won’t likely have to worry about the resurgent Maple Leafs, who sit eight points behind the Atlantic Division leaders. But even in a crapshoot like 3-on-3 overtime or a shootout, the Bruins still need to find a way to cure this lingering issue.
David Pastrnak nabs fourth straight 30-goal season
Pastrnak is well on his way to surpassing the career marks he set last season (38 goals, 43 assists, 81 points in 66 games). Entering the new calendar year, Pastrnak didn’t waste much time tallying his fourth-straight 30-goal season.
The talented Czech playmaker fired home his 30th tally on a patented one-timer past Columbus netminder Elvis Merzlikins just four seconds into Boston’s second power-play attempt.
In Game 42, Pastrnak became the fastest Bruin since Cam Neely to reach 30 goals since Cam Neely accomplished the feat in his 27th game during his otherworldly 1993-94 season. Neely’s 50-goal campaign that season marked the last time any Bruin accomplished that illustrious feat.
Pastrnak currently has a 58-goal pace for this 82-game campaign. He had a few chances to inch closer toward a 60-goal pace on Thursday if not for Columbus’ shot-block party — a staple of a John Tortorella coached team. The Bruins could’ve used another goal from Pastrnak or anybody for that matter following another frustrating overtime loss.
An interference challenge favored the Bruins’ for once
Replay reviews haven’t gone Boston’s way at all this season. Worse yet, the offside or interference challenges wiped off Bruins goals at pivotal points in losses to the Avalanche, Capitals and Canadiens.
Through all the trials and tribulations Cassidy never used a coach’s challenge for interference or offside…until Thursday.
The fourth-year Bruins bench boss didn’t waste any time either after Gustav Nyquist appeared to give the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead just 17 seconds in. Finally, after a few minutes, the Bruins found themselves on the right end of replay review after a Columbus skater interfered with Rask in the crease.
Ironically enough, the goaltender interference review came on the heels of Tortorella’s $20,000 fine for his fierce, but justifiable rant on the officiating following Columbus’ shootout loss to Chicago on Dec. 29. But Cassidy would’ve challenged the particular play from Thursday regardless of Boston’s opponent.
“What does his fine have to do with anything? That has nothing to do with the challenge,” Cassidy said regarding Tortorella’s latest fine factoring into his challenge for interference. “The challenge, [goalie coach] Bob [Essensa] felt Tuukka was interfered with. We would have challenged that, whether we were playing Columbus or Edmonton. So no, it was more about we felt he had interfered with his stick and his body position, it wasn’t pushed in. That’s obviously the way he saw it.”
Tortorella’s club didn’t let the challenge hinder them one bit. Imagine what Torts would’ve said had the Bruins pulled this one out? Instead, we’re left with what could’ve been following another Bruins’ overtime setback.