The Boston Bruins returned to TD Garden on Monday after a stellar 5-1 road trip. They were two days removed from the Columbus Blue Jackets forcing overtime with 3.8 seconds left in regulation. Nearly a week before that, they couldn’t extend the game overtime in Anaheim after coming back from two separate deficits.
Unlike Saturday’s shootout win against the Blue Jackets, the Bruins couldn’t overcome this latest collapse late in regulation. This ending likely left a handful of loyal Bruins supporters begging for crypto refunds.
The Bruins built a 2-1 lead off the heels of another productive outing from the third line highlighted by Trent Frederic’s first-period tally and Craig Smith’s second-period marker with Charlie Coyle notching nifty assists on both. They established good habits through the first 59 minutes and change and positioned themselves for another two points.
But the Kings received a fortunate bounce on Trevor Moore’s equalizer with 25 seconds left in regulation.
Linus Ullmark did all he could to keep the B’s hopes alive after his second flashy glove save on the night on Anze Kopitar early in the 3-on-3 overtime. That hope was short-lived, however.
After delivering a pair of helpers in the first 60, Coyle committed the costliest turnover on the night in Boston’s attacking end. Andreas Athanasiou capitalized on his breakaway attempt to send the Kings home with a 3-2 victory.
“You’ve got to value the puck,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “The play at the end is just not a very good hockey play. We got what we deserved on that play.”
Here’s what we learned as things got away from the Bruins for the third time in four games.
The trend of late collapses have the Bruins “pissed”
Somehow, the Bruins got three points after things got away from them late against the Ducks, Blue Jackets and Kings. Heck, they would have points in nine consecutive games had the penalty kill extended the game to overtime Tuesday in Anaheim.
Unlike their tilts with the Ducks and Blue Jackets, Cassidy didn’t need to rely on his penalty kill in the final moments of Monday’s tilt with the Kings. But unlike Saturday’s shootout win in Columbus, the Bruins couldn’t overcome their latest miscue with under a minute left in regulation.
“If you look at the segment of the last two weeks, [the collapses] have happened too often,” Smith said after notching his fifth goal in his last three games. “There are two things you can do. You can be pissed about it, which we are right now, but we’ve got to take the next step forward… make the corrections and make sure we’re tightening up. It’s all things we can fix, and we have the people to do it.”
The Bruins didn’t have a letdown in effort in their first game back from a long road trip. But they let their guard down again and got the ending they deserved.
Ullmark is embracing his role behind Jeremy Swayman
Swayman may have solidified the No. 1 spot in net after his stellar play since returning to Boston on the heels of Tuukka Rask’s retirement. Given Swayman’s recent run, the Bruins have positioned Ullmark in a de facto 1B role.
With Rask’s uncertain future and Swayman’s brief but stellar start to his NHL career, the Bruins inked Ullmark to a four-year deal worth $5 million per year last off-season. He’s provided mixed results in his first year in Boston but has performed better in the second half of the 2021-22 campaign. Swayman’s ascension, however, has limited Ullmark’s playing time of late.
The Bruins tabbed Ullmark for Monday’s start after Swayman manned the Boston net for the final two games of the road trip.
Ullmark couldn’t quite close the gap on Blake Lizotte’s first-period marker — a mere 1:09 after Trent Frederic gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead. He made up for it with a pair of flashy glove saves in the second period on Adrian Kempe and again on Kopitar’s overtime bid.
The Ullmark-Swayman tandem provided a solid transition from the Tuukka Rask era. The two have embraced each other’s company with their postgame victory hugs providing heartwarming moments.
Ullmark still has opportunities to shine entering the home stretch. But he couldn’t be happier for Swayman’s success.
“I’m super happy for Sway,” Ullmark said of Swayman. “He’s done a tremendous job for us to win games back and forth, especially on this road trip we were on; he was lights out. I couldn’t be more happier for him.
“For myself, nothing changes. I still come to work with a smile on my face, and I’m trying to improve myself and improve the guys as well. I try to push them to be better and they push me to be a better goaltender, and I’m going to do that tomorrow as well.”
Jack Ahcan “was a little too static” in an attempt to fill Matt Grzelcyk’s void
Grzelcyk’s late exit from the morning skate on Monday altered Boston’s defensive lineup a tad.
The Bruins didn’t have to move parts around, with Mike Reilly and Charlie McAvoy serving as their top pair and Derek Forbort and Connor Clifton solidifying the third pair. They asked Ahcan, a recent callup from Providence, to fill in for Grzelcyk next to Brandon Carlo on Boston’s second D pairing.
Ahcan’s inexperience put him in a tough spot. Even as the teams traded scoring chances, the 24-year-old could hardly showcase his offensive skillset in a tight-checking tilt. The Savage, Minnesota native tallied one shot on net in 14:17 time on ice.
“He didn’t move his feet early and got in trouble early on against a good forechecking team,” Cassidy said of Ahcan. “Once he got in the game and the rhythm of it, I thought he was better. He’s a puck handler, and with the ice like tonight, it wasn’t going to be his best friend when you’re trying to make tight area plays. That’s what I noticed early on. His ability to transition is one of his assets, and he was a little too static.”
Ahcan’s stilt in the lineup could be brief again. Cassidy doesn’t envision Grzelcyk’s upper-body ailment to have long-term ramifications. The sixth-year Bruins coach labeled Grzelcyk as day-to-day during his postgame press conference.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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