The Boston Bruins managed to keep Connor McDavid off the scoresheet on Thursday.
They didn’t, however, make things easy on themselves against the Edmonton Oilers.
Even with a 2-0 first-period lead on the heels of a Brad Marchand leaker and a David Pastrnak buzzer-beater, the Bruins struggled to manage the puck.
With McDavid and Leon Draisaitl held off the scoresheet, Edmonton’s depth personnel became opportunistic.
Evan Bouchard converted on a 4-on-1 off a Matt Grzelcyk spill at the attacking zone blue-line to put the Oulers on the board in the second period.
Ryan McLeod capitalized on a rare defensive mishap by Patrice Bergeron to even things up in the third.
With momentum on their side, defenseman Darnell Nurse gave the Oilers the lead on a relatively routine shot from the point with 4:49 remaining.
“You have to be aware,” Bergeron said. “[McDavid] is all class. He’s the best player in the world, and I think Draisaitl isn’t too far behind. We know that offense, and we try to take that away. But that being said, tonight was the other guys. Yeah, you do a good job [on McDavid and Draisaitl], but they have talent on the other lines, and that’s where they scored their goals.”
Here’s what we learned as the Oilers snapped Boston’s 10-game win streak with their 3-2 triumph at TD Garden.
The Oilers broke a few of Boston’s trends.
The Bruins entered Thursday with the following records:
33-0-3 when scoring first.
28-0-1 when leading after the first period.
35-0-2 when ahead after 40 minutes.
After the final horn, the Oilers became the one in 33-1-3, 28-1-1 and 35-1-2.
“I thought the Oilers were the better team,” head coach Jim Montgomery said. “They were good, and we weren’t good enough. I thought they outplayed us, outworked us, and outcoached us.”
Perhaps the Bruins diverted too much attention to Edmonton’s potent top two centermen in McDavid and Drasaitl. Montgomery’s club kept McDavid and Draisaitl in check, holding the potent duo to a combined four shots on goal.
Yet, the Bruins struggled to counter Edmonton’s speed throughout the lineup. While their checking game wasn’t porous, the puck decisions and attention to detail weren’t as crisp as usual.
The Oilers pounced. A laser from Bouchard off a Grzelcyk spill at the attacking zone blue-line, a rare blunder from Bergeron on McLeod’s equalizer, and a routine shot from Nurse at the point late in regulation highlighted the list of Boston’s self-inflicted mishaps.
“I didn’t see the release,” goalie Jeremy Swayman said of Nurse’s go-ahead tally. “I had a feeling [the shot] was going to the left side of the net. I put myself in position, but it beat me. I don’t know if it tipped or not, but…”
The Bruins were “non-competitive” offensively.
Like Swayman on Nurse’s game-winner, Skinner encountered his issues tracking pucks whenever the Bruins generated looks.
The problem is they didn’t test Edmonton’s shaky starter enough.
A Marchand wrist shot somehow found twine early in the first. Another harmless shot found the back of the net in the closing seconds of the first on Pastrnak’s one-timer.
If not for a successful offside challenge, the Bruins would’ve held a 3-0 lead after David Krejci found twine with a power-play blast from one knee. Even then, the Bruins hardly looked crisp on the attack.
More often than not, the Bruins opted for the perfect play instead of firing shots against a rattled netminder. Charlie Coyle became the top culprit of that overthinking habit during the middle stanza when he declined a pair of prime shooting opportunities in the slot within a 30-second timespan.
The Bruins outshot Edmonton, 28-22. But in the end, Boston got what they deserved.
“After the first period, I thought we were lucky to be up 2-0. They were the better team,” Montgomery said. “We scored [late in the first], and I thought we got better in the second, but we passed up too many opportunities to push the lead. We were a very non-competitive team offensively tonight.”
Perhaps this is just a blip in their torrid pace. Still, the Bruins don’t want to turn their overthinking habits from Thursday into a trait.
Another injury scare avoided
Over the next month, the Bruins hope to fine-tune their areas of need while providing some needed rest for some of their battle-tested core players. But entering the postseason as fully healthy as possible remains their top priority over the next month.
Injuries to Nick Foligno and Taylor Hall during their recent road trip prompted Don Sweeney to acquire Tyler Bertuzzi on the eve of the trade deadline. The only transactions the Bruins GM can make now are in the Providence pipeline.
The Bruins will likely call up another forward before beginning their five-game road trip in Detroit on Sunday. They nearly had to make a move earlier than anticipated.
A collision with Mattias Ekholm on Boston’s first power play attempt prompted Jake DeBrusk to a brief exit. After heading down the tunnel, DeBrusk regained his breath and returned to his usual spot next to Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
“Oh yeah, he’s fine,” Montgomery said of DeBrusk. “I think most of it was that his wind got knocked out of him. When you’re not expecting the hit and it’s an accidental collision like that, you don’t brace yourself for the hit and it knocks the air out of you. We’re lucky it’s all it was.”
While DeBrusk hasn’t notched a point in three games, the Bruins struggled to replicate his production after he missed 18 games following his Winter Classic heroics.
Of all the players Boston can ill afford to lose for an extended period this late in the season, DeBruk finds himself near the top of that list.
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