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  • Bruins “add to their problems” with self-inflicted loss to Kings

    Tim Rosenthal February 17, 2024

    Just when they were on the cusp of snapping their three-game skid, the Boston Bruins continued to self-inflict.

    Their latest special teams’ blunders against the Los Angeles Kings couldn’t have come at a worse time.

    With a 4-3 lead late in regulation, Boston’s struggling penalty kill once again encountered multiple breakdowns with failed clears and missed assignments, leading directly to Anze Kopitar tipping Drew Doughty’s shot for LA’s third equalizer of the afternoon.

    The Bruins had a chance to rectify their costly shorthanded blunder with a power-play attempt in overtime. Boston’s man advantage, which also encountered multiple struggles during the last two weeks, converted once after James van Riemsdyk buried a rebound for his second tally late in the opening frame.

    David Pastrnak drew a hooking call on Brandt Clarke with 2:36 left in the extra session. The Bruins only generated one quality look during the ensuing two minutes — a Pastrnak one-timer — before Clarke promptly converted on a breakaway out of the penalty box to secure his first of the season and the Kings’ 5-4 victory.


    Here’s what we learned as the Bruins drop to 1-3-2 with one game left on their season-long seven-game homestand.

    The Bruins “added to their problems” with another late-game collapse.

    At the beginning of the homestand, the Bruins’ compete level wasn’t up to their lofty standards, resulting in no-shows against the Flames and Capitals.

    For the last three games, their efforts weren’t so much in question. Prior to Saturday, they ran into stout goaltending from Andrei Vasilevisky and Joey Daccord during their setbacks against the Lightning and Kraken.

    Yet, an ugly trend from earlier in the season haunted the slumping Bruins.

    After allowing 18 shots on net in the opening 20, some of their defensive habits improved in the middle frame. The Kings only landed six shots on Linus Ullmark but returned within striking distance after Vladislav Gavrikov’s shot at the point found its way through traffic to cut Boston’s lead to 3-2 at the 16:38 mark.

    The Bruins bounced back from Alexis Laferriere’s equalizer at 5:51 of the final frame, earning their third lead on Trent Frederic’s rebound tally just 1:21 later. 

    Given their special teams struggles of late, however, the Bruins put themselves in a tough spot late in regulation when Pavel Zacha committed a hold on Mikey Anderson. LA’s promptly pushed to tie the game for the third time, landing several shots on net. In the final seconds of that power play, a failed clear attempt by a struggling Derek Forbort and Brandon Carlo leaving the front of the net provided Kopitar time and space in front of Ullmark to net his 17th of the season.

    “We added to our problems today. We had breakdowns that shouldn’t be happening within our structure, and then also game management,” Montgomery said. “You got to close out a game. You’re up twice in the third period, and you don’t close it out. And then in overtime, our power play has got to put it away.”

    The Bruins encountered close-out struggles during their first four-game skid before Christmas. On Saturday, they relinquished a third-period lead for the seventh time this season.

    The Bruins also squandered opportunities to extend leads.

    The lack of a killer instinct prevented the Bruins from defending their territory in the final minutes. It also halted their chances of extending their multiple leads.

    Sure, they encountered a rough break after a successful coach’s challenge overturned Pastrnak’s first-period tally. Initially, the never-ending goalie interference debate didn’t hinder the Bruins.

    Saturday’s third line of Frederic, van Riemsdyk and Morgan Geekie paced Boston’s offense at even strength. Through their aggressive forecheck and net-front work, the trio accounted for three of the four Boston goals.

    Boston’s fourth-line produced Boston’s third tally after Jesper Boqvist and Jakub Lauko won a puck battle along the walls to feed Anthony Richard for his first goal in a B’s uniform.

    The Bruins received secondary scoring against the Kings. Their primary offensive weapons also had multiple chances to extend leads.

    If anything, they could’ve alleviated the late-game pressure with one more timely marker. Instead, a dissapointed, but not overly frustrated, Bruins bunch left TD Garden searching for answers to help overcome their latest set of frustrating defeats.

    “Obviously, if a couple of bounces go our way, maybe we’re having a different conversation, but unfortunately, it didn’t,” van Riemsdyk said following his two-goal outing. “So I think, again, it’s just a matter of sticking with it, getting back tomorrow, having a good day of practice and being ready to go for a big game on Monday.”

    The failure to match in desperation continues.

    At the beginning of the home stretch, the separation in the wild card and division races remains thin. The distinction between the contenders and pretenders will begin to shape out between now and the March 8 trade deadline.

    Amid the seven-game homestand, the Bruins faced several teams vying for one of the final playoff spots, including Saturday.

    The Kings, just two weeks removed from firing Todd McLellan on the heels of a January swoon, are still trying to find their footing following the coaching change. They entered the weekend in the top wild card spot out west with 60 points — tied with the Blues — four points ahead of the Predators and Kraken.

    The Flames and Capitals appear bound for the draft lottery, but both aren’t totally out of the playoff picture yet. The Lightning remain in a dogfight with the Maple Leafs for the third spot in the Atlantic Division.

    Last Thursday’s tilt with the league-leading Canucks served as an outlier during this recent stretch. But instead of building off of that convincing 4-0 win, the slumping Bruins have dropped out of the top spot in the Atlantic Division after another failure to match a desperate team fighting for their postseason lives.

    “They came in and were a desperate team. They were on a little bit of a losing streak kind of like us, so we should’ve been in the same mode,” Frederic said after notching his first career Gordie Howe Hat Trick. “I think it’s gotten a bit better tonight, but it wasn’t for a full 60.”

    The Bruins will receive a little hiatus from the wild-card picture on Monday when they welcome the Central Division-leading Stars on Presidents’ Day. They won’t get much of a reprieve upon hitting the road for a four-game trip.

    Getting away from the not-so-friendly Causeway Street digs of late may benefit the Bruins ahead of their first post-All Star road swing. But they’ll want to establish a little momentum before beginning their near week-long journey out west with stops in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Seattle.

    “We all have to dig deep. We’re all in this together, and we all have to keep getting better because it’s not good enough right now,” Montgomery said. “Tonight, that’s a game that we should win, in my opinion. The execution wasn’t where it should be, so they give them credit. They never stopped competing, and that’s what desperate teams do.”

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    Tim Rosenthal

    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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