It is not far-fetched to say that the Bruins could be up 3-0 in their first round playoff series against the Senators, but the cold reality is that they are down 2-1 after another crushing overtime loss (4-3 at TD Garden in Game 3 on Monday) to head coach Guy Boucher’s hard-nosed group.
That’s the schizophrenic nature of life in the NHL postseason, where things can change faster than the weather on a New England spring day. Boston hadn’t hosted a Bruins playoff game in three years, so the B’s made sure that the boisterous Patriots’ Day crowd got their money’s worth at least in terms of entertainment value, but not so much in the final result.
Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy labeled the loss “very demoralizing,” as the Senators won it on a power-play goal by Bobby Ryan 5:43 into the extra session after a questionable roughing call on Riley Nash.
“Once they call it (the penalty), our job is to kill it,” Cassidy said. “They were on the puck better than us early. We’ve got to do a better job on Erik Karlsson (who had two amazing stretch passes for assists in Game 3 and 4).”
For a score line that mirrored Saturday’s Game 3 (a 4-3 overtime win in Ottawa), the way that things in between played out couldn’t have been much different in Game 4. Rather than blowing a two-goal lead, the Bruins took the even harder route of trailing 3-0 early in the second period before they started to wake up and show some much-needed signs of life. Rookie right wing Noel Acciari potted his first career NHL playoff goal and center David Backes cut it to 3-2 42 seconds later with his first postseason goal for the black and gold. Finally, David Pastrnak recorded his inaugural playoff tally with a wicked one-timer on the power play to knot things up at three in the second period.
During the regular season, Boston’s penalty kill was ranked No. 1 in the league, but vs. Ottawa, the B’s have had some clear issues. Dion Phaneuf’s overtime game-winner in Game 2 technically wasn’t on the power play, but it came on the same possession after Zdeno Chara’s penalty had just expired. In the three games thus far, Ottawa’s power play is 3-for-10 while Boston’s is 2-for-8. Overtime in a playoff game is stressful enough as it is. The Bruins don’t have to add to that heavy burden by making things even more difficult on themselves.
“Our penalty kill has been huge all year and Nash is a big part of that,” noted Backes. “We battled to get back in the game but obviously the way it ended was not what we were looking for. We expect Game 4 to be the same and we have to come out flying on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., NESN). We want to tie things up in the series and make it a best-of-3 going back to Ottawa (on Friday).”