We’re not sure exactly who they’ve been the past few days but the team that has allowed nine goals in its first two games after the Olympic break has barely resembled the Bruins that were playing great hockey and firmly in control of the Atlantic Division. Boston (37-17-5) fell, 4-2, to Washington (29-23-9) at TD Garden Saturday. Coming on the heels of a 5-4 overtime loss in Buffalo on Wednesday, the B’s expected more in front of their home crowd.
“We haven’t played together in a couple weeks and it has shown,” said goaltender Tuukka Rask. “We talked about these things before the game but mental errors cost us again. We showed glimpses of how good we can be.”
Head coach Claude Julien referred to it as “catchup hockey.” For the second straight game, Boston allowed the first goal and this time they put themselves in an even deeper hole by handing a 3-0 lead to Washington on a pair of power-play goals for Alex Ovechkin and a defensive turnover leading to a breakaway and goal for Joel Ward.
Patrice Bergeron gave the Bruins some life with a power-play goal and Shawn Thornton’s goal cut it to 3-2 late in the second period. Another key breakdown by Boston’s defense sealed the loss as Eric Fehr scored on his breakaway midway through the third to go up 4-2.
“We were caught cheating too much offensively, that’s something we have to fix if we expect to win,” noted Julien. “It’s not a bad thing to have a back-to-back at this point.”
Boston is in New York Sunday night (7, NBCSN) to face the Rangers (33-25-3) at Madison Square Garden. This was the start of three games in four nights and a very busy week with games Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
What they'll be saying: Nobody employed by the Bruins (the players that spoke afterwards in the locker room or Julien at his press conference) would admit it, but clearly the trade deadline (Wednesday at 3 p.m.) is weighing on their minds. Uneven performances like the one in Buffalo and this afternoon vs. Washington reinforce the common notion that Boston could use another veteran defenseman or two with Dennis Seidenberg out for the rest of the season (not a new development mind you).
Sidney Crosby’s brilliance is well documented but for whatever reason (lack of playoff success?), Ovechkin doesn’t get nearly the same love when he’s obviously the second best offensive player in the NHL and top goal-scorer. He leads the league in goals (43) by a healthy margin after his pair vs. Boston and you won’t find a more lethal one-timer.
Something to remember, should these teams meet in the postseason: Rask has never beaten the Capitals (0-3-3) while Braden Holtby (4-0-0) is undefeated against the Bruins. Washington has plenty of work to do to stay in the playoff mix but they would be an opponent the B’s would probably want to avoid. This was the first of three meetings this season with Boston hosting Washington again on Thursday, then going to DC on March 29.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate