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Bruins save stinker for last, get blown out by Oilers

03.17.17 at 12:15 am ET
The Oilers scored seven goals against the Bruins. (Walter Tychnowicz/USA Today Sports)

The Oilers scored seven goals against the Bruins. (Walter Tychnowicz/USA Today Sports)

It was at the 8:23 mark of the first period that the Bruins found themselves down three goals to the Oilers.

Patrick Maroon had the first two goals, the first of which came on the power play and the second scored just 59 seconds after that, and Benoit Pouliot had the third. That spelled trouble for a number of reasons, chief of which being that the damage did not come from Connor McDavid (although he came through with the primary assist on Maroon’s second goal) or any of the Oilers’ go-to scorers, the second reason being that their defensive play was straight-up abysmal, and the third biggest reason being… well.. it’s three goals in eight minutes.

But Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy did not hit the panic button. Instead, he relied on his best players to come through and make a game out of it the best they could, which turned out to be the case, for about five minutes anyways, in what finished as an ugly 7-4 loss in Edmonton.

The Bruins’ improbable comeback began with a David Pastrnak power-play goal scored 12:29 into the first period. It was the product of a tremendous cycling effort from a Black and Gold power play that’s clicked for what’s felt like months now, as Torey Krug fed Ryan Spooner, who moved the puck to Brad Marchand, and then Pastrnak for No. 88’s 31st goal of the year.

As is tradition, it was Marchand that followed Pastrnak’s lead with a goal of his own scored 5:15 later for Marchand’s 37th goal of the season, which tied the career-high the 28-year-old set during last season’s (somehow less impressive) run.

On the backs of their most potent scorers, the Bruins made this a game.

But it wouldn’t last.

Crushed by their porous defensive zone coverage throughout the night, the B’s fourth and final gaffe of the opening frame saw McDavid force Torey Krug down to the ice with a speedy move that shook Krug, and a lucky tip from Anton Slepyshev to beat Tuukka Rask high for his fourth goal of the year and a goal that put the Oil back up by two with just 51 seconds left in the period.

It was the sign that this was not going to the Black and Gold’s night, and it only got worse in the second period.

A power-play goal from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins once again brought out some negatives heavily feature from the Bruins in this game — with puck-watching, bad bounces, and blown assignments in front of their netminder — extended Edmonton’s lead back to three, chased Rask, and this game seemed all but over. Even when the Bruins brought themselves back within two behind a Dominic Moore shorthanded goal, they gave it right back when a brutal Adam McQuaid turnover and team failure to chase the skater down on a partial breakaway allowed Leon Draisaitl to score an unassisted goal just 2:29 after the Moore goal.

It would not be the last of the home team’s scoring, however, as a Milan Lucic power-play goal on Anton Khudobin made it seven for the Oilers while David Krejci’s late-period power-play goal brought the Bruins back within three.

It failed to matter — even as the Bruins peppered Cam Talbot’s net with high-quality chances — as their hole in their own zone was dug too deep and the Bruins failed to muster the monster comeback needed to swipe a point from the Oilers.

This game epitomized frustration for the Bruins.

After the third goal against Rask, you would have figured that the Bruins would have put a greater emphasis on denying the Oilers those high-quality looks between the circles. They didn’t. You would have figured that their forwards would have provided stronger d-zone support when the Oilers hemmed they into their own zone. They did not. And at some point, you expected to see the Bruins keep Edmonton off the board immediately after they brought themselves back within striking distance. Instead, the Bruins allowed the Oilers to score within three minutes of one of their tallies on two different occasions, which when you dig yourself an 0-3 hole like the Bruins did before mounting a comeback, is certain death.

“It was just an awful game by everyone,” Bruins center Patrice Bergeron admitted after the losing effort. “Too many breakdowns defensively. You get down by three goals probably before the 10-minute mark (of the first period) and it’s tough to catch up from there. I think our d-zone coverage was nowhere to be found and they took advantage of that.”

While you understand the honesty, this had to be expected — or considered as a potential result — going into this game. Playing their third game in four nights, the Oilers came at the Bruins with speed and a relentless forecheck that straight-up winded the Bruins by the middle of the second period. With players like Maroon, Pouliot, Lucic, and Zack Kassian on the wings, it’s a forecheck that will do their damage no matter the legs you’re skating on, too, but adding fatigue into the mix is a nightmare.

This game was exactly that.

Still, this end result can’t sully a road trip that saw the Bruins grab four of a possible six points which was likely the best case scenario given the troubles that have come with this road trip in the past. And this loss, which came on the second leg of a back-to-back (which have not been kind to the Bruins to begin with this season) definitely cannot define a road swing that saw the Bruins end a team’s 10-game winning streak like the club did in Calgary on Wednesday night.

The Bruins will get some much needed rest before it’s time for a Monday night head-to-head with the Maple Leafs.

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