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Bruins sign forward Ryan Fitzgerald, defenseman Emil Johansson to entry-level contracts 03.24.17 at 1:40 pm ET
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The Bruins have signed Ryan Fitzgerald to an entry-level contract. (Ty Anderson/WEEI)

The Bruins have signed Ryan Fitzgerald to an entry-level contract. (Ty Anderson/WEEI)

Let the college signing spree begin.

With most NCAA seasons wrapped up, and with Bruins general manager Don Sweeney expected to make decisions on many of the club’s college prospects (or for the prospect to make his own decision), the Bruins made their first move on Friday and officially inked their first college standout with the signing of forward Ryan Fitzgerald.

Inked to a two-year entry-level deal that will begin in 2017-18, Fitzgerald, a fourth-round draft pick (120th overall) of the club in 2013, makes his jump to the pro game after a solid four-year run with the Boston College Eagles. In four years under the legendary Jerry York’s watch, Fitzgerald scored 66 goals and 132 points in 152 games.

An alternate captain for his senior season, the North Reading, Mass. native chipped in with 12 goals and 31 points in 34 games played.

Fitzgerald is the son of former NHL player and Billerica, Mass. native Tom Fitzgerald, who skated in over 1,000 games in the NHL, including 71 for the Bruins in 2005-06. Often seen around TD Garden, Tom is currently serves as the assistant general manager of the Devils.

Ryan’s cousins include Bruins winger Jimmy Hayes, Rangers forward Kevin Hayes, and the Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk (and his dad Keith).

Up next for the Bruins: Boston University’s Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson or Charlie McAvoy, and/or Notre Dame’s Anders Bjork.

The club also signed defenseman Emil Johansson, a seventh rounder (206th overall) in 2014, to a three-year entry-level deal.

The 20-year-old Johansson most recently suited up for Djurgardens IF of the Swedish League, where he posted seven goals (tied for the team lead among defensemen) and 17 points (the second-most among team blueliners) in 47 games played. And much like Fitzgerald’s deal, Johansson’s contract will not kick into the mix until the start of the 2017-18 season.

Fitzgerald will report to the P-Bruins and finish his season on an amateur tryout agreement, while Johansson will report to Providence on a professional tryout agreement.

Blowing leads early and often is getting old for struggling Bruins 03.24.17 at 5:40 am ET
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The Bruins saw three leads rapidly evaporate before their eyes on Thursday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins saw three leads rapidly evaporate before their eyes on Thursday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

When the Bruins blew their first lead of the night on Thursday, it was far from ideal, but it was acceptable at that stage of the game. It was fair to expect some pushback from a Lightning club that’s even closer to death’s door than the Bruins. When the B’s blew their second lead of the night, it became annoying and cause for concern in what should have been a mismatch considering the Bolts’ poor health and inconsistent play. And when the Bruins blew their third and final lead of a night that finished as a 6-3 loss for the club, it became downright unacceptable for a team that’s worked themselves into as much trouble as the Bruins have over the course of their four-game losing skid.

How does this happen to this team with so much on the line in this game, not once, not twice, but three times. In the same period, no less.

“I think if there was an easy answer, we would’ve solved it after the first or second time to be quite honest,” Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy said after the loss, the club’s fourth in a row, a new season high (and longest since the five-game slide around this time a year ago). “It happened the other night against Ottawa, as well.”

It actually goes beyond Ottawa, too.

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Watch Penguins captain Sidney Crosby slash Marc Methot’s fingertip off 03.24.17 at 4:25 am ET
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Hey, so this is gross. No, like, this is really gross.

I’m warning you.

(Please don’t say that I didn’t warn you.)

Late in the first period of Thursday’s head-to-head between the Senators and visiting Penguins, Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby hacked at Ottawa defenseman Marc Methot as Methot entered into the Pittsburgh zone on a four-on-four sequence.

Methot let out a scream, played stopped, and it was obvious to why he was in pain as soon as his glove came off.

Oh, God. I knew it was coming and it was still gross.

The dude legitimately lost part of his fingertip because of a Crosby slash. While these slashes are far from uncommon, rarely do you ever see a player with as much damage to their hand or finger as Methot did when he left the game.

“His finger is destroyed,” Sens coach Guy Boucher said of Methot after the game. “It’s shattered and he’s out for weeks.”

Crosby, who was not penalized for the slash on the play, tried to plead his case after the game.

“I was just trying to get his stick and I think I caught his finger judging by his reaction and their reaction,” said Crosby, who also got away with a vicious spear to Ryan O’Reilly’s midsection the other day. “I’ve gotten those before. They don’t feel good.”

Groin shots, finger removals, and zero penalties. All in a week for the game’s best player. Curious to see if Crosby picks up a minor for actually beheading somebody on the ice this weekend. Matching minors at the very best for the beheaded, maybe.

Zdeno Chara hits Bruins milestone in losing effort 03.24.17 at 3:12 am ET
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Zdeno Chara hit a milestone with his second shorthanded goal of the season. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Zdeno Chara hit a milestone with his second shorthanded goal of the season. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

On a night of few positives as the club’s losing streak reached a season-worst four games, this one by a 6-3 final at the hands of the Lightning, the Bruins found just one as the 40-year-old Zdeno Chara accomplished something not seen in over two decades.

With the Bruins on the penalty kill in the second period, and with Chara’s go-to pairing partner in the box, the Bruins started a rush up ice and loose puck found its way to a storming Chara. And with a slight assist from the Lightning’s Victor Hedman, who helped steer the puck Chara’s with a botched clearing attempt, Chara sniped the B’s second goal of the night home against the Bolts’ Peter Budaj for a 2-1 lead.

In what was Chara’s eighth goal of the season, the shorthanded marker stood as Big Z’s second shortie of the season, which makes him the first Bruins defenseman to record multiple shorthanded goals in a season since Ray Bourque accomplished the feat in 1995-96 (two goals).

It also makes Chara just the eighth defenseman in team history to hit that milestone — Bourque did it three times, Bobby Orr accomplished it a franchise-best four times, while Don Sweeney, Glen Wesley, Dick Redmond, and Dallas Smith each scored multiple shorties one time during their respective Bruins tenures — and just the 17th NHL defender to do it since 2005.

Still, the shorthanded goal could not save a B’s penalty kill that surrendered two power-play goals in the loss, both from Nikita Kucherov, and finished the night with just three kills on five stints down a skater.

“We had obviously some bad bounces. It’s going to happen, the last one. We need to be better. Starts obviously with us, who are out on the ice,” Chara said of the team’s penalty kill, which has allowed seven goals on their last 19 times shorthanded. “We need to take away other team’s top plays, give them as little as possible, and be willing to do whatever it takes to kill those, and yeah, we need to be better. I mean, it’s been working for us the whole year. We know we can do the job. Obviously, it’s slipped the past few games. We need to go back, and bounce back and be on a roll, and kill those penalties.”

Chara has played a league-high 250:16 of shorthanded time on ice this season.

Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy after loss: ‘Tuukka needed to be better tonight’ 03.23.17 at 11:26 pm ET
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Bruce Cassidy thinks the Bruins needed more from Tuukka Rask in their loss to the Lightning. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy thought the team needed more from Tuukka Rask in their loss to the Lightning. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

A broken skate blade turned out to be the least of Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask’s worries in a 6-3 loss to the Lightning on Thursday.

In the club’s fourth straight regulation defeat (their longest such streak this season, as a four-game slide from Jan. 16 to Jan. 22 featured one shootout loss), the 30-year-old Rask struggled with five goals allowed on just 28 Tampa Bay shots thrown his way on the night.

If those numbers weren’t bad enough for Rask, the manner in which the Bolts scored against Rask was nothing short of straight-up backbreaking, with counterattack goals scored immediately after each of the B’s goals scored, and with none taking longer than 1:35 of game time to end up in the back of Rask’s net.

“Well he’s played a lot, but I don’t have the answer,” Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy said when asked if Rask’s struggles were a product of fatigue or lack of focus.

“He needed to be better tonight.”

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Bruins blow three leads to Lightning, lose 4th straight 03.23.17 at 9:56 pm ET
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The Bruins blew three leads on Thursday night. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins blew three leads on Thursday night. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Present slump aside, in-game leads have been more than safe in 18 games under Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy.

But as the Bruins seem hellbent on dropping into the upside down world for a third straight stretch run, leads were anything but safe in the club’s near must-win against the Lightning on Thursday at TD Garden, and helped propel their downfall in a 6-3 loss to the Bolts.

After a sleepy first period in which space and time was at a premium for both the desperate Bruins and somehow-even-more-desperate Lightning — the highlight of the period came in the B’s end, with Tuukka Rask coming up with two big stops on Nikita Kucherov on a Lightning power play opportunity — the Bruins struck with a power-play courtesy of David Pastrnak just 1:33 into the middle period.

But as the Bruins were caught in their own zone right after the Pastrnak strike, the Lightning countered 44 seconds later, as Brayden Point buried a third-chance look home on Tuukka Rask.

And the theme of the night was established.

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Bruins hope to snap out of penalty killing funk against Lightning 03.23.17 at 7:08 pm ET
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Nikita Kucherov has scored a league-leading 15 power-play goals this season. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Nikita Kucherov has scored a league-leading 15 power-play goals this season. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Monday was the important game of the season for the Bruins. They lost that contest, though, by a 4-2 final in Toronto. So Tuesday then became the most important game of the season for the Bruins. And after losing that game, a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Senators, Thursday against the Lightning has become the most important game of the season.

Oh, and also, do you sense a theme here?

Locked in a dogfight to the finish in search of snapping their two-year playoff drought, the Bruins find themselves mired in a three-game slide, their first under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy.

One of the biggest letdowns over the course of that three-game slide has been the B’s penalty killing group — which has been a standout for the Black and Gold all season long — that has surrendered five power-play goals against on their last 14 times shorthanded.

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