The Bruins can look at their 4-3 shootout loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday in one of two ways.
The first way they can look at it is with pessimism. Sure, they came back and got the point, but had they played a little bit better, they would likely have come away with two points and a regulation win. The first 42:07 was filled with sloppy and unenthused play that left the Bruins in that seemingly insurmountable three-goal hole.
The second way? They can take away some positives. The Bruins scratched and clawed their way back into the hockey game, and scored three goals in the game’s final 11 minutes to earn a point. That came with hope seemingly all but lost, trailing Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers 3-0 just 2:07 into the third period.
The real takeaway from Tuesday night, though, probably lies somewhere in between. The Bruins can’t wait all night to get invested and get things going; they know that better than anyone. But on the other hand, they continue to show that they’re never out of a hockey game.
“We kind of dug ourselves a hole of our own doing, but at the same time you have to appreciate the fact that we never gave up and came back and tied the game with our goalie pulled on two occasions,” head coach Claude Julien said.
It probably goes without saying that being able to come back is a characteristic of a championship team.
“That’s the thing we have in this room,” forward Milan Lucic said. “We’ve got a lot of character. We’ve got guys who aren’t going to quit, no matter what the situation is.”
It also probably goes without saying that falling into the habit of coming out lethargically and out of sorts and making costly mistakes catches up with you at some point. You can’t always make it up with an epic third-period comeback.
For whatever reason, this has been the Bruins’ thing in the past few years. They’ve been prone to coming out with lackluster effort and poor execution, only to bounce back and make a game of it. That by itself is a dangerous game to play, though, and it should serve to show that the club still has work to do, even on the heels of the club’s best 10-game start in franchise history.
“I didn’t think we competed as well as we competed since the beginning [of the season],” Julien added. “I thought that was probably down a notch and we need to compete a little bit better to win some hockey games.”
That inconsistent effort was evident through two periods and into the third. There were careless plays with the puck, like Lucic’s errant pass to Dougie Hamilton that led to the second New York goal. There was poor decision-making by Brad Marchand, who went for a hit in the neutral zone, only to miss, leading to the third Rangers goal. On that same goal, goaltender Tuukka Rask let in arguably his softest goal of the season.
Yet, just moments later, all three helped key the comeback. Lucic started asserting himself physically and went to the net, earning a pair of assists in the third period. Marchand scored the game-tying goal with less than a minute to play and added another in the shootout. Rask made some big saves late, including a pad save on Dan Girardi in the final seconds of overtime.
Suddenly, the effort was back where it was supposed to be, but the fact that it came so late ended up costing the club a point against a team that should figure to contend for one of the conference’s top playoff seeds.
“It’s nice, for sure, to get the point,” defenseman Andrew Ference said. “I think everybody is proud to get the point. I think the majority of the guys are just ticked off that we spotted them the three.”
The main lesson the Bruins must take from this? They won’t be able to always flip the switch in the third period, and the way they fight that is to be better earlier on.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to know that they’re resilient enough to never be out of a game.
“To gain a point after being down 3-0 in the third is certainly something to be happy about,” Julien said. “But I don’t think we’re going to get carried away with thinking this was a great situation. We were fortunate to get this point, and we’ll take it, but we’ll learn from it.”