Going into Friday afternoon’s game against the New York Rangers, the Boston Bruins were looking for a quality win to put on their resume early in the 2021-22 season. Things started out well for the Black and Gold, but in the end, the Rangers remained one of the hottest teams in the league by rallying twice for a 5-2 victory for their seventh win in their last eight games.
Here are three takeaways from the Bruins’ third loss on home ice in nine games this season and dropping them to 10-7-0 the day after Thanksgiving.
Third Period Struggles Continue
Third periods have been a struggle for the Bruins this season and that trend continued Friday. Tied 2-2 entering the final period, the Rangers scored three goals in the final 8:25, on their final three shots of the game for the win. This season, Boston has been outscored 21-16 in the final period of their first 17 games.
Each team had seven shots in the period, but the Rangers took advantage of defensive breakdowns to get the two points in the standings. Artemi Panarin broke the tie and scored the game-winning goal when Julien Gauthier beat Derek Forbort below the right circle and sent a pass to the front of the net that Panarin deflected by Jeremy Swayman, much to the displeasure of Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy.
“I think the third goal is just a good example of guys didn’t – we didn’t play winning hockey for whatever reason,” said Cassidy. “It was break down in the structure all over the ice. Usually when there’s a structure issue, we look at ourselves. Do we not get the message across? You’ve got five guys on the ice that have been in the league a long time, so I think the onus has to be shared there as well.
“That becomes a turning point, and now you’re chasing the game – a game I felt was back and forth for the most part. We had the edge in the first, they did in the second, and now you’ve got yourself a good hockey game. We kind of (let it slip) away to be honest with you, a chance to win.”
Four minutes later, Jakub Zboril misplayed a puck at the New York blue line, which led to a 2-on-1. Gauthier made a pass to Alexis Lafreniere and the Rangers’ first overall pick in the 2020 Entry Draft gave the visitors breathing room with a two-goal lead. Jacob Trouba closed out the scoring with an empty-net goal.
Bruins Wasted Too Many Scoring Chances Again
Rangers’ goalie Igor Shesterkin kept his team in the game and his teammates rewarded him with his 11th win of the season in his 16th game. In the first period, the Bruins fired 17 shots on the net, with Craig Smith being the only Boston skater to find the back of the net with a wrist shot from the slot off a New York turnover.
Later in the period, Taylor Hall was stopped by Shesterkin on a breakaway, which allowed the Rangers to tie the game with 5.8 seconds left in the period on a Ryan Strome goal. The Bruins held a 17-5 advantage in shots in the opening period, but were still tied heading into the intermission.
In the second period, Shesterkin was just as good as he stopped a David Pastrnak one-timer with a side-to-side save for one of 11 saves in the period. With the Bruins clinging to a 2-1 lead following a Patrice Bergeron goal, Marchand and Pastrnak had a pair of 2-on-1 breaks and came up empty both times. On the first one, Marchand took too long to shoot the puck and was caught from behind. The second opportunity did not even have a shot on the net as Pastrnak’s wrist shot missed the net. It’s not too many times will you see that duo have multiple 2-on-1 breaks and not even end with a quality scoring chance on net.
Shesterkin’s biggest save of the third period came when he made a reaction save of a Charlie Coyle shot from the slot just after Panarin gave the Rangers the third-period lead. As we have seen many times this season, it was another game where the Bruins get a ton of shots on the net, only to leave the ice frustrated by the play of the other team’s goalie.
Bruins Still Seeking Quality Win
Seventeen games into the season, the Bruins are still seeking what could be considered a quality win over a top team in the league. They fell to 1-6 against teams that entered Friday’s action in playoff position. Their one win was a 3-2 shootout victory over the Florida Panthers on Oct. 30 on a Charlie Coyle game-winning shootout goal. They have won nine of 10 games against teams not in a playoff position.
Boston is doing what teams should do in the NHL, beat the teams they should beat, but if they don’t turn things around against the top teams in the league, they could dig themselves a hole that will be tough to climb out of later in the season. They are in games with the good teams, they now have to figure out how to close games out and win games against those teams.
Swayman did everything he could to help his team get that quality win they’re looking for with two spectacular stick saves in the game. In the first period, he dove towards an open net with his stick to stop a Kaapo Kakko shot. in the second period, the former University of Maine standout robbed Mike Zibanejad with another stick save as the Rangers forward was looking at an open net.
The Bruins have two more home games on their three-game homestand. They welcome the Vancouver Canucks to the TD Garden Sunday night, then the much-improved Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night. After a disappointing loss to the Rangers where they outplayed New York during certain parts of the game, they hope to turn their fortunes around before they head out on the road.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.