The Bruins were 2:34 away from earning at least one point in their 5-3 loss to the Ducks on Wednesday night. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports)
Bruce Cassidy was tested in a way that he has not through the first four game of his tenure as the Bruins’ interim head coach on Wednesday night. And it came with the first loss under his watch, as the Bruins fell to the Ducks by a late 5-3 final at the Honda Center.
In a building in which they had not won in in almost five calendar years, the Bruins opened the game up with Brandon Carlo’s goal in the first period, and carried a 1-0 lead through 20 minutes of action.
But it was in the middle period, as has often been the case this season, that the Black and Gold seemed to run into trouble at every turn.
The Ducks scored 2:03 into the second period behind Ondrej Kase’s fifth goal of the season and his first in 19 games. And the Bruins appeared to answer right away when David Pastrnak rifled a top-shelf shot upstairs on the Ducks’ Jonathan Bernier on the power play. But the goal was called off thanks to contact from B’s winger Brad Marchand at the front of the net, and after a Bruins challenge, that call was upheld and the Bruins lost their timeout.
Zdeno Chara scored a goal that counted just moments later, however, and it seemed like a bullet dodged, even down a timeout.
Rickard Rakell led the Ducks back the other way and just 47 seconds later, it was back to a tied game.
5:30 after that, Josh Manson scored to make it 3-2 for the Ducks. Here’s the catch: the Ducks were offsides by a country mile. But the Bruins, down a timeout after a failed challenge, couldn’t do a thing to protest the celebration before their eyes. It was a botched call — right or wrong, it seems as if you never see a goaltender interference call overturned, partly because of the refs’ pride and the fact that they’re reviewing these scoring plays on a Gameboy Color — and Cassidy acknowledged it after the loss.
“In hindsight, I messed up,” Cassidy admitted to the NESN when asked about his challenge. “It’s disappointing because clearly that was a good foot offside. It’s a tough way to give up a goal, but that was a decision I made, and it was the wrong one.”
Trailing after two periods of play for the first time since making their coaching change over two weeks ago, the Bruins mixed up their lines and responded with a Frank Vatrano breakaway goal scored midway through the third period. Vatrano, reunited back with David Krejci at center and with David Backes on the right side, was an obvious beneficiary of the switch-up. But the Bruins noticeably struggled to get much of anything from their bottom-six with the jumbles, and it showed on the Ducks’ fourth goal.
With Colin Miller and Kevan Miller the defensemen out there — two defenders that seemed to fight the puck for much of the night — and a mix-and-match third line of Ryan Spooner, Riley Nash, and Dominic Moore up front, chaos in front of Tuukka Rask ensued as the 29-year-old challenged the shot outside of his crease. It was a chaotic pinball bounce that ended with Rakell’s second goal of the night, scored with a helpful deflection from Corey Perry at the front of the net.
When teams like the Ducks stack their lineups like the Penguins do (Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Ryan Kesler were each on different lines), the Bruins are unable to shelter their at times suspect defensive pairings or forward groupings. But in that situation against the Ducks, you can’t help but feel as if there was a better five-man unit that the Black and Gold could have deployed, right?
One name that stuck out to me in that regard was Backes. When the newly designed Moore line went out there with 3:12 left in the third period, Backes’ had 1:14 of rest to his name and the shift before that was actually just two seconds long. Krejci had 45 seconds of rest for his 25-second shift, and Adam McQuaid logged a 30-second shift before he left the ice. Those are two players that I just feel like could have been better fits out there, especially when the initially intentions of that line was to create offense (which may have happened had Nash not been tackled right over the attacking blue line just seconds prior). Things only got worse for the Bruins after the Nash non-call when Kevan Miller’s clearing attempt failed and pinned the B’s into their own zone.
With the game — or the very least, a point — on the line, it would have been better for Cassidy to die with his best players out there. Not a line that had been together for all of one juggle-heavy third period. Instead, it’s a point that the Bruins ended up leaving on the table with a goal scored on them just 154 seconds after from overtime.
But it’s a lesson that the Bruins and Cassidy almost needed to learn given the near perfect situations that the club has lucked themselves into through the first four games of Cassidy’s run with the club. It’s a reminder that this race is far from over, and is actually complicated with the B’s inability to leapfrog both the Panthers and Maple Leafs, which they could have done with a win.
The Bruins are back at it tomorrow night against the Kings.