In a result that surprised just about no one, the Bruins, sans David Krejci and Brad Marchand, dropped a game to the best team in the Eastern Conference on Tuesday night.
Washington took a 1-0 lead in the first period and never trailed en route to a 3-2 victory at TD Garden.
Now, compared to the B’s poor effort in a 5-1 loss to Montreal on New Year’s Day, Tuesday’s one-goal defeat might even qualify for ‘moral victory’ status to some.
However, when the B’s big picture now paints a season-worst funk, with the team having lost five out of their last six games, it was hard to find great optimism in the Boston postgame locker room after the Capitals defeat.
“I don’t know, a little bit up and down,” said winger Loui Eriksson of his team’s effort. “We’re playing a good team and they took advantage of us in the first [period]. We came back a couple times but in the end, they won a game. It’s a tough one, we need to start winning here again.”
Head coach Claude Julien approved of the will, but not quite the way.
“Yes, for me disappointed in the loss,” Julien said. “Not disappointed in the effort. There’s no moral victory but I can’t criticize the effort our team gave tonight. In the situation we’re in we almost had to play a perfect game to beat those guys. Our guys worked hard, they had chances and this is a good [Washington] hockey club. We gave ourselves a chance there, I don’t think we ever quit. We were down a goal, then down two and came back into it. They made a big save on ‘Z’ [Zdeno Chara] at the end to keep that game from being tied. I think our guys tried, really tried but at the same time in this league you’ve gotta win hockey games. We gotta be disappointed, hungrier for next game so we can turn things around here. Hopefully the bitterness in our mouth from losing tonight is going to carry into Friday in New Jersey.”
In addition to New Jersey on the horizon, there is some possible help awaiting there, too, with winger David Pastrnak close to returning as well as just one more game to serve on Marchand’s suspension ledger. Krejci’s return date remains unknown. However, no matter the reasons, an extended losing streak given the ultra-tight league standings could be fatally damaging to the team’s playoff hopes.
“It’s a huge road trip,” said Patrice Bergeron of the upcoming five-game journey to face the Devils, Senators, Rangers, Flyers, and Sabres. “It’s a long one, we know we’re playing some big teams, some good teams. We have to turn this around. I think we have to find ways to generate more goals and more chances. It was a much better effort [tonight] but still not good enough. At the end of the day you’ve got to get wins, and the standings are way too tight to let games like this slip by. Hopefully we can be a little better next game.”
Even from the back end of the ice, goalie Tuukka Rask could see the need for increased scoring chances in the attacking zone.
“Offensively we’re not creating as many chances as we used to,” said Rask. “That’s probably the difference, that’s all I can see from my perspective. Obviously we’re missing a couple of key forwards. But we’re not getting inside there and getting those second chances.”
Rask continued: “We played a bit smarter overall [tonight]. Still, it’s a loss. Not as many scoring chances allowed defensively from around the net area, so that was an improvement. I guess we played a decent game. It was a weird game. Some moments when we had a lot of emotion, but then at times there was kinda not a whole lot going on out there. It was a weird game. OK for a tough team. I really don’t know what to think of this game. We lost.”
And it’s been a weird year, indeed, when going on the road seems to the best possible news. The Bruins’ road record is 11-3-2, with a home mark of just 9-11-2.
“Our team’s been a lot better on the road, so I guess it might be a good thing for us,” said Ryan Spooner. “It’s a long season, you’re going to get some ups and you’re going to get some downs. Some of those [losses] I feel like we haven’t played the best we can. I think tonight we played a pretty solid game, just didn’t get the bounces. There’s some stuff to build off of and some stuff to fix, for sure.”