The Bruins’ six-game point streak came to an end Thursday night against the Avalanche. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)
Despite the positives that came with their ability to come back from an 0-3 the night before in Washington, Thursday’s defeat at the hands of the Avalanche served as a reminder to the Bruins that they can’t spot the opposition three goals any given night and expect to draw back even.
On the second leg of a back-to-back with travel, the Bruins and netminder Anton Khudobin were torched by Avalanche forward Matt Duchene just 5:30 into the first period when Duchene weaved his way through three Bruins — including a shoddy defensive effort from B’s forward Ryan Spooner — to find the perfect shooting seam for his 10th goal of the season (all of which have come on the road).
With a chance to counter on the power play, a botched keep-in from defenseman Torey Krug was snagged up by Nathan MacKinnon and marched the other way for a brilliant breakaway tally that beat Khudobin up over his glove just 7:27 after the Duchene goal to make it 2-0 in favor of the Avalanche.
The two-goal edge held through 20 minutes of play, and John Mitchell wasted no time in making it three just 4:09 into the third period when he came down with speed and beat Khudobin cleanly blocker side for his first goal of the season.
Just like they did in the Nation’s Capital the night before, the Bruins had spotted their opponent a three-goal edge, this time doing it in just 24:09 of hockey compared to the 25:51 they did against the Caps the night before.
And just like they did at the Verizon Center last night, the Bruins fought back with a response, the first off a David Pastrnak rush right out of the box (with the help of a great bounce pass off the opposite boards from Tim Schaller), to beat Calvin Pickard and bring the B’s back within two with 7:57 left in the middle period. It would be Pastrnak that countered his own goal just 1:20 after that, too, with a brilliant execution of a faceoff win from Patrice Bergeron and stellar passing sequence from Brad Marchand and Torey Krug that left Pastrnak alone in the high slot for his second goal of the game and 18th of the season.
In the blink of an eye, the Bruins were back in it.
They were controlling pace, the Garden crowd was finally alive, and then Kevan Miller was whistled for a penalty. The Bruins survived that penalty, though, and it appeared that they were set to resume their frantic attack the other way.
But just as Miller exited the box from his late-period penalty, it was Carl Soderberg that caught Austin Czarnik and Brandon Carlo in no man’s land and punched back with his fourth goal of the season and the Avs’ fourth goal of the night.
A backbreaking goal if there ever was one, the Soderberg goal reestablished the Avalanche’s two-goal edge with just 2:55 left in the second period, and set the tone for a third period that saw the Black and Gold simply run out of gas.
Khudobin made just 17 saves in the losing effort, while the B’s six-game point streak (4-0-2) came to an end in the process.
Here are four other things we learned in the loss.
All-you-can score Pasta night at TD Garden
What can we say about David Pastrnak that hasn’t already been said? In just his 23rd game of the season, the 20-year-old winger came through with the only two B’s goals of the night, and pushed his season total on up to 18. That also moves him into a tie with Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby for the league lead, and paces No. 88 for a ridiculous 56-goal campaign. (Keep in mind that the dude has missed five games this year, be it to injury or suspension.) And since coming back from an upper-body injury on Thanksgiving night, Pastrnak has tallied eight goals and 10 points in nine games played.
In an organization that’s seldom had top-tier scoring talents, Pastrnak is quickly emerging as a must-watch in today’s NHL.
Avs extend Hub winning streak to 11 games
The next time that the Avalanche come to Boston, it will be with a 19-year winning streak in Massachusetts to their name. That’s just straight-up insane. Of course, it hasn’t been 19 straight years of victories in town (you can blame the NHL’s old scheduling format for that), but tonight’s victory over the B’s in Boston pushed the winning streak to 11 straight (0-9-1-1 if you’re the Bruins). It’s been so long since the Bruins beat the Avs here that this building was called the Fleetcenter when it happened and B’s top pairing defenseman — and Colorado Springs, Colo., native — Brandon Carlo was just 16 months old when it happened.
Tempering the expectations of Anton Khudobin
When Anton Khudobin was brought back to Boston on a two-year deal, people were excited at the return of a familiar face.
After all, Khudobin was more than capable in his little run with the Black and Gold, which included nine wins and a .920 save percentage as Tuukka Rask’s backup in the lockout-delayed 2013 season. But what people failed to remember with Khudobin is that those successes were achieved behind a B’s defense that was just a lot better than this current collection. Back then, Khudobin regularly started behind a younger Zdeno Chara, healthy Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference, Johnny Boychuk, Dougie Hamilton, and Adam McQuaid. Now, just Chara and McQuaid remain, while the other pieces are either still in the early developmental stages of their career or a few years older. And it’s shown in Khudobin’s overall numbers.
That said, the 30-year-old has been good some nights. His previous two starts were an example of that.
But nights like the one Khudobin had tonight are likely going to be a bit more common than we’d want to admit.
Problem with Bruins’ top power-play unit becoming apparent?
It’s taken almost 30 games, but I think I’ve figured out a big reason for the struggles of the Black and Gold’s top power play unit. A unit that features Torey Krug and David Krejci on the point, Ryan Spooner along the half wall, David Backes parked in front of the net, and Patrice Bergeron as the roaming ‘bumper’ between the circles, the B’s top unit has been average at best this year. One of the biggest reasons for that, I think you’re beginning to learn, is that the unit is short on shooters. From the point, their passing is phenomenal, and even Spooner along the wall is a a straight-up delight when it comes to dishing the puck around.
But of the five on that unit, it’s painfully apparent that Bergeron is the only player whose shot is a legitimate threat. And teams are starting to key in on that. Tonight’s first period was a great example of that, too. As the Bruins cycled the puck around with great pace and connection, the Avalanche penalty killers would just swarm Bergeron — I’m talking at least two, often three, bodies on No. 37 — any time they would even catch a whiff or idea that the puck was heading Bergeron’s way.
Spooner has a respectable shot, but he’s often been a pass-first type of talent in town. Backes is in a role that focuses very little on any real shot (he’s there to bang away at rebounds and collect goals via deflections), and Krug’s shot — at least in terms of its ability to either hit the net or go, y’know, into the net — has somehow gone missing over the last two seasons.
In other words, the Bruins need another shot on that first unit. But it’ll be hard for the Bruins to do that without changing the overall scheme of their top unit and/or significantly lessening the overall effectiveness of their second grouping.
The Bruins are back at it Saturday night at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs.