Zdeno Chara fights Patrick Maroon in the first period of Thursday’s game against the Oilers. (Greg M. Cooper)
It would have real bad had the Bruins no-showed against the Oilers.
Forget the fact that the night began with a thunderous moment of applause for the departed Milt Schmidt, a Bruins legend of 80 years, that passed away Wednesday night at the age of 98. Forget the fact that the Oilers came to Boston with losses in three of their last four games. But don’t forget the fact that the Bruins entered play on the heels of perhaps their worst loss of the season, a 3-0 loss to the Devils on Monday night and have been left to cling with a two-point lead for third place in the Atlantic Division and with the teams chasing them having multiple games in hand over the club.
In January, and with the memories of two straight fades out of postseason contention (though they came much later in the season each time) still fresh, the Bruins are in desperation mode.
It showed at different points in their head-to-head with the Oilers, too. Team captain Zdeno Chara answered the bell and dropped the gloves with the Oilers’ Pat Maroon, who scored the game’s first goal just 1:08 into play, after a high hit in the attacking zone. And though Chara’s fight resulted in an end to the B’s offensive-zone domination of the Oilers at that point, it became a theme of the period, and ultimately resulted in a tied game through 20 minutes behind Colin Miller’s third goal of the season.
Still, it was not enough, though, as a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins goal just 14 seconds into a tied third period broke the B’s backs, and the completion of a Maroon hat trick midway through the period served as a final nail in the coffin in a 4-3 loss to the Oilers.
At this point, you’re really out of things to say in regards to the Black and Gold’s struggles.
This was another night in which the Bruins really controlled the pace of play and frequently hemmed the opposition in their own zone. The Bruins carried a 13-to-8 shot advantage through 20 minutes, but skated to a 1-1 tie. Then they carried a 28-to-17 shot advantage into the second intermission, but again were tied, this time by a 2-2 score. Then, of course, came the disastrous third, and when that happened, and when the third Maroon goal was challenged by the Bruins in hopes of an offside that would call the tally back fell short, the Bruins were looked too jarred to make any sort of real comeback.
Gifted with a 5-on-3 for over a minute, the Bruins once again made things interesting behind a David Krejci power-play goal, but could not find the 6-on-5 game-tying tally before the clock once again ran out of time.
In what finished as another shots on goal win for the Bruins, the B’s failed to get the game-tying goal when their deficit was only one in the third period, and fell to their sixth one-goal loss during a 16-game stretch in which they’ve gone just 5-8-3.
Given the loosening of their grip on third place in the division, and the year-long frustrations in the timely goals department, the Bruins are long beyond the point or moral victories — and this loss didn’t even have one of those. And you have to imagine that the patience from an already antsy front office that’s watched this team struggle here all year long is undoubtedly wearing thin.
Frustrations that can only compound after a loss to a club littered with former Bruins and led by their old GM Peter Chiarelli.