BOSTON — The Bruins escaped any off-ice discipline from the league for Zdeno Chara‘s hit on Max Pacioretty in Montreal on Tuesday.
On Thursday at the Garden, they couldn’t avoid the long arm of the law on the ice in the form of referees Ian Walsh and Brad Watson. That duo called eight minors penalties on the Bruins, giving Buffalo seven power-play chances.
The Sabres converted twice on the power play, including the goal to force overtime on one of their two 5-on-3 advantages en route to a 4-3 win to extend the Bruins’ losing streak to three games.
“I thought we had a great first [period], but we didn’t come out in the second the same way,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. “We were in the penalty box way too much in the second and it really killed us. We lost all momentum we had. Instead of being up after the second we were tied and I think that really changed it around.”
Five of Boston’s minors came in the second, as Boston saw a 2-0 lead evaporate with Buffalo tying it at 2-2 on a power-play goal by Thomas Vanek. After Boston went ahead again in the third, the Sabres tied it at 3-3 when Tim Connolly scored late on their second two-man advantage.
“It kills all the momentum you have,” Marchand said of the penalties. “Anyone who’s not on the penalty kill sits for a while and they lose their legs. It really kills any momentum you have and the other team gets momentum and that’s what happened tonight.
“Especially when those penalties put us down 5 on 3, those are the situations you don’t want to be in,” Marchand added. “It’s very tough to defend it, even if you have a good PK. Any time you continually end up in the box it’s very tough on a hockey team.”
The Bruins played well in spurts, but couldn’t overtime the constant shorthanded situations, especially with many of the penalties being called being of a questionable nature. There was some sentiment that things were being called more tightly than usual in the wake of Chara’s incident, but the Bruins weren’t using that as an excuse.
“Possibly, but after the first couple, you realize that they were going to call them tight, at least against us,” goalie Tim Thomas said when asked if any of the penalties were questionable. “So you’ve got to be smarter than that, and not do borderline plays that can get you those calls.”
“Maybe, you could say that, but a lot of the penalties were close,” Marchand said. “They were close calls. A few may have been questionable, but it depends on what angle the ref was at. In a game like that, it could easily go either way and sometimes that happens. But I don’t know what the refs are thinking. I don’t know what’s in their head. Maybe they were a little more sensitive tonight, but maybe they just wanted to keep control of things.”
The Bruins lost control thanks largely to the time spent in the box. Whether the calls were legitimate or not, the extended time shorthanded took too much out of the club.
“It’s kind of tough to put a 60 minute effort in knowing we’re always going to be killing penalties like that,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “I don’t know if they’re good calls or bad calls, but it definitely takes a toll on some guys in the dressing room when you got the guys that are penalty killing all the time. They’re going to be out there more than others and by the end of the game they’re going to be tired.”