But Sunday’s 5-2 setback in Pittsburgh cost the Bruins more than just two points in the standings. It also added three more players to the club’s ever-growing injured list.
Defenseman Adam McQuaid was the first to go down, suffering an upper-body injury after a putting a hit on Penguins winger James Neal in the corner just seven minutes into the opening period. McQuaid struggled to get off the ice in obvious distress, eventually falling before he reached the bench and needing to be helped off.
He did not return to the game, finishing with just 1:59 of ice time. He was also a minus-1, as the Penguins added insult to injury by scoring their second goal of the game as McQuaid labored to the bench.
McQuaid was later joined by rookie forward Max Sauve, whose NHL debut was cut short by a lower-body injury in the second period. He finished playing just 3:43 over seven shifts, the last of which came five minutes into the middle frame.
Bruins center Patrice Bergeron also went down in the second period, injuring a leg blocking a Matt Niskanen shot just 22 seconds into the frame. Bergeron hobbled off the ice to the locker room, returned for one more shift, then headed to the room again. He returned to the bench for the start of the third period, but did not play a shift in the final period.
After the game, Bruins coach Claude Julien could offer only limited information in updating the condition of the three injured players.
“Sauve [is a] lower-body [injury], McQuaid, as you saw from the hit, upper body, and then Bergie [was hurt] when he blocked that shot,” Julien said. “Nothing more than that. Right now I haven’t been told that anybody’s out for a long period of time, and that’s basically all we’ve got to go with right now.”
Julien expects to learn more about the players’ status on Monday.
“The next day is when you probably have a better idea,” Julien said. “Those bumps and bruises and stuff you normally can get a better read on the next day.”
The Bruins are heading to Florida to take on Tampa Bay on Tuesday, then close out the three-game road trip Thursday against the Panthers. All three of the injured players will stay with the team on the trip, an encouraging sign that none will have to return to Boston for further evaluation.
“No, everybody’s coming with us,” Julien said.
The Bruins are already without forwards Nathan Horton (concussion), Rich Peverley (knee), Daniel Paille (upper body) and Benoit Pouliot (lower body), as well as goalie Tuukka Rask (abdominal/groin). They did get defenseman Andrew Ference back on Sunday after missing five games with a lower-body injury, but now could face the prospect of losing McQuaid on the blue line.
Boston also came close to losing defenseman Johnny Boychuk. He was hit from behind into the boards by Penguins star Evgeni Malkin at 13:29 of the third period. Boychuk, who missed games on Feb. 28 and March 1 with a mild concussion after a hard, but clean hit from Ottawa’s Chris Neil, appeared groggy as he headed off the ice following Malkin’s hit, but returned to finish the game.
Unlike the hit by Neil, there was nothing clean about Malkin’s check. He received just two minutes for boarding, but could face further discipline from the league. The league’s track record for punishing stars of Malkin’s stature is spotty at best, which Julien appeared to be alluding to when asked if he thought Malkin should be suspended.
“My opinion doesn’t matter,” Julien said. “We’ll have to wait to see what happens from that. But it was Malkin that hit, right? It wasn’t [Matt] Cooke? It was Malkin. We’ll see. The league will have to look at it. It was a hit from behind. They’re the ones who make those decisions. We don’t like those hits.
“My job is tough enough as it is. I don’t want to do his, because his job is pretty tough as well,” Julien added of NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. “I’m talking about Shanny. So we’ll let Shanny do his job and I’ll do mine and we’ll just move on. You’ve just got to look at it that way. For different reasons they make their assessments and they decide. So we as coaches have to do our jobs and work with the guys we have.”
And despite another poor start and the eventual three-goal loss, Julien was proud of the effort of the guys he had left after the injuries left Boston severely shorthanded against one of the top teams in the league.
“It was disappointing to have to again dig ourselves out of a hole,” Julien said. “But I think with the situation we had tonight — short bench, down to three lines, five D’s — I think our guys battled hard. The way we played this afternoon, I’m certainly not going to criticize my team because we showed a lot of guts in at least being able to keep the pace, especially after we went down three goals. We got a couple goals back. I thought we had a great second period, but not enough at the end to get over that hump.”