The Bruins were 60 minutes of good hockey away from finishing off the Rangers and getting themselves some much-needed rest. They had a chance to bury New York and sit around all weekend to wait for the Eastern Conference finals to start.
With 13:19 to play in the second period, the Bruins had a 2-0 lead against a Rangers team down 3-0 in the series. Inexplicably, the B’s let the Rangers back into the game with ugly and careless play. Now the Bruins head home for Game 5 on Saturday.
Maybe the Bruins thought the Rangers would just go away after falling behind by two goals. Maybe the Bruins thought a two-goal lead was a good enough cushion to sit on and breeze through the rest of the game.
It wasn’t, of course. The Bruins didn’t necessarily take their foot off the gas, but they were uncharacteristically sloppy.
Just about every glaring Bruins mistake led to a Rangers goal. When Tuukka Rask caught an edge in his crease in the second period, Carl Hagelin was there to slide the puck by for the second goal. When Zdeno Chara coughed the puck up behind his own net, Derek Stepan was there to take advantage of the uncharacteristic giveaway and beat Rask, who was slow getting from post to post. When the Bruins took a too many men on the ice penalty in the third period, which they compounded by puck-watching on the penalty kill, Brian Boyle was there to make the B’s pay with a goal that tied the game 3-3. Finally, it was Dougie Hamilton letting Chris Kreider behind him on a 2-on-2 rush in overtime, as Kreider poked home a gorgeous pass from Rick Nash for the game-winner.
“At the end of the day, it’s pretty simple: We didn’t play well enough,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Not outworked, and I thought we competed as hard as we did, but we didn’t execute the way we can.
“We were a little sloppy, we were. We weren’t as crisp as we had been in the past games. Eventually they came back and found a way to win this hockey game.”
Those are all of the negatives, and they are negatives that could have easily been prevented with just a little more mental toughness. There are plenty to choose from, no doubt, but all is not lost for the B’s. In fact, that’s far from the case. The Bruins will play on Saturday night at home, and they’re still holding a 3-1 series lead. The Rangers still have to win three more games before the B’s win one. It’s that simple.
And there are positives to take from the Game 4 loss, no matter how ugly it looks on the surface. For instance, Tyler Seguin actually scored a goal. The B’s were also able to pot a pair of power-play goals. Rask, for his struggles early in the game, bounced back to make a couple of highlight-reel saves.
These are all small victories, though. They don’t make up for the fact that the Bruins won’t be spending their Memorial Day weekend with their feet up by the pool waiting to see who they’ll face in the Eastern Conference finals.
But the Bruins are still a long way away from trading in their sticks for golf clubs, and they know that as well as anyone, even with their history being what it is.
“There’s no panic here,” Julien said. “Like I said, had we been outworked and not been there at all, it would be different here. But we didn’t get outworked. All it was is our team wasn’t executing as well as we have been lately, and we gotta go back home and play a better game. Our work ethic was there.”
They can take solace in the fact that although they played one of their worst games of the spring, they’re still just one win away from advancing. Bad games happen. This one just came at a very, very bad time. They better learn their lesson, though, because another showing like this in Game 5 and the temperature will be turned up in a big way.