The night began with one rookie making an early statement. It ended with another rookie raising new doubts.
Tyler Seguin got things going on a positive note on Thursday when he scored just 1:50 into play, ending a scoring drought that had seen him go eight games without a point and nine without a goal. That was spread over a stretch that also included three games where he was a healthy scratch.
Seguin got a chance to play again on Tuesday, and while he was quiet in regulation, he scored the only goal in the shootout for a 3-2 win in Columbus. On Thursday, the Bruins headed to Nashville and with Brad Marchand suspended for two games, Seguin didn't have to worry about coming out of the lineup.
He responded early with a perfectly placed shot from the left circle that eluded Predators goalie Pekka Rinne's glove hand inside the far top corner of the net for a quick 1-0 lead.
That lead wouldn't last long. No lead would, as the Bruins and Predators traded goals throughout the night until Shea Weber ended the game with a power-play blast 3:37 into overtime for a 4-3 win. That goal came with Steven Kampfer in the penalty box after being called for holding when he tackled Mike Fisher in the corner with 2:01 left in the extra session.
It was a rough ending for the rookie blueliner, who only just returned to the lineup on Tuesday after missing four games with a concussion. He could find himself sitting out again soon, as veteran Andrew Ference is close to returning from a lower-body injury.
Kampfer's penalty is tough to excuse, but it certainly wasn't the only issue raised in this loss, as the Bruins now have just one win in their last six games.
Special teams remain an area of particular concern. The power play remains powerless. Boston was 0-for-3 on the night despite having a five-minute advantage after Patric Hornqvist was given an elbowing major and game misconduct for a hit to the head of Seguin. Seguin required seven stitches in his ear but returned to finish the game.
The Bruins' power play didn't show any such recuperative powers. Boston is now just 2-for-32 on the man advantage in the last 12 games.
Nashville wasn't much better for most of the night, failing to convert its first three chances. But the Predators took advantage of the 4-on-3 opportunity in overtime to grab the extra point both teams desperately needed.
"It was the type of game we expected," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "I thought for the first two periods it was a really good battle, two teams battling pretty hard and not giving each other much. I thought the goaltenders were standing tall for both teams. I like the way we came out in the third period. We came out strong and we got ourselves in the lead, but again, some real bad decisions there.
"They get a breakaway and tie the game up and obviously the penalty ends up costing us again in overtime," Julien added.
The breakaway to tie the game came after another failed power play, with Martin Erat getting the puck straight out of the box and swooping in alone on Tuukka Rask (27 saves). Rask made the save and also somehow managed to stop Sergei Kostitsyn's follow-up. But the Bruins failed to pick up any bodies coming back on the play and David Legwand finally put Nashville's third chance from the top of the crease into the open net behind Rask with 9:04 to play in the third.
With the win, Nashville stays in the hunt for the eighth and final playoff spot out West. The Bruins, meanwhile, saw their lead in the Northeast Division trimmed to three points, as Montreal did collect the extra point with a shootout victory against Tampa Bay.
"At this stage of the season, you've got to battle for every inch," Julien said. "We're playing desperate teams. … It's not going to get any easier and I think right now the best thing we can do is start making sure we're sharp through 60 minutes because mistakes become very costly at this time of year."
Kampfer made the biggest mistake with his costly penalty in overtime. Now it's a matter of how much playing time it will cost him as the blue line gets healthier and Julien has other options to employ on defense.
Seguin knows all about losing playing time for defensive lapses. He didn't make any glaring mistakes in this one, and he was rewarded with 12:33 of ice time. That's the most Seguin has played in exactly a month, as he played 14:04 the last time he scored a goal against the Islanders on Feb. 17. Seguin didn't have another shot on Thursday after the early goal, but showed some spark and flashed his ample skill at times, and even got to play 1:25 on the power play.
That didn't make much of a difference on that struggling unit, and the Bruins continue to be plagued with inconsistent play throughout the lineup and couldn't match Nashville's desperation when it mattered most.
"They're battling for a playoff spot," Rask said of the Predators. "Obviously they're going to come at us hard and that's exactly what happened. But we shouldn't lose these kind of games. I thought we had everything under control there and then … it was just a tough loss."
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