Bruins Must Solve Third-Period Problems As Playoff Race Intensifies

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BOSTON — The Bruins spoke at length leading up to Tuesday’s game about finishing strong, putting teams away and not leaving points on the table. Then, they went out an did the exact opposite.

In its first game following a six-day All-Star layoff, Boston built a two-goal lead in the third period but could not maintain it against a Toronto Maple Leafs team that has won fewer games than any other in the NHL this season.

Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri both scored in the final 11 minutes of regulation to pull the Leafs even, and P.A. Parenteau potted the game-winner on a power play in overtime to propel Toronto to a 4-3 victory at TD Garden.

A loss against one of the worst teams in the league, one that had dropped nine of its previous 10 games and hadn’t scored a single win against a divisional opponent, is bad enough. Doing so in the same agonizing fashion the Bruins have far-too-often duplicated this season added an extra coating of frustration, which was evident in the players’ postgame remarks.

“We need to find a way to sort that out,” defenseman Kevan Miller said. “That?s not hockey.”

“With the way things are right now in the standings, you can?t give up points like that,” added Brad Marchand, who scored two goals in the loss. “It?s what it?s going to come down to at the end of the year.”

The manner in which the Maple Leafs mounted their comeback also didn’t sit well with Bruins coach Claude Julien. All three of Toronto’s regulation goals came on nearly identical plays: shots tipped past goalie Tuukka Rask by an unmarked Leafs player in the high slot.

“To me, it?s poor coverage,” Julien said. “And all three goals were kind of tipped from just probably ten to fifteen feet from our net, so the slot area was not covered very well. We know they like to shoot for those tips, and we didn?t do a good enough job of taking care of that.”

Over their last five losses, the Bruins have surrendered 12 goals in the third period or overtime. They’ve also led or been tied in the third in four of those games, last Tuesday’s blowout loss to the Anaheim Ducks being the lone exception.

Center David Krejci has offered blunt, honest assessments of his team’s play after several of its late-game gut punches this season — most notably after Boston allowed five third-period goals in a disastrous loss to the Buffalo Sabres in late December — and he did the same Tuesday.

“For some reason we?re still playing on our heels,” said Krejci, who tallied a goal and an assist but helped set up Parenteau’s game-winner with a holding penalty in overtime. “And before, we had a killer instinct. We were up two goals, and we were pushing for the next one. But I don?t think we were pushing for the next one (Tuesday night).”

This is the time when the Bruins need to be pushing — for every goal and every point. With the Eastern Conference playoff race as tight as it is and getting tighter, Boston isn’t going anywhere without a solution to this third-period problem.

Thumbnial photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Boston Bruins players stand at the bench after the Toronto Maple Leafs scored the game winning goal during overtime
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