BOSTON — If we told you a few weeks ago that Thursday night’s game would result in the Bruins earning sole possession of first place in the NHL’s Atlantic Division, you would have been a bit confused by the team’s postgame reaction.
After all, the B’s passing the Tampa Bay Lightning for the division lead — despite the Lightning having two games in hand — is quite the accomplishment given the struggles Boston endured earlier this season.
But the Bruins didn’t exactly reach the milestone in style, earning a point but falling 3-2 in overtime at TD Garden to a Carolina Hurricanes team it had beaten 4-1 fewer than two weeks ago.
“I think right now, we’re really looking at our game, and we’re in the dressing room right now, we’re not happy,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “We lost a game (Thursday night), and even if that means that point got us in first, we’re certainly not satisfied with that. I think we could have been better (Thursday night).”
But doesn’t Julien take some satisfaction in how far the B’s have come since dropping 8 of 10 games in late December and early January? In short: Yes.
“Having said that, it’s nice to be in first,” he added. “We haven’t been in first all year. We also realized there’s teams behind us that have games in hand, but we’ll take it. We should be a little proud, I guess, of the fact that we’ve come a long ways to get there. So, there’s nothing to be ashamed of about being where we are right now.”
Julien’s players struck a similar tone of disappointment infused with an almost begrudging optimism.
“As for right now, it kind of stings to be on the losing side,” Bruins alternate captain David Krejci said. “I will say that after the tough start we had this year, to find ourselves — what is it, 70 games in or something? — to find ourselves in first place, that’s pretty impressive. But like I said, we’ll be able to appreciate that more (Friday).”
The Bruins can find a positive from the fact that they trailed by a goal entering the third period and knotted things up on a David Pastrnak snipe that ultimately forced overtime.
In fact, Thursday’s loss was the fourth consecutive overtime game for Boston, which hasn’t lost in regulation since Feb. 28, a span of six games. But even as they move up the Eastern Conference’s ranks, the Bruins are trying to avoid getting swept up in the hype.
One way to do that is to take Tuukka Rask’s approach: Just block everything out.
“Oh, really? Tampa didn’t play (Thursday night)?” the Bruins goaltender said when informed of Boston’s new place in the Atlantic. “Well, you know, we don’t want to get caught staring at the standings, because that won’t do any good for us. We just have to focus on our game and improve, like we have all season.
“We just try to plug away and get our game to a level where we think it needs to be in order to make the playoffs and move on in the playoffs.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Carolina Hurricanes left wing Phillip Di Giuseppe (34) celebrates after scoring the winning goal on Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (not pictured) during the overtime period at TD Garden. The Carolina Hurricanes won 3-2 in overtime.
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