Boston’s TD Garden was filled with holiday cheer Tuesday evening prior to the Bruins facing off against the New York Islanders, a game that also marked the return of former Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. However, it did not take long for the scrooges sitting among the sellout crowd of 17,565 to make it known that the home team’s effort had them saying “humbug” and with good reason. The Islanders, who entered the game with the Eastern Conference’s worst record needed all of 5:40 to jump out to a 2-0 lead on their way to a 4-2 win over Boston.
Anders Lee (two goals, one assist) and Thomas Hickey gave New York the early lead.
Nikolay Kulemin increased the Islanders lead in the second period.
Trailing 3-0 after two periods, the Bruins showed some resolve in the third period slicing the Islanders’ lead to 3-2 on goals by Anton Blidh (his first NHL goal) and Dominic Moore but it was too little, too late. Lee closed out the scoring at 13:02 of the third period.
Bruins head coach Claude Julien, who replaced starting goaltender Tuukka Rask with backup netminder Anton Khudobin after Kulemin’s goal 6:18 into the second period did not hold back when assessing who was responsible for the loss.
“Well, it’s too big of a hole, but it’s a hole we dug in ourselves, and to me, it’s not acceptable,” Julien said. “Some of those mistakes on those goals are coming from our best players, and secondary scoring is there, yet we’re still not getting the scoring we should from a lot of our guys. So I think that until we can find, or some of our best players can find their games, we’re going to be playing these types of games, back and forth, winning a big one, losing another one, and so on, so forth. Tuukka (Rask) has a bit of an off night, but the amount of times that he’s bailed us out, the least we could have done was bail him out. Tonight, we couldn’t do that.”
“What you saw in the third period, I don’t know why we don’t bring that in the first. We wait until we’re in a hole, and the desperation, and I guess our work ethic and our compete level, should be that at the first. Not in the third, when you’re down three-nothing. So, somehow we’ve got to find that. It’s not good enough, and we know that we struggle to score goals. Let’s be ready to play, and the way we gave up goals tonight, didn’t look to me like we were ready to play.”
It has been widely documented that Boston has been offensively challenged this season and on a night when the Bruins recorded a season-high 50 shots on goal (23 shots in the third period), they could put just two behind Islanders’ goaltender Thomas Greiss.
“It just seems like nothing’s really working out,” said Brad Marchand, who after scoring 37 goals last season, has nine goals this year. “You know, tonight, we had 50 shots, and we had a ton of opportunities. A few crossbars and posts just seems like it’s not going in for us and it is getting frustrating.”
Patrice Bergeron agreed with his teammate.
“It’s one of those things where I guess, though it’s cliché, keep shooting on net and keep sticking with it, is getting old and you want some results,” Bergeron said. “We’re at that point now.”
“It’s really simple – going back to playing your game and being ready from the drop of the puck. We talked about this last stretch before the break. It was three games, now it’s two, but it was three games that we wanted to get those points from and we needed to do the job and we didn’t do that tonight. We didn’t show up for the first two periods and we paid for it.”
Dominic Moore, a veteran who has been through the ups and downs of a long season, knows games like the loss to the Islanders can be used as learning experiences for himself and his teammates.
“Obviously game-to-game, we just want to focus on getting better,” Moore said. “Try to look at the things we can improve and continue to improve on the things we’re doing well, that’s all we can focus on, game-to-game.”
The Bruins have two games remaining before the holiday break (Thursday in Florida, Friday in Carolina) and will need to improve upon their recent spate of slow starts and lack of goal scoring for although Boston is in third place in the Atlantic Division with 37 points, the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that is not currently in the playoff picture is on the Bruins’ heels with 35 points.
Follow ESPN New Hampshire’s NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.