With Sunday’s 2-1 falter at the Consol Energy Center, the Bruins have sandwiched a pair of 4-1 victories over the two Eastern Conference bottom-feeders, Florida and Washington, with two one-goal losses to the new conference leaders.
The Penguins continued their nine-game thrill ride by muzzling the same team they roared back to usurp a 3-2 decision from after initially trailing 2-0 this past Tuesday. They momentarily relinquished a 1-0 lead but later restored that upper hand on the cusp of the first intermission and froze the 2-1 difference for the remaining 40 minutes.
Boston has now brooked five regulation losses on the year. Two have come curiously against the Northeast Division misfits from Buffalo, one against the divisional leaders from Montreal and now two at the hands of Pittsburgh.
The latter three are the three most recent, all coming within the ongoing month of March.
In accordance with Sunday's final score, two jutting elements from the latest heavyweight shortcoming and one positive individual effort of note are assessed as follows.
Boston amassed 21 shots on goal in the latter 40 minutes, including a game-high 12 in the closing frame. But Vokoun repelled everything he needed to, and his praetorian guards would not let him be bothered in the game’s climactic phases.
The last registered shot of the day at either end was via Boston winger Daniel Paille with 5:52 left in regulation. The last attempted shot was a Patrice Bergeron bid blocked by Brooks Orpik with 5:07 to spare.
Pittsburgh’s uncompromising puck possession afterward was underscored by takeaways credited to Orpik and Chris Kunitz, five hits by a Bruin to four by a Penguin and a Bruins icing with 2:33 left. All of that delayed Boston’s swapping out goaltender Tuukka Rask in exchange for an extra attacker.
Perhaps most tellingly, one day after nabbing three points apiece against the Capitals, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic whiffed on a combined nine shots on goal against Vokoun and company.
The aforementioned Paille and the rest of Boston’s bottom six forwards played anywhere from 8:53 to 14:39 on the day, including a leading 13:25 by Gregory Campbell at even strength. Yet they combined for only four of the team’s 32 shots on goal, including 20 by offensive players.
Campbell, Jordan Caron and Rich Peverley were all kept shotless on two attempts apiece. Jay Pandolfo pelted Vokoun once in 10:05 of playing time.
It’s matchups like Pittsburgh and days like Sunday and Tuesday when one wonders how much the Bruins must really be missing center Chris Kelly, who has been out since sustaining an injury in Ottawa last Monday.
The adversity may be amplified this week depending on the status of David Krejci, who went down with 5:14 left in the third period after being struck by teammate Johnny Boychuk’s slapper. If Horton and Lucic’s pivot is out, Peverley will likely be bumped up to fill in.
Even if Krejci does not miss time, there are merely two-and-a-half weeks left until the trading deadline, and the qualitatively thin third line could hasten general manager Peter Chiarelli’s search for an import.
A 2-1 falter to a regal member of the conference is usually not going to yield strictly vinegary ice chips, and one plus-point for the Bruins could be found in depth defenseman Adam McQuaid.
Despite playing 19 shifts and a cumulative 14:56, the least among Boston blueliners, McQuaid charged up a team-leading four hits and three blocked shots. This came after he bumped three Capitals and blocked two Washington shots as part of his return from a one-game injury-induced absence.