BOSTON, MA - The Bruins knew what they were facing.
On Thursday night at TD Garden, they were facing off against a fast, young, passionate Colorado Avalanche team rolling into the season on a 3-0-0 start with a fiery new head coach in Patrick Roy behind the bench.
They knew the game plan against Colorado, but didn't end up on the winning side, falling 2-0 in Game No. 3 of 2013-14. The B's now have a 2-1-0 record.
"We weren't surprised at what they were bringing. You know, the coaching staff told us what they were going to do and they came out and they did what they wanted to do, and they executed," said defenseman Torey Krug, who sent four of the Bruins' 39 shots on Avs netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
And that was the consensus throughout the room - and from Head Coach Claude Julien - following their first loss of the season.
"I think they did exactly what we talked about doing before the game," said alternate captain Patrice Bergeron. "They were moving their feet and they were first on the pucks in the first period and we were slow getting there. We gave them some life, I think, and they played a good game from the get go."
Colorado pushed the pace, and the B's didn't respond right away.
"But still we have to be ready right from the start," said Bergeron. "Because after that, I thought we had some good looks in the second and third."
The B's put 29 shots on Giguere in the final two periods, after Ryan O'Reilly put Colorado on the board with a tip-in on the power play with 40 seconds to go in the first. It was the only goal allowed by Tuukka Rask, with Matt Duchene adding the empty-netter late in the third.
"They’ve got good speed and we talked about that for the last couple of days. It’s one of those things where you really have to grind it out; some nights, goals don’t come easy and what we had to do was get a little bit more traffic in front of a hot goaltender and take his eyes away," said Julien.
"And we didn’t do a good enough job of that and then when we were in front, even looking from the bench, he could still see the puck. I don’t think we took his eyes away. So you have to give them credit for how well they played."
"I don’t think I’m really disappointed in the effort, more than we have to find ways to win those games and we didn’t do it tonight."
Getting shots through wasn't a problem for the Bruins; it was about getting bodies on the rebounds and outbattling the Avs.
"They were fast as we expected. I think you really saw it in the first period and they do a good job of supporting each other and creating speed in the neutral zone and it’s given them success," said Milan Lucic, who was nearly the benefactor of a set-up by David Krejci early in the second period that would have tied it up.
His line with Krejci and Jarome Iginla generated 10 shots on goal, including seven off the stick of Iginla.
"I think we did a good job generating chances but I thought we did a poor job of getting to the net and picking up loose pucks or creating the screen," said Lucic. "So, it’s obviously something we have to get better at."
The Bruins showed their signature consistent full-60 effort in the first two games on the season, in wins over Tampa Bay and Detroit, but didn't have their skating legs from first puck drop against Colorado.
"Of course we could have done more," remarked Krug. "The goalie stopped us, all our good chances. We’ve got to do a better job of taking away his eyes. That’s something we did very well against Detroit and it’s something that we’re going to have to do better moving forward."
Krug and Bruins like third line of Chris Kelly, Jordan Caron and Reilly Smith helped form chances, along with the power play, which had three opportunities to convert, including one at the midpoint of the third that began as a 4-on-3.
It had movement, and generated chances, but as was the theme throughout five-on-five, the B's didn't capitalize.
"We’ve got to make sure we grab that opportunity, especially in key moments in the game like the 4-on-3," said man-advantage point-man Krug. "So, shame on us for not scoring. We’ve got to step it up a little bit."
"I just think we weren’t skating," Rask said, following a 29-save effort. "They broke up forecheck, and then their wingers were coming a hundred miles an hour and our D was just standing there with nobody supporting them, so it’s kind of tough for them to do anything to kind of stand out and cut the speed away when you get no back up."
"So I think we were just not skating fast enough in the first, but then re-adjusted after that and we limited their chances on rushes."
It was something the B's were well aware of before entering the game - the Avalanche's aggressive forecheck. The five-man unit needed to support each other, and in the middle frame, we saw the Bruins regain that, and their cycle game.
"I thought our first period showed that we hadn’t played in a while and it took us some time to get our game going, but from the second period on I thought we had spent more time in the offensive zone," said Julien. "I thought we took away a little bit of their speed through the neutral zone that they had in that first period. So the adjustments were good and our guys got better."
"Unfortunately they scored a nice power play goal in that first period and we couldn’t overcome that."
The four-day layoff from game action could have affected the B's from the start, but, as per usual, they weren't letting that serve as a reason for loss No. 1 on the season.
"You can't blame any of it on rust. I mean, maybe that was the case but that's a poor excuse," said Krug. "So we've got to be better."
"There’s no doubt when you play, you get on a roll," added Julien, of more frequent games. "We were a little rusty, but those aren’t excuses, those are facts and you have to work on those things. You have to be ready."
And when they weren't, the B's corrected it for the rest of the game.
"We talked about it after the first period; it doesn’t matter who you're playing against, you have to outbattle them and outskate them as much as possible," said Bergeron.
The centerman had a chance of his own denied by Giguere, after a feed from his left winger Brad Marchand midway through the second.
"It’s about one shot and one bounce and then you get some confidence and some life back. So, we didn’t get that tonight."
Lucic in the Box
Penalties can sometimes alter a game's outcome. In the case of Thursday night, it gave way to Colorado's game-winner that ended the Bruins' perfect penalty kill bid (they had entered the night 7-for-7).
It also caused a significant factor on the B's top line to sit in the box for the first 10 minutes and change of the third period, when his team was trailing 1-0.
With 51 seconds left in the second period, Milan Lucic got into an altercation with Avs Captain Gabriel Landeskog. It ended with matching roughing penalties and an extra 10-minute misconduct assessed to Lucic. He had gotten heated from Landeskog grabbing him from behind.
"It's good. We seemed a little bit emotionless, obviously besides Thorty’s [Shawn Thornton] fight there. He did a great job of stepping in for us and you see Looch [Lucic] get fired up and you feed off that," said Krug. "It obviously gets the crowd going quite a bit and we start skating. I think we did a good job responding to that."
It never helps to have one of your best players in the box, though.
"We don’t have anything to prove fighting with him. I don’t believe fighting is that important in our game. And at the same time I mean, there’s no need for Gabe [Gabriel Landeskog] to go into the box for 10 minutes or 15 minutes," Colorado Coach Patrick Roy said postgame, of the altercation. "We need him on the ice. He’s one of our best players, and I thought that was smart of him."
"Looch was trying to get the team going, I guess, and maybe it was one shot too many [for the referees] but still he’s trying to do his job and get the guys going and we have to do a good job on the PK," said Bergeron.
When Lucic plays with that level of toughness, it sometimes lands him in the box - but it's always when he's at his best and most engaged.
"Yeah, you want to be a part of it, you want to do whatever you can to help your team win," said Lucic, of being disappointed to not contribute during that time in the box.
"I thought as a line, we were starting to get things going and unfortunately it took me right out of the game."
"Again, we were still able to generate more as a line and hopefully we can build off that."
The Bruins next face the Blue Jackets on Saturday in Columbus, and will be collectively looking to do just that.
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