Mistakes lead to 4-1 loss for Bruins

This time, the Bruins could not outscore their mistakes.

In another faux pas-filled outing from the B’s, they fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-1, in what had to be a concerning performance at the TD Garden on Thursday night, coming on the heels of a bad outing against New Jersey in which they managed to score enough goals to hide the pockmarks in the 5-4 shootout win.

No such luck on Thursday.

The B’s are at the start of a crucial stretch. Thursdays’ game was the start of a pivotal stretch in which they play another game against the Pens (who stretched their lead over the B’s to nine points), three against Philadelphia and two against Washington before the April 12 trade deadline. By then, General Manager Don Sweeney should have a better idea of what this team is, and what it needs. Lately, it looks like that’s a lot.

Coach Bruce Cassidy is not afraid these bad outings will snowball, but he certainly had his problems with the level of play.

“I trust this group to bounce back. They’re very resilient. They’ve proven that over the years,” said Cassidy, who pointed to how his team was able to stop the bleeding after consecutive blowout losses to the Islanders and Rangers in February.

“We’ve had games like this where we just don’t respect the process, we don’t respect taking care of the puck. Good offensive teams kind of shove it right up … and that’s what happens. A lot of it was our top guys tonight,” Cassidy said. “Our younger guys are learning the ropes here a little bit. But we’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the puck. It’s that simple. We started slow. (Matt Grzelcyk and Brandon Carlo) had a tough time behind the net, a fairly straight-forward breakout. It started from there and we seemed to be chasing the game. We found our way back in it and, the last two goals, we had the puck on our stick and it’s in our net a short time later … Pittsburgh is on fire right now. You can’t do that against those teams.”

There is, of course, time to right the ship. If defenseman Jeremy Lauzon, who had another tough game, can get his play back up to where it was before he suffered a broken hand, that would be helpful. Sean Kuraly could get back in the lineup on Saturday after missing two weeks on he COVID-19 list, with Jake DeBrusk to follow shorty after Kuraly. If Kevan Miller can return from his knee woes, that should add muscle on the back end and also help his one-time partner Jakub Zboril.

But belief in this team requires a lot of crossed fingers and toes right now. And they took another troubling hit on Thursday when Carlo, in his second game back after missing 10 with a concussion, could not return for the second period. An upper body injury was the only information available.

“He left and didn’t come back, so that’s never a good sign,” said Cassidy.

And at least one of their best players is mired in a funk. David Pastrnak has just one assist in his last five games. For the second game in a row, Cassidy had to move him off the top line — this time trying both Craig Smith and the unusual choice of Zach Senyshyn — to try to get him going.

Then, after Brad Marchand gave the B’s some improbable life when his goal at 11:14 of the third cut a Pens 2-0 lead in half, Cassidy give Pastrnak another chance with the Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.

The results were disastrous. Pastrnak tried to rush the puck through the neutral zone, gave it away and the Pens came back on a 2-on-1. Evan Rodriguez fed Jason Zucker and he beat the overmatched Dan Vladar to restore the two-goal lead and effectively snuff out any illusion of hope the B’s had in this one. Jake Guentzel finished it off with an empty-netter.

“I’m not frustrated with those (top) guys, I’m disappointed that they don’t recognize the value of the puck and where we are in the game. They have to step up a little more,” said Cassidy. “I get frustrated with the younger guys that make the same mistakes. They can’t get the shot through from the point. It’s frustrating when teams collapse on you and you get it low-to-high and you look like you’ve got some action. And you get a shot blocked, back them come and you’re in the penalty box. You lose momentum. That’s the frustration. And that’s just a learning curve for some of them. Some of them will learn it and be better off for it. Some of them won’t, and they won’t be here.”

Marchand said Pastrnak is at his best when he is driving to the net, forcing teams to respect his speed and creating opportunities for his line-mates.

“We all get there when things aren’t going you’re way. It’s frustrating, especially where he puts a lot of pressure on himself. He wants to be the best goal-scorer in the league and he is,” said Marchand.

The Bruins’ best player in the first period was Vladar, who kept his teammates in a 0-0 tie through 20 minutes. But with the way the B’s were playing, it wasn’t going to last.

After Vladar stopped Jared McCann on a clean breakaway, Zach Aston-Reese put the Pens up 1-0 at 2:01. Brandon Tanev sent a backhand pass into the slot that went through Grzelcyk, Connor Clifton and finally Charlie Coyle before Aston-Reese buried it past Vladar.

And then at 13:12, Pittsburgh doubled its lead when defenseman Mike Matheson went nearly the distance for the goal. Matheson took a short feed from Anthony Angello near the top of the faceoff circle in his own zone and bolted down the right side. He blew past Lauzon at the top of the circle, avoided a flailing Lauzon’s desperate stick-check attempt, cut across the net and tucked it inside the post.

That put the Pens firmly in control of the game and the B’s made them sweat only briefly after Marchand scored before Zucker’s goal all but ended it.


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