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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Bruins Blow A 2-Goal Lead In 3rd Period, Suffer A Brutal 4-3 Loss In OT vs. the Maple Leafs

If the Bruins hope to reach the postseason this spring, losses like the one they experienced on Tuesday at TD Garden simply cannot happen. Boston (26-18-6) was up 3-1 on Toronto (18-22-9) early in the third period but then they proceeded to cough that up as the Maple Leafs tied it with two more tip-in goals and won it on overtime thanks to P.A. Parenteau's backhander on the power play.

The B's (11-14-2) have found numerous painful ways to lose on their home ice already this season but this was a new low for them. The Leafs certainly play much harder under new head coach Mike Babcock (and they unveiled a new logo after the game!) but they possess very little talent. In fact, making this loss more stunning for Boston was the fact that Tuukka Rask (17-15-5; 31 saves) came in with a 14-3-1 lifetime record against Toronto while Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer (9-8-6; 39 saves) was 5-6-3. I guess it was fitting in a way since a Bruins win would have given them a season sweep after they had beaten the Leafs three times in a row for 2015-16.

It was the first game for both clubs since the All-Star break and Brad Marchand continued his great goal-scoring stretch. He added two more goals (his team-leading 21st and 22nd of the season) which gives him seven goals and one assist in his last eight contests. He put in a rebound at 9:37 of the first period, from Jimmy Hayes and Matt Beleskey. UNH's Daniel Winnik tied it at one with a tip-in at 9:56 of the second period. Roman Polak and Shawn Matthias assisted on Winnik's fourth goal of the season.

Boston came out flying to start the third as Marchand redirected a pass by David Krejci for a 2-1 lead 55 seconds into the frame. David Pastrnak had the second assist on Marchand's go-ahead tally. Just 26 seconds after that, Krejci poked in a loose puck for his 12th goal of the season and a seemingly comfortable 3-1 Bruins advantage. Torey Krug and Pastrnak assisted on Krejci's goal.

The Bruins were 21-2-2 when leading by two or more goals this season, although this marked the seventh time that they have blown a two-goal lead (5 in regulation & 2 in overtime). It wasn't anything fancy produced by the Maple Leafs in their unlikely comeback as they went to the dirty areas in the slot and redirected shots from the point. Their lone All-Star Leo Komarov cut it to 3-2 at 9:02 when he tipped in Morgan Rielly's shot. Polak picked up another assist on Komarov's 17th goal of the season. Boston apparently never really adjusted their defensive coverage as Nazem Kadri hurt them by doing the same exact thing: his tip-in came 2:29 after Komarov's. Former Bruins scrub Matt Hunwick and Komarov picked up assists on the emerging Kadri's 11th goal of the season.

Even before it fully unfolded, overtime had a sour taste for the B's as David Krejci was called for a holding penalty. Boston was able to kill that 4-on-3 Toronto power play for 1:23 but then Parenteau ended it by flipping in a rebound. Jake Gardiner and Kadri assisted on Parenteau's 12th goal of the season. In a stat which makes no sense whatsoever, Boston fell to 1-5 in overtime this season while they are 3-1 in shootouts. Huh? Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs picked up their first OT win (1-4) while they are 4-5 in shootouts.

The B's get a point from this debacle (you have to remember that) but no question it should have been two without breaking a sweat. Boston's supposedly cake schedule to start the second half continues as they are at Buffalo (20-26-4) on Thursday (7, NESN) then they host the Sabres here on Saturday (7, NESN). The Bruins have already been embarrassed by the Sabres earlier this season (6-3 in Boston on December 26) so I can't imagine that they would overlook them again. Plus, at this point there is nobody in the NHL that they can automatically pencil in a win against, especially at the Garden. Ugh.

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