Each playoff game between the Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning was expected to be passionate, dramatic and tight. But in Game 3 of the series that’s supposed to be between the two best teams in the league, the Bruins mailed in a no-show performance and lost, 7-1, at Scotiabank Arena.
Played against the backdrop of a historically tumultuous evening in the sports world — the NBA, WNBA, MLS and some MLB games were canceled after the Milwaukee Bucks initiated a wildcat strike of their NBA playoff game over the racial strife occurring in Kenosha, Wis., after a police shooting of a Black man — the Bruins simply laid an egg.
By the time it was over, the Bolts’ dormant power play had awakened for four goals, Jaroslav Halak had given way to untested rookie Daniel Vladar and the Bruins’ road leading to the Stanley Cup suddenly looked awfully rocky.
Here are some of the notable moments from a surreal night in the sports world as it pertains to the Bruins:
• Much of the post-game press conference had to to do with the social actions in the other sports and the NHL’s decision to play on.
Patrice Bergeron had donated $50,000 to the Boston NAACP and a civil rights organization in Quebec while Zdeno Chara had marched in a protest in Boston earlier this summer.
“We stand against any type of racism. My stance and our stance doesn’t change,” said Bergeron. “Again, any form of injustice and I’ve made a statement earlier, a few months ago, Z did as well, I stand behind that statement. I want to be a part of it, part of a solution. Obviously, there needs to be change. That’s where I’m at. Obviously, it’s about human rights, and that’s it, that’s all I have to say for that.”
Said Chara: “We support NBA players and all the leagues that showed their support. Obviously, it was so close to our game that we were just getting ready. But pretty much saying what Patrice said, we support the fight against racism and injustice. There are different ways to express that fight and obviously NBA players expressed their opinions by boycotting the games today. We support it.”
Chara said he and his teammates never broke from game preparation mode to discuss following the NBA’s lead.
“After our pregame meal we took naps and then we were on the bus. I don’t think any of us were watching the TV until we got to the rink and then at that point it was too close to the game to start any discussions or making, trying to change to move the games to different dates. We had the afternoon game and we were just basically following the schedule that the NHL provided to us,” said Chara.
Coach Bruce Cassidy said he would have supported his players no matter what they would have chosen to do.
“We as an NHL (team) have voiced our opinion, we support the NBA and their players and their decision tonight,” said Cassidy. “We’ll continue to fight for social justice and anti-racism, and I think the Bruins have been quite clear on their position on that and the players for that matter. As for playing the game, I think then it goes to a higher authority than me so probably better question to the players if they felt that was something they discussed. “
• As for the game, it was a disaster. The B’s had some misfortune in the first period that put them down by two goals, but they did not fight well or smartly to overcome it. The game was over midway through the second period. Cassidy’s biggest disappointment?
“The response, obviously the first period we were fine. I think if you look at all the numbers pretty even. Obviously, couple of breaks didn’t go our way, couple of questionable calls in my estimation obviously didn’t help, and then you chase the game,” said Cassidy. “That’s tough, three (games) in four (nights), no excuses, but it’s tough to get behind in this league against a good team. It’s hard enough to catch up. I just think if you look in the regular season when you’re playing three in four, back-to-backs there’s not a lot of comebacks, it’s going to be especially magnified in the playoffs.
“But clearly after that, we lost our composure at times and didn’t do enough to get back in the game. You kind of got down at the start of the second period, first 10 minutes, and we weren’t able to do that, sort of tilt the ice back in our favor and they took full advantage of the opportunities given to them in the first period and after for that matter. So, then it gets away from you and I think you’re just starting to build your game for Game 4 more than anything.”
• That Game 4 preparation started in earnest with 8:42 left in the second period and the B’s down 4-1. Cassidy decided to give 35-year-old Jaroslav Halak (four goals on 16 shots) a breather and send in the kid, Daniel Vladar, who’d never played in the league before. Soon, Brayden Point gave Vladar his “Welcome to the NHL” moment, beating him badly on a breakaway. Vladar allowed three goals on 15 shots.
“He’s in there battling. Good move by Point on the breakaway. He’s going to score on a lot of guys with that move,” said Cassidy. “Listen, it was a point where we felt that if we need Dan Vladar, maybe this is a better way to get him some work. Less a reflection on Jaro. Give him a break. Let’s get a look at (Vladar).”
It was 4-1, I believe, and Tampa got energized from that second period and I think we were deflated.
“I just had a gut feeling our guys were going to have a tough time pushing back from three goals down, so let’s look at Vladdy. I’ll have to look at it more. There’s a lot of things going on. (Goalie coach Bob Essensa) will talk to Vladdy. I’m glad he got an opportunity to play. I don’t wish it in that circumstance but it is what it is and he got him some work. Hopefully he’s better off for it down the road.”
• As bad as the beating was, Cassidy wasn’t going to go without addressing what happened in the first. On the first goal, Nick Ritchie was in the box for a retaliatory slash on Kevin Shattenkirk. Some saw it as a bad penalty, others a ticky-tack call. Cassidy was in the latter camp on that. And on Yanni Gourde’s goal that put the B’s in a 2-0 hole, linesman Devin Berg threw an inadvertent body block on Jeremy Lauzon, allowing Gourde a free path to the net.
“The call on Ritchie happens 100 times a game, we happen to get flagged for it, right? Complete disagreement with that particular infraction,” said Cassidy. “So, you’ve got an official injecting themselves into a game with two of the best teams in the National Hockey League playing that I thought that wasn’t necessary personally. But, that’s his decision, he’s here for a reason.
“Second goal, I mean come on, the linesman runs our D out of room. Good for Yanni Gourde for taking advantage of a break given to him. But I mean, when do you see that play happen in the National Hockey League? All of a sudden, you’re two down and we need to kill a penalty obviously better.
“Our penalty kill let us down tonight. It’s been terrific all year. Really good in the playoffs so far, we didn’t get it done on the PK. Now you’re in a 2-0 hole and you played not a bad period.
“So, rest of the game, we didn’t respond. Like I said, the disappointing part about that is that we weren’t able to get ourselves back in the game by killing any further penalties or creating offense or having our push back. That’s what we lacked tonight for whatever reason.
“But it’s over. We’re going to focus on Game 4. 7-1, 2-1, a loss is a loss. They’re up 2-1. I think we got a good group in there — I know we have a good group in there. They’re resilient. So we’ll lick our wounds (Thursday), get away from the rink and get ready for Game 4.”