Weak penalty kill part of bigger problem

BOSTON -- When it was finished, Tuukka Rask hadn’t a clue what had unfolded.

“It was four, really?” the Bruins goaltender said, genuinely unaware.

The Bruins surrendered four power-play goals, including two in the final two minutes of the third period, to the lowly New Jersey Devils in a 4-3 loss.

After squandering a one-goal lead at home and allowing the Devils, who had one win entering Saturday’s action, to score two goals on the man-advantage within 23 seconds late in the third period, Rask was left scratching his head.

“I don’t know if they were that good, or we weren’t on top of our PK,” Rask said. “It’s really unusual for our team.”

In reality, the Bruins' shortcomings on the penalty kill (surrendering four goals on seven chances) were just a small point of a greater lesson in failing to close out a shoo-in game at home.

All of Boston’s three goals came in the first period, with its top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla on-ice for each tally.

“When you allow four power-play goals in a game, that’s not a good sign for a win,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. “So that certainly didn’t help. But I thought we had too many mediocre players tonight.”

Compounding the Bruins’ woes on the PK was their ineffectual face-offs during man-down situations. Bruins centers won just 5 of 15 puck drops on the kill, with several of those key losses coming during the Devils’ penultimate power plays in the third.

The Devils again made it a one-goal game in the final minute of the second, with Damien Brunner stuffing a rebound shot short-side on Rask, inside of a thin shaft of daylight between Rask’s right toe and the post.

New Jersey continued to hang around in the third, and after Torey Krug was sent off for a high-sticking double minor at 16:45, New Jersey was ensured playing out the bulk of regulation on the man-up.

The Bruins' fortune then went from bad to worse when Patrice Bergeron errantly played a clearing attempt into the seats, drawing a delay-of-game penalty at 18:11. With a two-man advantage, the Devils used the opportunity to pull Martin Brodeur (25 saves) for a 6-on-3 advantage.

“It’s one of those plays that, you want to get it all the way down,” Bergeron said of the call. “I thought I was closer to the wall, so it was one of those plays that I make basically every time, but I went a little too high and a little too hard.”

Defenseman Marek Zidlicky, the Devils’ leading point-getter entering Saturday, then scored the tying goal with 1:08 to play. With Bergeron back on ice and back to 5-on-4 hockey, New Jersey struck again with less than a minute to play with Andy Greene dipping below the left wing faceoff circle for the game-winner -- his first of the season -- with roughly 45 seconds remaining.

“You can never take anything for granted in this league,” Krug said. “We were on the bad side of it this time. We’re in our own building, we have a lead in the third period, we have to close out games. We have to do a better job altogether.”