BOSTON -- The Bruins pride themselves on strong starts and quality first periods, but they achieved neither Monday night in Game 3 against the Ottawa Senators as their opening-round playoff series switched to TD Garden.
The B's showed few, if any, signs of life in the opening 20 minutes of play and fell behind by a pair of goals as they were outshot, 10-3, and picked apart by a Senators bunch more than happy to target Boston's undermanned defense. It took an energetic, emotional three-goal effort in the second period to right the ship, but all that did was set the stage for a 4-3 overtime loss that was certainly disappointing . . . but perhaps unavoidable, given the way they started the game.
"They came out and brought it in the first period; we were kind of caught on our heels and [it's] been the storyline maybe for the first four games we've played against them in the regular season," said David Backes, who helped key the second-period comeback with his first goal of the playoffs. "They were able to get off to a good start and we were chasing the game a bit."
The Bruins have yet to score a goal in the first period in any of the first three games, not a positive trend since the Senators can lock down with their 1-3-1 trap if Boston doesn't have the lead.
That said, B's interim coach Bruce Cassidy said Game 3's start wasn't about structure or game plan or even plain old systems. He thinks the Bruins just dropped a stink bomb on the ice with their worst 20 minutes in the series thus far.
"We tried to play with structure right from the drop of the puck," said Cassidy. "We just weren't very good, or they were better. We picked up our game as it went along. We had to. It was getting away from us. We played with more urgency, won more pucks. I don't know if structure was necessarily the problem. I think they were on the puck better than us early. It showed.
"We were on our heels, and then we picked it up, got a goal. We were able to score a quick one right after that by Backes, gave us a lot of life. We fed off the energy of the crowd, got ourselves back into it, and then had chances in the third to win it. We didn't, and they did."
The Bruins went 18-8-1 in 27 games down the stretch in the regular season under Cassidy based partly on the ability to get out to good, strong starts and force other teams to chase them. Very clearly, that hasn't happened thus far against the Senators. And it needs to change if the Bruins are hoping to come back from their current 2-1 deficit in the best-of-seven series.