Nick Goss

Bruins' troubles protecting third-period leads is a very real concern

This issue began in the first-round series vs. the Panthers last season.

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The Boston Bruins have the third-best record in the NHL. They have exceeded most people's expectations so far. But that doesn't mean everything is all sunshine and rainbows.

There are some real concerns with this Bruins team, and one of the recent issues is protecting third-period leads.

The Bruins have given up a one-goal lead in the third period in three of their last four games. Tuesday night's matchup was arguably the worst of those instances. Boston had a 2-1 lead in the third period before the Minnesota Wild scored twice over a 118-second span.

Both goals were scored in front of the net. The Bruins couldn't clear the puck and the Wild pounced on the opportunities.

Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery doesn't sound overly concerned about this troubling trend of blown leads.

“It's happening all over the league. I watched it happen twice last night sitting on my couch,” Montgomery said in his postgame press conference. "But my concern, and our concern is about our team. I don't like the plays to the slot that we're giving up and I don't like the rebound chances that we're giving up.

"It's areas we gotta clean up, but I do like the way we responded. I liked our compete level. Our execution offensively and defensively needs to get better. I think everyone is saying that this time of the year. I do like our compete. I love the fact that we got that point. I love the way our goaltender competed again."

The Bruins forced overtime with a Brad Marchand power-play goal late in the period but ultimately lost 4-3 in overtime.

“It’s a terrible loss. I’m pissed,” Bruins forward David Pastrnak told reporters postgame. “We should win these games, especially when they’re on a back-to-back. We were the better team. But credit to them. They stuck with it and they got the win. It’s a tough loss for us.”

The Bruins have a 13-1-5 record when leading after two periods. While that looks good, it also represents the league's third-worst win percentage (.684) when leading after two periods. Only the San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames are worse. Boston ranked No. 1 last season with a .940 win percentage when leading after two periods.

The issue of blown leads is a continuation of the first-round playoff series against the Florida Panthers last spring. The Bruins had leads of 4-3 and 5-4 in the third period of Game 6 in Florida and lost. They had a 3-2 lead in the third period of Game 7 at home and lost in overtime.

Not only are the Bruins blowing leads in the third period, their performance in the final 20 minutes of regulation has been much worse overall compared to last season. The B's had a league-best plus-54 goal differential in the third period in 2022-23. Their differential is even -- 34 goals scored, 34 against -- through 30 games this season.

It's not time for a full-blown panic. The Bruins are one of the league's best teams and have a six-point cushion in the Atlantic Division.

But if there's one thing they absolutely must fix before the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's executing better in the third period and finishing games when they have a late lead.

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