It’s safe to assume the Bruins wanted to say a great deal more than they actually did about the penalty call that led to Bobby Ryan’s power-play goal in overtime Monday night, giving the Senators a 4-3 victory and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
In maybe the most exciting and entertaining game this season, the Bruins overcame a flat start, down 3-0 early in the second period, to storm back to tie the game at 3. It felt like their game to win.
Until the referees stepped in to decide the outcome.
The Bruins mostly held their tongues with only muted comments about the dreadful roughing call on Riley Nash 5:43 into sudden-death that led – when the Bruins penalty kill failed to get the job done – to Ryan’s winner.
Simply, after having been crunched hard along the boards, Nash rapped Ryan in the face. It was a punch virtually identical those delivered earlier and ignored by the refs. At this late juncture of a highly physical contest in which the officials were letting lots of calls go and letting the players decide the game, no one expected this call to be made. Or, at worse, both Nash and Ryan should have been whistled off.
Still, the Bruins kept their criticism in check, and mostly looked ahead.
“This hurts,” said winger David Backes. “I’ve got full faith in our guys that we’re going to win the next game and we’ll be right back in it.”
The refs clearly established a let-them-play standard, in general, and looked the other way on identical pops to the face. But not on the one that mattered most.
“Yeah, or maybe take both (players off the ice),” said Backes. “I can’t say I’m an unbiased source here, because we battled our butts off to get back into this game, and get it to overtime. We felt like we still had the momentum there, probably until they get that power play. Our penalty kill was first in the league; we just didn’t get the job done there when we needed it most. It was unfortunate, for the way the game was played. It certainly wasn’t gentle out there. It was a man’s game, hard hitting. The legal big checks that were happening (were) great to see.
“Nasher kind of gets crumpled from one side and maybe hit in the face on the other (and there’s) maybe a little reaction there. If I’m reffing, which I’m not, so I’m extremely biased, then maybe I take them both and we play a little four-on-four overtime hockey. I didn’t get to ref.”
Backes talked more about the Bruins’ spirited rally, which included his breakaway goal that cut the Ottawa lead to 3-2 at 6:47 of the second.
“A lot of character (was) shown by us,” said Backes.
“The positive thing is we get it back to a 3-3 game after the second period. The third period is a kind of a who’s-going-to-break first. And then they were able to get the overtime power play. Our penalty kill has been huge all year. The penalty being on Nasher sure doesn’t help, either, because he’s been a huge part of that great kill all year. So it’s a great game, another one-goal game, another tight-checking game where every play was magnified. I expect the next game will be the same way. We (will) get this thing tied 2-2 and make it a two-out-of-three series.
“We’ve got to take this, digest it and move on, because it’s in the books. All we can affect is (Wednesday’s) game and come out flying in that one. To take control of the game for the whole 60 minutes would be pleasantly received, I think. After the first period we played pretty darned well.”
Unfortunately, the refereeing got worse.