COLUMBUS, Ohio — So here the Boston Bruins are once again.

Just as they were against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Bruins are down 2-1 in their second-round playoff series after they lost 2-1 Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena. And now they have to win a game Thursday in a hostile building to keep the Columbus Blue Jackets from taking a commanding 3-1 series lead.

If they keep losing the special teams battle like they did again Tuesday, the chances of extending this series – and their season – beyond the weekend could be slim.

There has been precious little time and space for either team at five-on-five, but for the second time in as many games, the Jackets got their winner on the man advantage, again with Matt Duchene popping home a rebound. Columbus has three power-play goals in the past two games.

While the Jackets cashed in on one of their two power plays Tuesday, the Bruins essentially were limited to just one in the first period. They had a very brief power play in the third period when David Savard’s skate clipped Brad Marchand’s for a tripping penalty, but that was nullified just 17 seconds later when Patrice Bergeron was whistled for tripping Josh Anderson. Unlike the tripping penalty Bergeron had in double overtime in Game 2, this one was a phantom call.

But the one chance they did get, the Bruins again looked indecisive, repeatedly coughing up the puck before getting set up in the Columbus zone. And after it was killed, the Jackets fed off that for a bit. Five minutes later the Jackets, who had been outplayed by the Bruins for most of the first and third periods, scored the go-ahead goal on a Boone Jenner shot. They never relinquished the lead.

Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy put it in a lot of work on the power play at Monday’s practice, but now it’s back to the white board.

“We’re going to have to figure something out as a group,” Cassidy said after the loss. “We had made an adjustment that we didn’t use obviously, about how to get in the zone a little cleaner. Hopefully the next game that helps. Once you’re in there, you’ll get some O-zone time. Again, we wanted to take a good shot and recover it, and that never happens.”

As a player who had built his Selke Award reputation by being an excellent penalty killer, Bergeron knows how a good kill can lift a team.

“Yeah, in a way, it gives them momentum,” Bergeron said. “But the bottom line is we need to take care of the puck a little better. I think our entries, it starts there. Once we were able to enter the zone well and with control, that’s when we settle things down and go from there. We have to execute better. That’s the bottom line. The plays that we make are there in a way, but I think we’re forcing a lot of them too. We have to go back to taking what’s there in front of you.”

The Bruins did not get that kind of kill when Marchand went to the box for high-sticking at 10:49 of the second period. The Jackets already were having a strong period and they unleashed a shooting gallery on Tuukka Rask. The Bruins never were able to change their penalty-kill group and, with seven seconds left on the Marchand penalty, the Jackets finally pushed their lead to 2-0 on Duchene’s goal.

“We battle hard throughout the two minutes we were out there but I think overall, when we have the opportunity to clear the puck, that’s our opportunity to get off the ice, too,” Brandon Carlo said. “We need to clean that area up a little bit and make sure those pucks go down 200 feet.”

More than anything, the Bruins simply need more production from their top players, whether it’s on the power play or at even strength. Marchand is on a season-long four-game pointless streak. For whatever reason, David Pastrnak has been a shell of himself, bouncing from the first to the second to the third and back to the first line in these playoffs. And Bergeron continues to be snakebitten by Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who stopped him on a point blank chance on a Marchand setup in the first and then on a good redirection of a Torey Krug pass with the goalie pulled.

If you’re a Bruins optimist, you might think those players won’t be kept off the scoresheet forever. Carlo also believes Bobrovsky, helped out by at least two post shots Tuesday, cannot keep this up if the Bruins continue to pressure.

“The secondary saves he is making are very impressive,” Carlo said. “But he’s definitely going to crack at some point. I have a lot of faith we’ll put pucks past him here pretty soon. We’ve had some great opportunities today throughout all three periods to put pucks behind him. Credit to him today, but I don’t think it’s going to last.”

That may be some wishful thinking on Carlo’s part. If they can’t solve Bobrovsky, or their special teams woes, the Bruins are in deep trouble.


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