BOSTON — What's more surprising: the fact that the Boston Bruins enter tonight's Game 3 of their Eastern Conference first-round series with the Washington Capitals tied at one game apiece?
Or the fact that in 144 minutes of playoff hockey, including parts of three overtime periods, the defending Stanley Cup champions have scored just two goals?
The feeling was decisively the latter here at TD Garden on Saturday, after Nicklas Backstrom's goal at 2:56 of the second overtime gave Washington a 2-1 victory and evened the series.
Boston needs to find a way to score goals and to knock Caps rookie goaltender Braden Holtby (73 saves on 75 shots in the series) out of his rhythm. It needs to begin tonight in Washington.
"We've talked about it a lot. We could talk about what we did last year, but it is a new season and we've got to be talking less and doing the work out there," said center David Krejci, pointless in two games after leading the Stanley Cup playoffs in scoring a year ago.
Regardless of the competition, the Bruins need more from their creative players. The "top-6" forward combinations of Milan Lucic-Krejci-Rich Peverley and Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin need to move the puck, create space and generate offense.
No team in these Stanley Cup playoffs scored fewer goals than Boston over the first two postseason games. Philadelphia is averaging two goals a period, while the Bruins have two over two games, and budding superstar Claude Giroux had as many points (6) in one game as Boston has, total, as a team.
The numbers only illustrate just how ineffective Boston's offense has been in the first two games. There's plenty of time for the Bruins, second in the NHL in goals scored during the regular season, to get going.
"We're going to have to get some ugly goals. The screens, tips, rebounds kind of deal. It's hard because they're blocking a lot of shots, but we've got to figure out a way to get it done," said Bruins goalie Tim Thomas.
With only two goals allowed in the series, Boston has been as good defensively as any team in the league. Thomas has stopped 54 out of 56 shots he's faced in the series, and Washington's world-class lineup of Alex Ovechkin, Backstrom and Alex Semin has struggled to score, too.
"We (need to) find ways to generate more offense without sort of giving up anything defensively," Thomas said.
Both Bruins goals in the series have come from the third line, putting even more pressure on the top combinations. Bergeron and Marchand have been near the top of their games, with both nearly scoring on several occasions Saturday. They simply need to finish.
Krejci, Lucic and Peverley, on the other hand, need to ramp up the creativity and intensity.
"I just don't think we're playing our game. Especially my line," Krejci said. "I don't know what it is, but we have to find a way to help each other out there."
It's possible for Boston to inch its way by Washington without truly waking up offensively. But winning one playoff series is not their ultimate goal and, to make another Stanley Cup run, the Bruins need to be worlds better in the attacking zone.
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Matt Williams is the assistant sports editor of The Salem News. You can contact him at MWilliams@salemnews.com, 978-338-2669 and follow him on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN.