March 31, 2011

Ference, B's have momentum halted by desperate Leafs

by Jesse Connolly

Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference scored for the first time since Jan. 1 on Thursday night. (Getty)

BOSTON-- Winners of two-straight and four out of five coming into Thursday's home game against Toronto, the Bruins hoped to continue to build momentum over the final few games of the regular season.

But, after erasing a third-period deficit and scoring the lone goal in the shootout, the Maple Leafs emphatically halted that with a 4-3 victory.

"I think the most disappointing part is coming out and not having a good first, and not responding I think right off the bat," defenseman Andrew Ference said, as Boston fell behind 1-0 in the opening frame.

"It took the first period almost to warm up. So I think that’s disappointing. It’s one of those lessons that you get this time of year. If you’re game is not at a certain level and you’re not competing as hard as the other team, and I think that’s what it boiled down to."

The Maple Leafs, still clinging to slim playoff hopes after picking up two points, simply wanted it more than the Bruins.

"They were beating us in battles, they were beating us to pucks, because they’re a team that is obviously desperate for the points," said Ference, whose third goal of the season put Boston ahead 3-2 in the second period.

"If you can’t match the intensity, you’re going to look like a slow, dull team, which we did in the first. So I think that was the most disappointing part. It was a nice response in the second I think to get the game going, but it is what it is."

The Bruins schedule, shy of a clash with the first-place Flyers, has been chock full of teams fighting tooth and nail for victories in their respective quests to grab one of the top eight spots in the conference.

Ference believes that the experience they've gained playing against desperate clubs should bode well for the postseason.

"It’s the type of play that I think we’ve had in a lot of the games that we recently played," he said. "We were obviously disappointed to give up a lead in the third. It’s against a team that has played us very well, a team that has played everyone very well. So, it’s been great preparation for us these last couple weeks against really good teams, teams that are hungry, and it’s very good preparation for us."

While the loss is certainly disappointing, as the Bruins failed to officially lock up the Northeast Division, Ference is cognizant of just how well the team has been playing of late and is optimistic about their chances once the playoffs commence.

"Yeah I think we’re playing well," the Bruins d-man said. "Obviously we know how good we can be. You set the bar and I think what you try to do at this point at this time of the season is obviously try to meet those expectations, because obviously we know that we can potentially play a certain style of hockey and when we do, it’s very effective.

"And when we don’t, you get dull periods like the first when things just aren’t clicking and it was very obvious to us. So, there’s no secrets in how we have to play this time of year."