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One has to wonder if the ups and downs will ever end for the Boston Bruins. Each of their wins has followed a loss and each of their losses has followed a win. Last night’s 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils didn’t change the pattern and, in fact, only served to highlight it further.
Despite strong play from center Patrice Bergeron, who has had to fill a large void in the absence of Marc Savard, and the entire fourth line composed of Steve Bégin, Shawn Thornton, and Byron Bitz, mental errors by Thornton and goaltender Tim Thomas’s inability to corral rebounds doomed the team to its fifth regulation loss of the season to fall to 5-5-1 (11 points, 4th place in the Atlantic Division).
David Clarkson of the Devils opened the scoring at 13:25 in the first period after he put away the rebound from Nicklas Bergfors’s shot. Bergfors was able to create an odd man rush from his defensive end after Thornton decided to try to pinch him along the boards instead of staying in the spot of defenseman Andrew Ference, who had moved up to join the forecheck. Unable to make it to the boards in time, Thornton gave Bergfors too much room to maneuver, leading to the initial shot and subsequent goal.
Bergeron tied the game 1-1 2:32 into the second period, just 11 seconds after the Devils killed off tripping penalty. Defense Zdeno Chara took one of his trademark slap shots from the right circle that broke Johnny Oduya’s stick. The deflected puck slid to Marco Sturm and was then passed off to Bergeron, who netted his fourth goal of the season.
However, with just over 1:30 remaining in the game, Devil Zach Parise outmuscled Chara behind Thomas and subsequently moved the puck to Dainius Zubrus. After passing to Jamie Langenbrunner, Zubrus crashed the net to put away the puck, which had dribbled between Thomas’s pads on Langenbrunner’s shot.
Despite a flurry of chances in the final minute of the game, including a shot that hit the crossbar, the Bruins were unable to force overtime, taking the loss. Even though they allowed 32 shots, the Devils made sure that they weren’t good ones getting through to goaltender Yann Danis, who was starting in place of Martin Brodeur. Brodeur had started every game for the Devils, going 6-4-0.
The Bruins next face the Edmonton Oilers at home on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Bergeron has continued to play exceptionally well in the absence of Marc Savard. He netted his fourth goal of the season to tie the game and garnered the highest (and repetitive) praises from head coach Claude Julien: “He’s been our best forward. By far… He’s been our best and most consistent forward… When you talk about ups and downs, he’s been as good and consistent as you could ever ask. He’s had a great year. He’s playing extremely well. He’s very reliable. That goal he scored tonight was deserving because of his play.”
Thornton actually had an excellent game, with five shots and plenty of scoring opportunities on the fourth line, but he essentially cost the Bruins the game. The Bruins power play, which went 0-2, deserves an honorable mention as they move to 6-for-42 (14.2%) on the season.
“If we work like that all year, we’re going to win more than we lose. I think everyone put in an unbelievable effort. But they’re a team that capitalizes on mistakes. Unfortunately, I made a bad judgment, and it ended up in the back of the net.’’ -Shawn Thornton