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Milan Hejduk Hands Rask First Loss of Season

Avalanche right wing Milan Hejduk (23) celebrates his goal against the Bruins with teammates Peter Mueller and Erik Johnson during the third period of Monday's game in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The Bruins won over 60 percent of their faceoffs Monday against the Colorado Avalanche at the TD Garden. One of the few they lost came back to haunt them.

Avalanche right winger Milan Hejduk scored with eight minutes gone in the third after teammate Peter Mueller won a faceoff in the Bruins’ zone, and goalkeeper Semyon Varlamov stopped all 30 Bruins shots to give the Avalanche a 1-0 victory over the Bruins. The Bruins finished their season-opening homestand 1-2, while the Avalanche scored and won for the first time.

Hejduk Spoils Strong Game from Rask

Tuukka Rask wanted desperately to show his 2010-11 season was a fluke, and that the real Rask just took a year off following a sterling 2009-10. And for over two periods Monday, Rask succeeded. No matter whether the Avalanche shot from far away (such as defenceman Kyle Quincey‘s 39-footer early in the first) or from point-blank range (such as Hedjuk’s powerplay shot from 13 feet away later in the period), Rask corralled everything thrown his way, gobbling up the puck to prevent rebounds.

Rask stopped all 29 Avalanche shots through two, keeping the Bruins in the game until his save off a Mueller wrist-shot caused a faceoff in the Bruins’ zone. Mueller won it and dished it quickly to nearby center Matt Duchene. Duchene fed it to defenceman Jan Hejda near the blue line, who then hit Hedjuk along the boards. Hedjuk turned and fired off a wrist-shot from 29 feet away that squeaked between Rask and the right goal post. Zdeno Chara may also have partially screened Rask.

An unlucky goal cost Rask and the Bruins the game, but it’s hard to be angry with Rask’s performance. Rask made 35 saves and survived a first-period Colorado shooting flurry when back-to-back Boston penalties kept the puck near Rask for over six minutes and resulted in five shots in fewer than 40 seconds. Rask played better than any other Bruin. He just maybe checked out for a split-second, and it cost him the game.

Boston’s Second Line Can’t Solve Varlamov

Boston’s second line of Rich Peverley, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand played the most of any line Monday. Bergeron led the team with five shots on goal, and Marchand tied for second with several others with three. But no one on any Bruins line could put a puck past Varlamov, who gave a rather accurate impersonation of Tim Thomas. If the Bruins went glove-side, Varlamov gloved it. If they shot low, Varlamov sprawled. If they went reach-around, Varlamov got his stick in the way. Varlamov was an aggressive, impregnable wall.

The Bruins had their chances: Peverley had a point-blank shot at the goal with 3:30 left in the first after Tyler Seguin hit him with a 150-foot pass, but the shot went over the goal. The Bruins had two two-on-ones late in the second but missed them both. And Milan Lucic found himself alone in front of the goal with a chance to tie the game late in the third. Varlamov charged Lucic, dove and covered up the puck. Varlamov saved another close-range shot – this time from Bergeron – two minutes later.

First Line Can’t Overlook Opponent

The Bruins first line – Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton – were on the ice when the Avalanche scored. The first line took two fewer shots than the second line and were on the ice almost 15 fewer combined minutes. And it was Chara – the Bruins’ best defender – who may have screened Rask. The Bruins’ best did not play with the same energy and care that their second-best did. The second line took the Avalanche far more seriously.

It is too early in the season to draw any conclusions about this team yet. But the lesson from this game should be clear: Not even the best play by very talented backups can be enough to overcome poor performances from your team’s elite.

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