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The Boston Bruins have shown that when they want to, they can play beautiful hockey, combining explosive scoring with punishing defense and near-perfect goal-tending.
Thursday night at the TD Garden, the Bruins showed they can play ugly and still win. Sometimes, all you need is a goalie.
Tuukka Rask made 30 saves in regulation and overtime, then Rich Peverley and David Krejci scored on Columbus goalie Curtis Sanford during the shootout to give the Bruins a 2-1 shootout victory over the Blue Jackets. With the win, the Bruins completed a perfect 5-0 homestand, won their seventh straight game overall, and moved into a tie for ninth in the Eastern Conference.
Rask was without question the Bruins’ MVP Thursday night, turning aside 30 shots in 65 minutes of work. He had no problems with single slapshots from lone Blue Jackets, such as center Jeff Carter‘s 46-footer late in the first period, or Derek MacKenzie‘s 42-footer midway through the third.
Rask proved equally impregnable during several short, chaotic offensive flurries by the Blue Jackets. Rask turned aside four shots in 40 seconds late in the second, survived another assault midway through the third, and denied right winger Rick Nash twice in the final two minutes of overtime.
As good as Rask was in regulation and overtime, he saved his best play for the shootout. After Sanford turned aside Tyler Seguin, Rask responded by easily denying Nash to keep the shootout 0-0.
Peverley then scored from between the circles, going underneath Sanford’s glove. Though center Mark Letestu then shot above Rask’s glove to tie the score, Krejci regained the lead with a lightning-quick move against Sanford.
Needing a save to win the game, Rask sprawled to his left against Antoine Vermette, sliding his left skate in front of the puck to knock it aside and win the game. Rask is now 4-0-0 in November.
Rask’s one mistake came early in the second, when a high-sticking penalty against Gregory Campbell put the Blue Jackets on the power play. Though the Bruins completely contained the Blue Jacket attack for the first 1:55, they eased off the throttle in the final seconds, allowing the Blue Jackets to set up one last attack.
Defenceman Grant Clitsome passed the puck to fellow defenceman Nikita Nikitin at the blue line, who fired a shot on goal. MacKenzie, who was positioned perfectly in the crease, tipped it under Rask’s pads to put the Blue Jackets up 1-0 with one second left in the power play.
The Bruins answered less than two minutes later, when Adam McQuaid fired an unassisted wristshot on goal from 63 yards out. The puck may have caromed off Peverley or Sanford before going in, but McQuaid was credited with his first goal of the season at 4:24 in the second period.
The Blue Jackets played like the team they are: a three-win, last-in-the-league team that tries really hard but just can’t execute. The aggression was there, but the sloppiness was unavoidable.
For the Bruins, however, that same sloppiness is unacceptable. The Bruins played down to the Blue Jackets’ level, and the result was ugly, dispirited hockey.
The Blue Jackets out-shot, out-hit, out-controlled and sometimes simply out-skated the Bruins. The Bruins responded to the Blue Jackets’ commendable effort by slowing down their game and forgetting the fundamentals. A better opponent would have blown these three-quarter-speed Bruins out of the water
The Bruins apparently forgot how to pass Thursday. Too many passes hit teammates in the skates instead of the sticks, bounced instead of glided, or drifted lazily beyond the reach of any teammate.
Combined with a few unlucky breaks – Benoit Pouliot‘s crossbar-shot in the first, Zdeno Chara‘s goalpost-ringer in overtime – you had a team Thursday night that should thank higher powers they won’t have to see headlines Friday about how the defending Stanley Cup champions lost to the worst team in the NHL.
The Bruins rarely played as if they actually cared about the game at hand, instead thinking about the upcoming road trip, and especially that Nov. 21 game in Montreal. Fortunately, their opponent simply wasn’t good enough to make the Bruins pay for their lackadaisical effort.
Tags: Adam McQuaid, antoine vermette, Benoit Pouliot, Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets, curtis sanford, David Krejci, derek mackenzie, grant clitsome, gregory gampbell, Jeff Carter, mark letestu, NHL, nikita nikitin, Rich Peverley, Rick Nash, Tuukka Rask, Tyler Seguin, Zdeno Chara