Friday, January 22, 2010

Bruins Stung by Jackets

On Thursday night, the Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets battled hard to a 2-2 tie through the first 58 minutes of regulation. With 1:31 left to play, Boston's Milan Lucic received a questionable penalty for high sticking, putting Columbus on the power play. The Blue Jackets capitalized on their opportunity, as RJ Umberger scored the deciding goal in a 3-2 road victory.

"It's human error," said Claude Julien. "We still feel that we had a chance to do something before that, and it didn't happen. Somewhere along the way, those things come back to bite you," he said.

Following Monday's disappointing loss to Ottawa, the Bruins got off to a strong start, opening the scoring within the first three minutes of the contest. Michael Ryder forced a turnover in Boston's defensive zone, with Miroslav Satan getting just enough of the puck to spring Trent Whitfield ahead on the left side of the ice. Whitfield got a step on his defender, setting up a 2-on-1 with Ryder. With an open passing lane on his right, Whitfield slid a pass through the slot, and Ryder finished the play, scoring into the top part of the net.

"I just poked it past the [defenseman], was able to get past him, and [Ryder] and I had a mini 2-on-1," said Whitfield. "I just kind of slid it over, and he made a heck of a shot."

For the past few weeks, Dennis Wideman has been receiving a good amount of criticism, as his play has been far from what it was a year ago. Shortly after the midway mark of the first period, the Boston defenseman made a mistake that led directly to a Columbus goal. Wideman fanned on a clearing attempt, turning the puck over to Raffi Torres at his own blueline. Torres quickly spotted Chris Clark, who hammered home a one-timer from the left circle.

Later in the period, Milan Lucic gave the hometown crowd something to cheer about, as he dropped the mitts with Jared Boll. Both players got in solid shots with their right hands, leading to an entertaining battle in the Blue Jackets' defensive end. The fight was only the second of the season for Lucic.

The score stayed tied through the intermission and into the second period, until Patrice Bergeron put Boston back on top at the 6:40 mark. Zdeno Chara gathered in the puck in his own zone, banking a pass off of the left wing boards to Daniel Paille in center ice. Paille redirected the pass, sending Bergeron into the offensive zone. Bergeron let a wrist shot go from just inside of the blueline, surprising Mason on his stick side.

"It was nice to get a goal," said Bergeron. "Also, I felt that I got it going, and I didn't feel as tentative on the ice."

In the latter stages of the middle frame, the Blue Jackets thought they had the equalizer. With Bergeron in the sin bin, Derick Brassard snapped a cross-crease pass to Antoine Vermette. Vermette redirected the puck into the net, but video review showed that the Columbus forward used a kicking motion, thus taking the goal off of the board.

In the third period, the Bruins had multiple opportunities to take a two-goal lead. However, Boston failed to take advantage, as David Krejci missed an open net, while Vladimir Sobotka's one-timer was stopped by the right pad of the Columbus backstop.

"[Mason] was great and gave us a chance to win in the third," Vermette said. "Our goaltender gave us a chance, and that's what you need to win on the road."

Moments after Sobotka was robbed, the Blue Jackets skated the other way, ultimately tying the game. Matt Hunwick fired the puck ahead into the neutral zone, but only managed to find the stick of Kris Russell. Russell carried the puck in on the left side of the offensive zone, centering a pass to an oncoming Antoine Vermette. Hunwick got his stick on the pass, but it wasn't enough, as Vermette whacked the puck in past Rask for his 15th goal of the season.

As time began to tick away, it was starting to look like overtime might be looming. However, that all changed with with 1:31 to go. Steve Mason made a save with bodies scrambling in the slot. An errant stick hit Derick Brassard in the face. The replay showed that it was a Columbus stick that clipped Brassard, but the referee ruled that it was Milan Lucic's, assigning the Bruins' forward a four-minute penalty.

"I felt like I got hooked going to the net," Lucic said. "When he pointed at me, I was a little bit surprised."

The Blue Jackets needed only 15 seconds of power play time, as they scored the go-ahead goal. Kristian Huselius picked up the puck in center ice, skating in toward the right side of the offensive zone. As he approached the right wing boards, Huselius spun a pass to Anton Stralman at the left point. Stralman skated forward to the top of the circle, using RJ Umberger as a screen as he fired a slap shot in on goal. Umberger ended up being more than a screen, as he tipped Stralman's shot into the back of the cage.

"It was a tough call there in the third, but you know, I got to have that shot," said Rask.

Because Lucic's penalty was a double-minor, the Bruins remained shorthanded for the rest of the game. That made a comeback significantly more challenging, as an extra attacker led to a 5-on-5 situation. Boston was unable to respond, falling for the sixth time in seven games.

Steve Mason picked up the win for the Blue Jackets, making 32 saves on 34 shots. Tuukka Rask suffered the loss for the Bruins, stopping 22 of the 25 shots he faced.

The Boston Bruins have Friday off, but will be back in action on Saturday afternoon for a key divisional game at home against the Ottawa Senators. The Bruins will be looking to avenge Monday's 5-1 loss to Ottawa. The Providence Bruins are at home on Friday, as they play host to the Lowell Devils. In junior hockey, Bruins' first-round draft pick Jordan Caron is in New England, as his Rouyn-Noranda Huskies play a pair of games against the Lewiston MAINEiacs.

Scoring Summary:

1. BOS Ryder (12) (Whitfield, Satan) 2:11
1. CBJ Clark (6) (Torres) 12:23
2. BOS Bergeron (12) (Paille, Chara) 6:40
3. CBJ Vermette (15) (Russell) 7:16
3. CBJ Umberger (18) (Huselius, Stralman) (PP) 18:44

Penalty Summary:
1. CBJ Hejda- Holding 8:10
1. CBJ Boll- Fighting 15:50
1. BOS Lucic- Fighting 15:50
2. BOS Bergeron- Hooking 14:28
3. CBJ Stralman- Interference 3:58
3. BOS Stuart- Cross Checking 8:12
3. BOS Lucic- High Sticking (Double-Minor) 18:29
3. CBJ Torres- Delay of Game 19:58

CBJ Steve Mason (12-16-6): 34 shots, 32 saves
BOS Tuukka Rask (10-6-2): 25 shots, 22 saves

Shots on Goal:
CBJ 10-7-8=25
BOS 12-11-11=34

Power Plays:

CBJ 1-for-4
BOS 0-for-2

Three Stars of the Game:
1- CBJ RJ Umberger
2- CBJ Antoine Vermette
3- BOS Patrice Bergeron

DJ Abisalih covers the Boston Bruins' organization for Real Clear Sports. He is also the color analyst for the Lewiston Maineiacs of the QMJHL.



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