BOSTON — The Bruins have looked great for much of their now-seven-game winning streak, but Thursday night stood in stark contrast to that. They couldn’t do much of anything in the first period, as they finished the frame with just six shots, three hits and two faceoff wins. They played a little better in the second, but got outshot 14-8 and gave the Blue Jackets several quality scoring chances with turnovers in their own end.
The third period wasn’t terrible, but the Bruins didn’t possess the killer instinct they had in Tuesday night’s 4-3 win over the Devils. Yet, despite getting outplayed and outworked by the team with the worst record in the NHL for most of the game, the Bruins managed to come away with a 2-1 shootout victory.
“That wasn’t our best game, but it’s going to happen throughout the course of the year,” Patrice Bergeron said. “Sometimes there’s games you’re going to play better than the other team and you’re going to come out on the losing side, and the opposite is true and tonight is probably one of them. It was one of those nights we got a little lucky getting the two [points], but we found a way.”
Helping them find that way was goaltender Tuukka Rask. After starting the season with three straight losses, Rask picked up his third straight win by stopping 30 of 31 shots. While the team in front of him struggled to find its game, he was on his from the get-go.
His toughest challenges came late in the second and in overtime. In the second, the Boston defense committed a series of turnovers in the final minutes and Rask suddenly found himself getting peppered. The two best chances came from Derek MacKenzie (who also had Columbus’ lone goal) and Mark Letestu, who found themselves with chances from right in front just minutes apart. But Rask was able to bail his defense out and keep the game tied entering the second intermission.
Rask also had to make four saves in overtime, including a brilliant kick save on Jeff Carter in the opening minute of the extra session. Then in the shootout, he stopped two of the three shots he faced to give the Bruins the W.
“Tuukka was the guy that kept us in it,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “I thought Tuukka made big saves when we needed him to and kept us in there and allowed us to win in the shootout. How he handled himself in the shootout, I thought, was very good. He’s a goaltender that I think has been working extremely hard in practice, doing extra and everything else.”
Julien said he thought his players looked a little tired after playing back-to-back games against what he called “heavy teams” in New Jersey and Columbus, but that he liked the fact they found a way to win despite not being able to play the way they would like. That said, no one was buying into the idea that squeaking out a narrow win was better than collecting another dominant blowout.
“I wouldn’t say this one was gratifying, because I don’t think we played well enough,” Rich Peverley said. “If we had played really well, played well defensively, maybe that would be gratifying. But I think we could have been a lot better. I think everybody knows that.”