The Boston Bruins fell to the Colorado Avalanche, 2-0, in a tightly contested defensive battle in the TD Banknorth Garden on Tuesday evening. The Avalanche's Brett Clark scored the game-winning goal, and broke a scoreless tie, when he beat Boston goalie Tim Thomas
at 4:57 of the third period to give Colorado two important points in the playoff race.
"To me, we looked tired as a team," said Bruins head coach Dave Lewis after the game. "We didn't have enough effort to win the hockey game.
"We didn't have the correct structure in the neutral zone. We missed coverage…(and) we didn't win enough battles. We didn't get to their goaltender and we didn't get to the net.
"And we were not skating with the same energy we had over the last couple of games," said Lewis.
As they are not regular opponents, there was a clear feeling out process between the clubs in the first period, and the game started very slowly as Colorado, currently in 9th place in the Western Conference, and Boston, currently in 12th, but coming into the game just four points behind 8th place Carolina, tested each other several times before any high quality scoring chances were seen by the pro-Bruins crowd.
"I think in the first period we did a little too much feeling out (because) it was a Western Conference team," said defenseman Aaron Ward. "I don't know if familiarity was the problem, but we seem to (get back) in it in the second period."
Despite the slow pace of the first stanza, there were plenty of shots by both clubs.
The B's Thomas made 10 saves in the first, with the two most important coming with 6:18 left in the session when he made a couple of highlight reel saves while sprawling to stop the Av's Andrew Brunette.
Then, with just seconds remaining in the period, Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara
made a beautiful pass up through the center of the ice to feed Mark Mowers, who had a breakaway chance thwarted by a strong play by Colorado goalie Peter Budaj.
"Timmy kept us in the game in the first period," said Lewis. "We started flat."
In the second period, the game turned into a full-fledged defensive struggle as Thomas and Budaj both kept their nets free of vulcanized rubber debris.
As such, the most memorable moments of the session came by way of goalie as Budaj stopped a gorgeous one-time shot by Glen Murray with 17:19 to go in the period.
Murray would later leave the game with what would later be called a "lower body injury."
Thomas, not to be outdone by his Colorado compatriot, slipped and slid into yet another of his game saving snow angel stops, this time coming up big against Colorado sniper Milan Hejduk with 2:35 on the clock.
Unfortunately for the B's fans in the building, Colorado's Brett Clark broke the scoreless tie when he scored his eighth goal of the season and beat the B's Thomas at 4:57 of the third period. It was a controversial goal as one of the Avalanche seemed to impede Thomas' progress toward the open side of the net, and the eventual shot from Clark.
"I would have been able to center my chest on the puck," said Thomas of the play, which was not called and was not reviewable. "I couldn't get over there to center my chest because (the opposing player) ran into me and spun me around.
"I don't think he did it on purpose…it looked like he fell and his momentum carried him into me."
Coach Lewis agreed.
"Their guy bumped Timmy," he said. "That's why Timmy was off-square. He got rotated around and that's how the puck went in."
Colorado's Hejduk added an empty net goal to set the final score at 2-0 at 19:21.
"The disappointing thing for me was that we didn't get to their net," said Lewis. "In the past two games we were getting to the net.
"It was a 0-0 game going into the third, and you are going to play games like that down the stretch.
"They found a way to get a guy to the net and they scored the goal," said Lewis.
The Bruins will try to get back on the winning track on Thursday when they face Minnesota.