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Bruins Blanked in Nashville After Slow Start

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

NASHVILLE — The Bruins and Predators entered Thursday night’s game with urgency. Battling for playoff positioning, both teams needed to come out with their best efforts.

Boston was trying to pick up its fourth win on a season-long, six-game road trip. It had won seven of its last eight games on the road.

Nashville had the better of the Bruins early and the Black & Gold wound up with a two-goal deficit entering the third period that they weren’t able to overcome, falling 2-0.

“Lost us the game,” Captain Zdneo Chara said of the start. “You’ve got to be playing 60 minutes and we didn’t. Those first 20 minutes decided the outcome of the game.”

The Bruins generated the first shot of the game in the opening minute, but the Predators turned on the jets for their home crowd, being first on pucks and generating the better of the chances early on.

Just 2:51 into the first period, Tuukka Rask stopped Craig Smith’s initial attempt in tight, before the puck stayed loose and Smith skated down the slot and lifted it over Rask.

Later in the opening frame, Rask again made a solid initial stop — this time on Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm jumping into the play — but Filip Forsberg potted the rebound short side.

The goal — his 20th of the season — put Nashville up 2-0 with 5:23 to go in the period.

“We weren’t ready to play, it was pretty evident,” said Brad Marchand. “Unfortunately, that cost us the game. They came out a lot harder than we did, got a couple early ones while we were sleeping.”

“From my end of it, would be nice to at least have one of those just to keep it a one-goal game,” said Rask. “But, didn’t happen tonight.”

A solid first period for the Predators left the crowd pleased, and they offered a standing round of applause as the teams skated down their respective tunnels.

“Wasn’t good enough,” Head Coach Claude Julien said of the opening frame. “Obviously our first period wasn’t very good. Theirs was extremely good. They came at us hard and we kept turning pucks over in our own end and because of that they got a couple of goals there.”

The Bruins came out stronger in the second and started the period on the power play. Loui Eriksson’s bid was bobbled by Pekka Rinne, but the netminder kept it out. After being the backup for two straight games for the first time this season, Rinne certainly had a bounce-back performance between the pipes as the starter for Nashville.

Though the Bruins cleaned up their play in the middle frame, they couldn’t convert on their chances, with the best bids coming from Patrice Bergeron on the power play and twice from David Pastrnak cutting to the net.

“They didn’t get much, but we didn’t think we worked hard enough to get on the inside,” Julien said. “And for the longest of time there, we just seemed to be playing on the outside and making it easy for their goaltender to make those saves.”

Rinne stopped 29 shots for the shutout. It marked just the second time this season that Boston had been blanked, with the previous time coming in a 2-0 loss to St. Louis on Dec. 22.

“We’ve just got to get our nose dirty,” said David Krejci. “It doesn’t hurt [when you have chances from the] outside — it hurts when you go to the crease. If you want to score goals in this league, sometimes it’s going to hurt and we didn’t do that enough today, so that’s what we’ve got to do next game.”

The Bruins played desperate in the third period and outshot Nashville 10-4 through the 20 minutes. Two power plays within the first six minutes gave them a chance to reduce their deficit.

At 2:24 into the period, Patrice Bergeron poked the puck into the back of the net, but the play was blown dead as it appeared Rinne had squeezed the power-play drive from Krejci.

The Bruins had three man advantages altogether in the third, with the last one presenting a 6-on-4 situation.

Boston’s power play is now 0-for-19 on the road trip.

“I thought we created some good scoring chances, some good shots from up top,” said Krejci. “There’s a couple shots that could have gone in the net — that seems like how it’s been going for us lately on the power play.”

“It’s going to come,” said Marchand. “I mean, that unit is so deadly, the way that they move it around and slow the penalty killers down and get opportunities at the net. They are going to go in eventually. We should of had one there — whistle blew a little early — but hopefully next game we can be better.”

“At the end of the day, I’m going to look at the wins, first and foremost, and we’ve got to win some hockey games — and sometimes, you’ve got to do it differently,” added Julien. “But we’re doing our best here to get our power play going. So, it’s not where it should be, but it’s not from lack of trying.”

The Bruins are now 3-2-0 on their road trip as they cap it off on Saturday in Dallas, where they’ll be looking, first and foremost, for a much better start.

“Just be ready when the puck drops and try to score that first goal, get the lead. That’s it,” Rask said, of what needs to change. “I thought defensively we played great the last two periods, created some chances, just couldn’t get the bounce in to make it a one-goal game. We just have to focus on our start.”

“No matter how much you talk about it, I think everybody has to make sure that they’re ready to play.”

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