By John Bishop, BostonBruins.comGame 4, St. Louis --
Goaltending was the story Thursday night when the Boston Bruins traveled to face the St. Louis Blues. And, perhaps fueled by a "guaranteed" win by the St. Louis ownership, the Blues came back from a two goal deficit at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri, en route to a 3-2 shootout victory over the Boston Bruins.
Boston controlled play early on in the Blues home opener as Bruins Assistant Captain Patrice Bergeron
made a nifty play to beat St. Louis goalie Manny Legace thanks in part to a nice feed from Phil Kessel and Brad Boyes at 5:55 of the first.
Boston's stalwart goalie, Tim Thomas
, one of the lone highlights from Boston's 2005-06 campaign, rebounded cleanly from this season's opening night loss, and played superbly off the hop, making 9 stops to keep the net clean in the first period.
Meanwhile, sparkplug forward Jeff Hoggan, who has been a nice surprise for Boston thus far this season and a staple of the successful Black-and-Gold checking line, took on former Bruin Bill Guerin in an early donnybrook which resulted in a Boston power play.
There was no scoring but plenty of chances for both teams in the second period.
The Bruins defensive systems solidly in place, Thomas was again strong in net, stopping all 8 shots that the Blues tossed his way.
Although less busy than his cross-rink counterpart, Legace was perfect for St. Louis during the second stanza, stopping all 5 Boston shots.
Perhaps inspired by the first period fight, the physical nature of the contest was heightened by the end of the second, setting the table for an exciting final session.
The physical play continued in the final stanza; however Boston took control, 2-0, when Marc Savard
took a pass from Brad Stuart off a feed by Glen Murray and beat Legace for his first goal of the season at 3:09.
Thanks to the renewed vigor of the Boston defense, Thomas was able to continue his fine play into the late minutes of the third period -- but it was not to be for the Bruins.
Desperation fueled a last ditch effort by the Blues, whose Lee Stempniak took a pass from Guerin and scored at 16:03. St. Louis scored again at 18:33, as Jamal Mayers scored (from Keith Tkachuk and Bryce Salvador) through a scramble in front of the Boston goal, past a screened Thomas to send the game to sudden death overtime.
Able to kill a late third period penalty that bled into the five-minute overtime session (Andrew Alberts, kneeing, 2:00), the Bruins held on to force the game to a shootout.
Manny Legace, who had played well all night, saved his best for last, outlasting the Boston shooters, and although forced into a second round, enabled the Blues to walk away with the 3-2 shootout victory.
"We played about 55-56 minutes of excellent hockey," said Head Coach Dave Lewis. "And a couple of individual errors, turnovers, caused the tie. We're getting there, getting close.
"I thought collectively as a team we played really well…We should have capitalized more on the power play, that’s the one disappointing thing we have to get better at."
"I really wanted to work hard and replace in my mind the Florida game," said Thomas, who finished with 33 saves. "I felt pretty good. It took them an awful lot of pressure, an awful lot of chances to finally break the seal.
"I don't like [the shootout]," explained an obviously disappointed Thomas, who played well despite the shootout loss. "I guess it is good for the fans, but when they scrape the ice I slide all over the place. It's not like playing in a game at all, so it's not like a penalty shot during the middle of the game.
"If it's good for the fans though, it's good for hockey."
Boston next plays the New York Islanders on Saturday night; a 7:00 start on NESN and WBZ.