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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back for Bruins

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

COLUMBUS - The Bruins had the chance to pick up a third straight win in Columbus on Saturday night at Nationwide Arena.

Instead, they heard the blast of the Blue Jackets' goal cannon, over and over and over, in a 6-2 loss coming out of the break.

While the game was tied at 1-1 after the first 20 minutes, a four-goal second period from the Blue Jackets did the Bruins in. Craig Cunningham reduced the deficit to 4-2, but a dagger from Matt Calvert with just 51 seconds left in the second period sent the Blue Jackets into the third with a commanding 5-2 lead.

The Bruins had bursts of pressure, but puck mismanagement and lack of battles won down low slanted the ice towards Niklas Svedberg and then Tuukka Rask, who took over between the pipes with 13:28 left in the second period. Columbus had a 3-1 lead at the time.

"We took two steps forward; we just took one back," said Head Coach Claude Julien, who had seen his team put together a 5-3 win over Nashville and 4-3 overtime win over Buffalo before the three day layoff.

"Now we've got to keep plugging away here. We've talked about how important it is for us to get some wins here. I often say that, 'turn the page' - it's not about just turning the page and forgetting what happened here. We've got to get better."

This has been a recurring theme for the Bruins this season, who often have a difficult time explaining just how the games unraveled.

"It's for sure disappointing. We felt we - " Captain Zdeno Chara began, before taking a pause. "It's just hard to find the words after a game like this."

"We were just talking about how we want to put some games together and climb the standings, and here we go again, we fall behind and for sure, not the game that we wanted."

The Bruins knew what was at stake heading into the matchup. They were one point back of Washington for the second Wild Card spot.

With 36 games gone in the season, the Black and Gold are already on standings watch. They know they need to string wins together, which makes it all the more aggravating to suffer losses like the one in Columbus.

"For sure, disappointing. We wanted to continue our winning, of course, and this is a tough loss," said Svedberg, who finished his 24:32 between the pipes with 12 saves on 15 shots. "Really disappointed at the game and obviously myself, too - not a good game today."

The game's pace started slower in the first period, with the teams coming off the layoff.

Columbus struck first when a wrist shot found a way through and Scott Hartnell's follow-up trickled through Svedberg at 8:11 into the game. It came after a Bruins' icing.

The Bruins thwarted any Columbus momentum when Patrice Bergeron responded just 20 seconds later with his seventh goal of the season to make it 1-1. It came on Bergeron's (and the Bruins') second shot of the game, after a quick up from Chara and chip pass by Reilly Smith.

Late in the first period, Calvert sent a backhander that went off Svedberg's pad and right to David Savard in the left circle, but David Krejci slid across towards the post to save a goal.

The Blue Jackets still got their 2-1 lead, just 51 seconds into the second, when Hartnell picked up his second of the night in his return from a broken finger. Svedberg didn't have much of a chance on the deflection.

That lead almost extended to 3-1 a couple of minutes later. The goal light - and cannon - went off, but it was a false alarm. A Blue Jackets' chance had bounced up into the air, hit Dennis Seidenberg in the head and hit the post before Svedberg sprawled on his back to cover. The puck never crossed the goal line. Video review confirmed that.

Milan Lucic and Dalton Prout dropped the gloves in a lengthy, heavyweight bout at 2:59 into the period.

The Bruins had two odd-man rushes they didn't convert on. When they iced the puck, Brandon Dubinsky won a draw against Krejci, and Kevin Connauton fired in a goal from long range at 6:32 into the second.

"I kind of lost sight of it just before he shot it, but I can't blame that either, you've got to work hard to find the puck as a goalie and I couldn't pick it up," said Svedberg. "That's on me too. So those goals are going to happen but unfortunately that was an important goal, the 3-1 lead there. And I ended up getting pulled, so that's obviously not good enough."

The Bruins' first two shots of the second period didn't come until about eight minutes in, and Brad Marchand was soon called for slashing after a scrum in front of Columbus netminder Curtis McElhinney.

The Blue Jackets made it 4-1 on the power play. They forced Rask back and forth, back and forth, and finally from right to left, as Nick Foligno put in the easy tap-in goal from the top of the crease before Rask could get back across.

Boston put on the pressure late in the second after Cunningham made it a two-goal game. On one shift, the puck went into the netting int he Columbus zone, but it went unnoticed by the officials and play continued on.

When the Bruins couldn't get the puck up the boards, Calvert cashed in from the right circle to make it 5-2 in the final minute of the second.

"I thought we showed those surges, but not enough of them," said Julien. "I thought we made a lot of mistakes, defensive mistakes."

The Bruins didn't box out around the net, and they screened their goaltenders. The puck management from the back end and through the neutral zone wasn't clean. They didn't win the battles and races to the pucks.

The Blue Jackets took advantage. The home team had much better speed and cleaner breakouts. They were given more room to work.

"They were just strong on the puck," said Cunningham. "They found a way to get [shots] through. And as wingers and guys in front of the net, we've got to find a way to get into the lane and not let those pucks get through."

Cunningham netted his second career NHL goal in the loss. By the time it came, the Bruins had already fallen too far behind.

They had caught a break for this game, with former Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky not in goal for Columbus due to illness. As backup, McElhinney had entered the game with a 1-6-1 record. The Bruins didn't test him enough, especially early on, putting just seven shots on him in the first, and 28 overall.

"I mean, we only scored two goals," said Cunningham. "Any goal in the League now, you've got to get traffic and especially a guy who hasn't played a lot, you want to get as many pucks to the net as you can and try and get in front of him and get some rebounds."

The only other goal on McElhinney came from Bergeron, who gave fans a brief scare with his absence for the second half of the third period.

"I just sent him to the room. Very, very minor and it was more precaution on our part," Julien confirmed postgame from Columbus.

By that point, the Blue Jackets had taken a 6-2 lead off Jeremy Morin's first goal with the organization, after another Bruins' failed attempt to break the puck out of the zone.

"We've just got to get back up," Julien said. "We've just got to get back up, and understand how important these next two games are."

The Bruins next host the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night at TD Garden, and then the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

"It's two huge divisional games and right now we're in a dog fight to get into the playoffs and every point is so important," said Cunningham. "Those are four point games and you've got to come to play and you've got to earn your points in those games if you want to claw back in."

"Every game is going to be big for us, it doesn't matter who we play, for the rest of the season," said a stone-faced Chara. "If we want to beat the top teams, we've got to play better, we've got to get better results."

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