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Bruins drop 9th in a row, 3-2 in shootout to Montreal

by John Kreiser
Five weeks after the euphoria of their overtime victory in the Winter Classic, the Boston Bruins have forgotten how to win at home -- or anywhere else.

Boston's free fall continued Thursday night when the Bruins blew a 2-0 lead at TD Garden and lost 3-2 when Brian Gionta scored the lone goal in the shootout.

The Bruins fell to 0-7-2 during the second-longest losing streak in club history and 1-9-3 in their last 13 games. They have lost eight straight at home (0-6-2), also the second-longest stretch in team history. Their last home win came in the Winter Classic at Fenway Park on Jan. 1; they haven't won at TD Garden since beating Atlanta 4-0 on Dec. 30.

"I'm not going to stand here and say we're a bad team. Absolutely not," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "We believe we have a better than average hockey team. I think our team was pretty good tonight."

The real reason the Bruins lost was Montreal goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who stopped 45 shots through 65 minutes and three more in the shootout. He's now 7-0-0 when facing 40 or more shots.

"As long as we win, it doesn't matter how many shots they have and we have," Halak said. "It would be nice to get more shots on net, but we have to find our game."

Boston led 2-0 on a first-period power-play goal by Mark Recchi and a goal by Blake Wheeler 5:25 into the second. But the Canadiens tied it when Glen Metropolit and Roman Hamrlik scored 39 seconds apart late in the period.

The Bruins then wasted two power-play chances in the third period and a four-on-three in overtime before losing in the shootout for the second time in the first three games of a four-game homestand.

"We wound up in a shootout and we shouldn't have gotten there," Claude Julien said.

The Bruins have 89 shots on goal in their last two games -- and one point to show for them.

"It's frustrating, to say the least," Julien said. "To be honest with you, I don't think I've ever seen that as a coach or experienced that as a player."

Blue Jackets 2, Stars 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

There were smiles in the Columbus locker room after the Jackets got 22 saves from Steve Mason to hold off Dallas in Claude Noel's debut as coach.

Noel was coaching his first NHL game after taking over for Ken Hitchcock, who was fired Wednesday after the Blue Jackets managed only a 22-27-9 record one season after making their first trip to the playoffs.

"He was [doing] play-by-play the whole game," center R.J. Umberger said of Noel, shaking his head. "I thought he was a commentator. It was good. He was positive, he was upbeat."

Umberger's empty-netter, a goal he scored while sliding on his stomach while corralling the puck and putting it into the empty net with 1:08 left, proved to be the game-winner when Dallas' Brad Richards beat Mason with 47 seconds remaining.

One of the first moves by Noel, a former AHL coach who an assistant under Hitchcock, was to dust off the old hard hat, something the trainers had bought but had never been used.

"Teams do it and we brought it [here]," Noel said. "Ken recommended that we buy it a while back on the road, so we bought it. I had the hard hat in the [pregame] meeting and said that we need to play for this game. When you win games, someone awards the hard hat to the hardest-working guy and it becomes a symbol of success."

Anton Strahlman's goal at the 15-minute mark of the first period was the only puck to get past Marty Turco, who made 25 saves.

The Stars went 0-for-3 on the power play and fell to 1-10-2 on the road since Dec. 11.

"We did a lot of good things to get the power-play opportunities," Dallas coach Marc Crawford said. "We didn't convert on them. We'd like to have the will of all to be able to handle the moment in that situation. It seemed like we had four guys going and maybe one guy not going on the power plays. But overall, we played a real solid game. We had the better of the chances. Their goalie played great."

Sharks 4, Blues 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

San Jose got its six-game pre-Olympic trip off to a fast start when Patrick Marleau scored 21 seconds into the game, sparking the Sharks to a win at St. Louis.

Marleau beat Ty Conklin for his 38th of the season, tying him with Alex Ovechkin for the League lead and matching his personal high, set last season.

"It's nice to be up there right now knowing you're among the top guys," Marleau said. "It's one of those things you've got to take in stride and not kind of think about it too much, and keep playing."

Ryane Clowe made it 2-0 at 7:53, and the Blues had to play from behind all night. St. Louis got a first-period goal by Patrik Berglund and made it 3-2 with 11:21 remaining in regulation when Alex Steen beat Thomas Greiss. But Devin Setoguchi's second-period goal and an empty-netter by Scott Nichol were more than enough.

San Jose has 83 points, one behind Washington for first in the overall standings.

"You want to get those wins early because as a road trip goes on, you can get a little bit weary," Marleau said. "I think everybody is excited. We have a good chance to buckle down and kind of just let it all out."

The Blues lost a game they desperately needed as they try to make up ground in the Western Conference race. They are 13th, five points out of a playoff berth.

The most frustrated Blue was Conklin, who fell to 1-6-0 at home; on the road, he's 7-2-1.

"I don't think I need to explain it or describe it, it's pretty self-explanatory really," Conklin said. "I think it just comes down to making the extra save. I've made an extra save on the road, I haven't at home."

Lightning 5, Islanders 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

The Lightning used their big guns to beat the Islanders and take sole possession of the last playoff berth in the East. Steven Stamkos scored twice, Martin St. Louis had a goal and an assist and Vincent Lecavalier got the go-ahead goal as the Bolts handed the reeling Islanders their sixth consecutive loss.

Jon Sim gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead at 9:12 of the second period, but St. Louis beat Dwayne Roloson 25 seconds later and Vincent Lecavalier scored on a 2-on-0 break at 10:13 to put Tampa Bay ahead to stay. Stamkos, who had a first-period power-play goal, scored again with 8:11 left in regulation, and Alex Tanguay hit the empty net to cap the win.

"I think as a team we've got our confidence to win games," Stamkos said. "It's all going in the right direction at the right time."

That's exactly the opposite of how things are going for the Isles, who lost all four games on a road trip that saw them score just four goals. They have just eight during the six-game slide.

"It has snowballed," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said of his team's scoring troubles. "Very rarely do you have your whole team go cold. It's hard to believe that we're not scoring on some of those chances and it's been consistent that we haven't."

Tampa Bay goalie Antero Niittymaki made 34 saves and won for the fifth time in his last six starts. Roloson stopped 26 shots.

"It was an ugly game, but we held on," Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. "A win is always great."

Predators 5, Avalanche 3 | HIGHLIGHTS

Jason Arnott got the hats. Patric Hornqvist got the goals -- and the Predators got two much-needed points by beating the Avs at the Sommet Center.

Fans tossed hats on the ice when the Preds scored with 41 seconds left in the second period, thinking Arnott had completed his hat trick. In fact, Hornqvist tipped in two of Arnott's shots for power-play goals.

"I was laughing on the bench," the Preds' captain said. "I knew he tipped it so nothing you can do. But it's good spirits to get our crowd into it. They haven't had much to cheer about of late at home. It's nice to see they're still behind us and still love it."

Arnott finished with a goal and three assists. Steve Sullivan had a third-period power-play goal and Joel Ward also scored as Nashville won the season series from Colorado, 3-1-0, and moved within two points of the sixth-place Avs in the West.

"We're looking beyond them," Sullivan said. "We're looking to teams ahead of them. Those are the teams we're trying to catch. They're ahead of us. Hopefully before April 5th, they'll be behind us by a lot."

Colorado, which got goals by Cory McLeod, Matt Duchene and rookie Justin Mercier, lost for the fifth time in six games.

"We were sloppy in a lot of areas," defenseman Scott Hannan said.

Wild 4, Oilers 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

Rookie goaltender Anton Khudobin was as surprised as anyone to skate off the Xcel Energy center ice with his first NHL victory. The 23-year-old, called up from Houston of the AHL earlier in the day, stopped all nine shots he faced in the third period after Josh Harding went down with a hip injury.

Harding, who's battled a hip problem for more than a week, couldn't continue after aggravating the injury unsuccessfully trying to stop Marc Pouliot from scoring the tying goal at 8:41. But the Wild regrouped in front of their rookie goaltender and went ahead when Guillaume Latendresse scored with 7:48 remaining. Martin Havlat added an insurance goal with 2:36 remaining.

"Everybody came to me and just said, 'Relax. Play your game," Khudobin said. "I just said to myself, 'I have to stop the first shot, and it'll be OK after that.'"

He made several difficult saves during a power play before Latendresse scored on a backhander to put the Wild ahead.

"He looked confident and ready to go," coach Todd Richards said. "Those young kids, when you get your opportunity you're always thinking about succeeding."

Mike Comrie had the other goal for the Oilers, who had won their first two games this month after a 13-game losing streak. This was their third game in four nights, and they showed the effects of a 1-0 home win over Philadelphia on Wednesday, followed by a late-night flight.

"Our legs were maybe tired and not ready because we didn't skate this morning," Pouliot said. "I think overall we did pretty well."

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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