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Bruins hand Sharks rare home loss

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- The Boston Bruins were oh-for-California when the puck dropped Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center in the finale of their three-game road trip.

Boston had lost 5-2 to the Anaheim Ducks and 4-2 to the Los Angeles Kings. Apparently, enough was enough. Goaltender Tuukka Rask made 26 saves for his fifth shutout of the season and Carl Soderberg scored with 7:35 left, lifting the Bruins to a 1-0 victory.

"We talked about it before," Rask said of the Bruins' sense of urgency. "It's about pride too. You come on these road trips and lose the first two games, you don't want to get swept. We talked about it and gave a sharp effort and it paid off with a win. I'm really happy with the guys."

Boston snapped the Sharks' six-game home winning streak and swept the two-game season series, handing San Jose just its second regulation loss at home this season. The Bruins beat the Sharks 2-1 on Oct. 24 at TD Garden as David Krejci scored the game-winner with less than a second left in regulation. San Jose outshot Boston 39-17 that night, but Rask made 38 saves.

This time Soderberg snapped a scoreless tie by blasting a rebound past Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi from left of the crease. Bruins forward Loui Eriksson had fired a shot from the slot that deflected off Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan and angled sharply left to Soderberg. He knocked the puck past defenseman Dan Boyle and Niemi before they could react to the deflection.

"We had a good forecheck there, our line, and won the puck in the corner. We got some opening, me and Loui," Soderberg said. "I passed him when he tried to shoot and I got the rebound."

Niemi said he "just tried to find the puck" after the sharp bounce. "Pretty much when I found it, it was in the net."

San Jose fell to 16-2-3 at SAP Center, but Sharks coach Todd McLellan praised his team's performance against the Bruins, who lead the Atlantic Division with 60 points.

"It was tight right from the beginning to the end," McLellan said. "Playoff checking tight. Top two lines on each team neutralized each other. Basically what it came down to was a little bit of puck luck. A bounce went their way, went to their stick and not ours. It's nothing we have to hang our heads over. I thought we were good on the boards most of the game, went to the net, scrambles in front. We played a good game."

Boston coach Claude Julien said his players helped created their good fortune on the winning goal.

"A goal's a goal in this League," Julien said. "You get some tough ones that go against you so every once in a while it's good to have some go for you. That's the breaks of the game, and sometimes you have to make them yourself. I thought for us to get the puck in the slot in that situation was a good play on our end. And it just happened to go off the shin pads, but we had somebody going to the net, and if he's not then it's not a goal. I don't necessarily call that lucky. It was still good execution for us. Good bounce, but still the players were in the right place."

Niemi, a teammate of Rask's on Finland's 2014 Olympic team, made 21 saves. Rask won his 22nd game of the season, tying his career high set in 2009-10. The shutout was the 21st of his career.

Going into the game, Rask had lost three of his past four starts and was pulled Thursday night after allowing three goals on 18 shots in 22 minutes against the Kings.

"I'm happy with how we played defense," Rask said. "We eliminated those mistakes we made the first two games which was huge. Today we didn't do those and that paid off with the win. A shutout is always good. It's a tight game and we're just happy to get the win.

"That was Bruins hockey. That's how we get points in this league. Sometimes we slip from it but today was a great example of how we need to play in order to get points. I'm really happy with the effort."

Neither team scored in the first period, but Boston accomplished one of its goals -- preventing a fast start by a Sharks team that has scored a League-high 51 first-period goals and has a history of overwhelming opponents early at home. The Sharks outshot Boston 12-9 in the first period, but Rask made a handful of gorgeous saves, including one on a redirect from Joe Pavelski and another on a wrist shot from Tommy Wingels.

"I thought we had a good first," Boyle said. "it was evenly-matched throughout. We had a good first, they had a good second. There wasn't much out there, not a lot of space for either side."

The Bruins nearly snapped the scoreless tie midway through the second period on the power play. With Hannan in the box for holding Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron ripped a shot from the slot that hit the right post and bounced away.

The Sharks opened the third period of a scoreless game by killing the final 1:59 of Boston's second power play. The Bruins, who now have a five-game power-play drought, didn't record a shot. Boston went back on the power play at 6:03 of the third when Jason Demers was sent off for holding, but the Sharks killed that one too.

Veteran forwards Shawn Thornton and Eriksson were in the Bruins' lineup for the first time since a Dec. 7 game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Eriksson had been sidelined for 15 games with a concussion he suffered on a hit from Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik early in the first period. Thornton later retaliated against Orpik, tripping him from behind and then punching him in the face twice while Orpik was on the ice. The NHL suspended Thornton for 15 games.

"I felt pretty good," Eriksson said. "It's nice to be back playing again and be around all the guys playing and it was definitely nice to get the two points too. It was a good first try."

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