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For 40 minutes, the Boston Bruins hung with an angry St. Louis Blues squad that rolled into the Hub on the heels of blowing a 3-0 lead the night before in Philadelphia. But when the puck dropped on the third period, the Blues capitalized on their chances, and held the Bruins at bay in a 2-0 final at TD Garden.
“At the end of the night, I think the biggest thing was that I didn’t think we worked hard enough to get on the inside,” Boston coach Claude Julien
said after the loss, “they did a good job of keeping us on the outside. There was a lot of times we were shooting and we had no net-front presence, they were boxing us out and we weren’t working hard enough to get on the inside.
“Same thing on some of those rushes, [we] tried to get cute versus just getting pucks at the net, not forcing plays and being a little bit hungrier with that middle drive.”
St. Louis finally broke the scoreless affair seven minutes into the third period when Vladimir Tarasenko
split through Colin Miller
and Dennis Seidenberg
for a breakaway and snipe. The goal, Tarasenko’s 22nd of the season and his eighth in the last 10 games, came courtesy of a great dish from Magnus Paajarvi
, with a secondary helper to David Backes
“He’s got a lot of speed,” Miller, one of the victims burned by No. 91’s burst and goal, noted of Tarasenko. “But there was a combination of things [that went wrong], I was trying to gap up on the far side and Seidenberg and I got a little separated and he blasted through the middle there.”
But as the Bruins’ attempted pushback stumbled, an ill-timed change from Boston’s defense let Robby Fabbri
fly into the Boston zone off a great breakout pass from Blues defender Alex Pietrangelo
without much resistance, and gave Fabbri his seventh goal of the season.
“They definitely were the best-structured team I think,” Seidenberg said of the Blues. “They’ve been playing like this for the past few years and they’re always tough to play against. They’re in the right spot, they have a quick transition - they just you know use their opportunities to score goals.”
Blues goalie Jake Allen
stopped all 32 shots thrown his way for his league-leading fifth shutout of the season, while the Bruins were shut out for the first time all year (33 games in) in the process.
Still, the Bruins will take the positives that come with their second place status at the Christmas break.
“I mean we knew we weren’t going to go the rest of the year undefeated,” B’s winger Brad Marchand
said after just their second regulation loss in the last 10 games. “This is a really good team over there. So, it’s tough to lose one, but we have a lot to be happy about, and I think we’ve got to feel pretty good about our game right now, and go on this break knowing that, and get rejuvenated.
“We have to be happy with where we’re at, but it’s a really tight race right now, and we can’t be satisfied. We still have to continue to be better, and improve on our game every day.”
Random thoughts and notes
- It goes without saying that you’d like to see the Bruins walk away from this one with the two points. Especially when you factor in Montreal’s loss to the Minnesota Wild and the realization that the Bruins could have found themselves in first place in the Atlantic Division for Christmas. But the Blues are among the league’s best, and the Bruins proved that they can hang with ‘em. You needed to see that.
To date, the Bruins have taken care of business when they’ve needed to. But you’ve always been left wanting to see more when it comes to their ability to apply that against some of the league’s best. They struggled to stay true to their system in losses to Dallas, Washington, and even early season defeats to divisional foes like the Canadiens and Lightning. But you’re witnessing the club’s overall game come around. It’s stolen some points along the way, and kept them in games ‘til the bitter end most nights.
“We’ve always felt [like an elite team], but obviously we haven’t really shown that on a regular basis throughout the year,” Tuukka Rask
said. “A couple breakdowns but I think what we were lacking is getting inside of them and getting those scoring chances in front of the net and we only had a couple, but I mean, their goalie played great, but it’s, they kept us on the outside for most of it.”
This was just the club’s second regulation loss in their last 16 games (11-2-3). That’s elite.
- Even in defeat, Rask put forth yet another sharp showing. The 28-year-old stopped all but two of the 29 shots thrown his way on Tuesday night, and continued his strong month of December, which now features a .957 save percentage and wins in all but one of eight games played.
And burned on a breakaway from one of the league’s top snipers in Tarasenko and a bad change that led to Fabbri’s goal, Rask can’t hang his head too low about the end result.
“I mean I’m going to say he missed that shot but ask him again, but he went whatever, seven hole, you call that,” Rask said. “Goal scorers don’t shoot there like that. Puck was rolling on him and I think it was going low blocker. I might have saved [it], but, I mean, you don’t want to give him a breakaway.”
Rask has not posted a sub-.923 save percentage in a game in eight straight games now.
- B’s energy winger Zac Rinaldo
returned to the lineup after missing the previous three games with an upper-body injury and logged an efficient, physical two-hit night in 5:45 of time on ice. Rinaldo’s ice time as obviously limited by a three-line rotation that Julien appeared to go with once the Blues jumped up by a goal, but you can’t say that Rinaldo failed to do his job in an attempt to disrupt some of the Blues’ tougher customers and the liberties they tried to take on the Bruins. Most notably, Rinaldo appeared to be the starter to the fight between Ryan Reaves and Tyler Randell, and absolutely blew Scottie Upshall
up with a second period hit that brought the Garden crowd to their feet.
It’s time for the Christmas break for the Black and Gold. They will return to the ice on Sat. night for a head-to-head with the Buffalo Sabres. This will be the first meeting between the Atlantic rivals (how are we saying that in late December?) and Jack Eichel’s first visit to his hometown as a pro.
Ty Anderson has been covering the National Hockey League for HockeyBuzz.com since 2010, has been a member of the Boston Chapter of the Pro Hockey Writers Association since 2013, and can be contacted on Twitter, or emailed at Ty.AndersonHB[at]gmail.com.