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Bruins lose preseason opener to Columbus

Josh Anderson of the Blue Jackets tried to keep young Bruins forward Sean Kuraly away from the puck.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Sam Gagner scored the only goal in the overtime shootout, pacing the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 3-2 win over the Bruins Monday night in the exhibition opener for both clubs at TD Garden.

Gagner, with a flash of clever stick work as he zipped down the slot, finished with a neat top-of-the-crease tuck on Bruins goalie Zane McIntyre.

Jimmy Hayes and Danton Heinen scored the Bruins’ first two goals of the preseason.

The Bruins, who opened training camp on Friday, are off Tuesday and return to Garden ice to face the Red Wings on Wednesday night.

Sonny Milano opened the night’s scoring, potting the Jackets’ first goal of the preseason with a quick flip near the left post on Anton Khudobin with 2:34 gone in the second period.


The Bruins were back to knot it, 1-1, only 1:22 later when Hayes finished off a short shovel from first-round pick Jake DeBrusk. Defenseman Scott Harrington fell down deep in the slot, and DeBrusk shoveled across for Hayes to cash in the doorstep forehander.

Columbus jumped out again, 2-1, on a Danny Zaar strike at 8:07 of the second with help from Gagner and Brandon Saad.

The Bruins twice were awarded 5-on-3 advantages in the second, one for 37 seconds and second time for 48 seconds, but they failed to cash in.

Khudobin manned the Boston net for the first two periods, then, as planned, McIntyre took over to start the third.

The Bruins pulled even for a second time, 2-2, only 1:08 into the third when Heinen, the promising winger from the University of Denver, cut through the slot and tipped home Brandon Carlo’s low-flying snap shot. Heinen’s goal ended the scoring in regulation.

Hayes looking to step up

Hayes may not have had the season from hell, but his game was in a devil of a neighborhood, the big right winger collecting only 13 goals and 29 points in 2015-16 with the Bruins.


Back for a second season, the former Boston College strongboy is hoping things change dramatically in 2016-17, a point underscored to him by general manager Don Sweeney in the offseason.

“It’s the truth, you’ve got to hear stuff,’’ said Hayes, 26. “He made it clear to myself, too. I expected more of myself. I’ve got to make sure to play this year at a high level.’’

At a strapping 6 feet 5 inches and 215 pounds, Hayes has the frame to play as an NHL power forward. But the job is more than size and mere presence. Hayes last season too often failed to assert himself in the areas where power forwards make their chops: in the corners, between the faceoff dots, and the top of the crease.

If he is going to get back on track, he’ll have to start owning those areas, not merely motoring by in hopes of scoring drive-thru goals.

“I have to continue to put the onus on myself to continue to develop and be a better player,’’ said Hayes, who landed four shots on net Monday and logged 15:12 of ice time.

What made Hayes’s lackluster performance all the more glaring was that Reilly Smith, traded to Florida as part of the package to acquire him, had a career season with 25 goals and 50 points. The performance earned Smith a contract extension in Sunrise worth $20 million over five years.


Surgery a success

Sweeney reported that all went well during Frank Vatrano’s surgery Monday at Mass. General, where George Theodore repaired torn ligaments in the young forward’s left foot.

“Timeline remains the same,’’ said Sweeney, who noted over the weekend that Vatrano would miss upward of three months. “Doctors felt it was the right thing to do for both the short and long term. All good on that front.’’

According to Sweeney, Vatrano tore the ligaments while working out prior to the start of training camp. The former UMass standout from East Longmeadow split last season between Boston and AHL Providence. He scored 36 goals in 36 games with the Wanna-B’s. With the varsity, he connected for 8-3—11 in 39 games.

Here they come

Slowly but surely, some of the A-listers are making it into the Bruins training sessions. Both David Pastrnak and David Backes, returnees from their respective World Cup of Hockey teams, participated in drills Monday for the first time. Tuukka Rask, another World Cupper, was expected to work out but took a day of rest, while Malcolm Subban and Dan Vladar worked the net at Warrior Ice Arena.

Backes, the former St. Louis Blues captain, did not suit up for Monday’s game against Columbus. Despite not needing game action, particularly after playing for Team USA in the World Cup, he’d like to suit up soon.

“Being able to get to a new city, with a new team, new area, new practice rink, to be able to start to figure things out,’’ said Backes. “Set roots down, learn systems, and spend time with the coach — even though Claude Julien is not here — and start to sift through specifics.


“Maybe this is an opportunity to advance with the team and try to get ready for the season, which is why we are here, and why play the games, to win the Stanley Cup.’’

High on Carlo

Coach Bruce Cassidy on Carlo after the game: “Arguably our best defenseman.’’ The rookie hopeful finished with the primary assist on Heinen’s goal and logged three shots on net in 20:16 in ice time . . . Sean Kuraly led the way at the dot for the Bruins, winning 6 of 11 faceoffs (55 percent), followed by Riley Nash, 8 of 15 (53 percent) . . . The Bruins finished with a 31-21 edge in shots on goal. They attempted 54 shots, Columbus 43 . . . Peter Mueller and Tyler Randell were the only Bruins not to land a shot, although Mueller fired four that did not make it to the net. He is the lone Bruin here without a contract . . . Defenseman John-Michael Liles led all Bruins in ice time with 23:53.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at kevin.dupont@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.