Blues end Bruins’ seven-game winning streak in shootout
ST. LOUIS — The Bruins chiseled out only a Chris Wagner goal here Saturday afternoon in their last long road trip of the season and that wasn’t enough to beat the Blues.
But in a league that awards bonus prizes even in defeat, the Bruins did salvage a point in their 2-1 overtime shootout loss, and it sent them shipping back up to Boston with a near-perfect 4-0-1 record on their five-game road trip that took them through Anaheim, LA, San Jose, Las Vegas, and finally here to Archtown.
Perfect, no. But as road trips go, and with Monday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline approaching, a nice bit of work over the last 10 days.
“We got 9 out of 10 points, guys had some fun together, bonded a little bit,” mused coach Bruce Cassidy, his squad now with 81 points and 20 games to go in the regular season. “To me . . . at the end of the day, I was really happy with the way we played, and how we played, mostly. Especially today, it’s a tough one at the end of a trip. . . . I think the trip was very good.”
In the end, after Wagner’s goal (off a clean dish by Kevan Miller) in the second period negated Alexander Steen’s goal in the first, it came down to the Blues twice beating Tuukka Rask in a shootout that had each side sending six shooters to the line. Tyler Bozak (first) and Sammy Blais (sixth) connected for St. Louis, while newcomer Charlie Coyle (third) potted one for the Bruins.
It was Blais who clinched it, connecting with a doorstep forehander after deking Rask to the floor, and then Jordan Binnington snuffed out Danton Heinen’s forehander to close the show at Enterprise Center.
The loss ended Boston’s season-high win streak at seven games, but it left the Bruins still without a regulation loss in the month of February (9-0-2).
Perhaps most encouraging of all from Boston’s perspective was a new third line, centered by Coyle, that appeared to put a spark into David Backes’s high heel shoes. Backes, though unable to get on the scoresheet despite some first-rate chances, tied Jake DeBrusk for a game-high five shots on net.
“Credit to my linemates for making some really good plays,” said Backes, snuffed out by Binnington on a primo net-front chance that kept the score 1-1 with 11:44 gone in the second. “I feel like I had the game on my stick three times tonight and didn’t make good on any of ’em — that stings anytime, really stings being back here. But we found a way to get a point out of this game.”
Boston’s top two lines, centered by Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, were decidedly off key all afternoon. They didn’t put up a point. Bergeron, among the best faceoff men in the league, lost 9 of 12 drops, while Krejci lost 8 of 12. Heinen, the top line’s right winger, didn’t take a shot in his 12:23 of ice time. The Bruins landed more shots (32-29) but the Blues, in part because of better possession, rolled up 63 shot attempts to Boston’s 50.
Overall, an uneven, spotty afternoon, one that would have left the Bruins bankrupt had it not been for Rask’s 15 saves over the first two periods. The Bruins were very sluggish in the first, picked up some pluck in the second (including Wagner’s ninth goal of the season), and might have stolen a point had it not been for a handful of great stops by the rookie Binnington over the final 35 minutes of the afternoon.
“We were off . . . certainly they were beating us to loose pucks and were stronger on it,” admitted Cassidy. “We got out of the first only one [goal] down and that’s a bit of a blessing. The guys knew that wasn’t our best. We had to pick up the pace, both mentally and physically, and I thought we did.”
Slow starts, understandable at the end of a grinding 10-day road trip, are often lethal. In the regular season, they can be quickly forgotten when assuaged with a “loser” point. In the playoffs, they can be certain death and an express ticket to vacation.
Rask, without a regulation loss in two months (Dec. 23) is now 12-0-3 in his last 16 appearances. He was better here than the crazy night in San Jose that had the Bruins winning in OT.
“I thought it was a great road trip,” Rask said. “We got points out of every game and [here] a shoot[out] loss, so I think we have to be extremely happy how we battled.”
Now it’s back to Causeway Street, where the Bruins on Tuesday night will take on the Sharks and then close out the month Thursday with the league heavyweight Lightning in town.
They’ll have to be better than they were here. But if they can maintain anything close to the pace they’ve played this month, they should again finish with over 100 points and breeze into the postseason.