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AVALANCHE 4, BRUINS 1

Bruins lose game, also Boynton

DENVER -- The hits just keep coming for the Bruins. Not only did they learn last night that defenseman Nick Boynton will be out for 4-6 weeks because of a fractured left kneecap suffered in the first period of Sunday's game in Vancouver, they limped out of here with a 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center.

It was the Bruins' second straight defeat and they head home a disappointing 1-2 on the three-game road trip. After back-to-back wins over Ottawa and Edmonton, which were generated in part by the major trade of captain Joe Thornton to San Jose for defenseman Brad Stuart and forwards Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau, the club has fallen back into its funk.

Losing Boynton certainly won't help. When the injury occurred, and even as late as yesterday morning, he was convinced it was just a bruise because although it was severely swollen, he felt it was improving. But X-rays taken last night confirmed the fracture, which he said caught him off guard.

''Hopefully, it won't be too long," said Boynton, who has an MRI scheduled for today in Boston. ''It's very frustrating. But that's the way it goes. It will get better."

This season has been one bit of bad news after another. The team gets one player back, and then loses another.

At the morning skate, Bruins coach Mike Sullivan emphasized the importance of not taking penalties against the talented Avalanche. Sullivan talked about how it had the effect of hindering any momentum the team was able to generate. But in the first period, the Bruins fell behind after they took a penalty.

Brad Isbister was whistled for hooking at 11:17. Only 31 seconds later, the Avalanche went up, 1-0. Alex Tanguay had the puck in the right circle and he attempted to dish it to Joe Sakic in the slot. However, the pass caromed off bodies and bounced right to Milan Hejduk, who tapped it in past Andrew Raycroft.

Less than a minute later, the Bruins gave Colorado another power play when Jiri Slegr was called for holding at 12:33. The Avalanche put pressure on the Bruins and came close to scoring again when defenseman John-Michael Liles attempted a redirect outside the left post, but Raycroft made the stop.

The Bruins turned the tables on the home team, though, tying the contest in the final minute of the first period. Brad Boyes fired a long lead pass for Marco Sturm, who charged in alone on goalie Vitaly Kolesnik, who was recalled from Lowell of the American Hockey League Tuesday and was making his NHL debut. Sturm's first bid was stopped but he scored on his own rebound to make it 1-1 with 27 seconds remaining in the period. It was Sturm's ninth goal of the season.

A giveaway led to the Avalanche's second goal at the nine-minute mark of the middle period. Brian Leetch, behind the Boston net, tried to clear the puck. Instead, he put it right on the stick of Tanguay. Tanguay, in the right circle, skated through the slot and around the top of the crease. Raycroft tried to stay with him but Tanguay beat him with a flip shot into the top right corner to put the Avalanche on top for good.

Colorado built on its lead at 13:08 with an even-strength goal. This time it was Brett McLean, who fired from high above the circles and beat Raycroft through a screen.

The Bruins trailed by a pair of goals but continued to take bad penalties. At 14:28, Alexei Zhamnov, who is struggling to get any offense going, was whistled for holding. During the ensuing power play, the Avalanche had a great chance when defenseman Liles had a point-blank shot from in front at 15:44, but Raycroft made the save.

In the third, the Avalanche generated their fourth tally as a result of another Boston infraction. This time it was Glen Murray, who was sent to the box for holding at 6:36. Only 36 seconds later, Colorado cashed in. It was Liles who took a centering pass from Sakic and beat Raycroft at 7:12 to put the game out of reach.

''It's disappointing that we didn't play better," said Travis Green. ''There isn't much else that you can say except we deserved what we got tonight. We didn't play good enough to win. At this point in the year, we've got to be a lot more desperate than we were tonight."

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