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BLUES 3, BRUINS 2

Bruins still singing blues

ST. LOUIS -- The Bruins did not lose last night's 3-2 decision in the shootout, when St. Louis forwards Lee Stempniak and Keith Tkachuk solved Tim Thomas, and Marc Savard, Boston's final shooter, couldn't beat Blues goalie Manny Legace.

It was not lost in the first 55 minutes, when the Bruins controlled the lifeless Blues and took a two-goal lead into the third period.

It was lost, even though the Bruins gained a point by taking the game into the shootout, in the final five minutes of regulation, when top teams don't give away two-goal advantages.

But that's what happened before 17,213 at Scottrade Center in the Blues' home opener, a game new owner Dave Checketts guaranteed his club would win, earning himself bulletin-board placement in the Boston dressing room prior to the game.

In those final five minutes, the Bruins started making mistakes. They coughed up the puck. They couldn't bust up St. Louis's cycle. They failed to clear the crease of swarming Blues, who fed off a frenzied home crowd that nearly powered the club to victory in overtime.

Down, 2-0, St. Louis cut the lead at 16:03 when Stempniak took a diagonal pass from Bill Guerin and finally put one past Thomas. It appeared as if the Blues needed to pull Legace for an extra attacker, but coach Mike Kitchen didn't even have to go to the last-ditch move, as his club tied the game with 1:27 remaining.

Thomas snuffed an initial shot by Tkachuk, but Jamal Mayers, crashing the net like the rest of his teammates, jammed home a rebound to make it 2-2.

The Blues had some glittering opportunities after Andrew Alberts drew a late penalty, giving St. Louis a power play that extended into overtime. Thomas turned aside every shot, including a last-second snap shot by Guerin that the forward ripped after Tkachuk won a draw from Wayne Primeau with 2.1 ticks left.

``As a group, I thought we played almost textbook hockey for 55 minutes, probably with the exception of some of the execution on the power play," said Bruins coach Dave Lewis. ``But five on five, I thought we controlled the puck. We were on the puck. We were forechecking well. Manny Legace had to make some saves to keep it within two, especially in a couple of spots in the second and the third."

The Bruins (1-2-1), playing their second game in two nights, had played a near-perfect road game until their third-period meltdown. Thomas, bouncing back from a seven-goal torching in his first game, was superb through two periods, getting help from his defensemen, who lifted sticks and built a perimeter around the net.

Savard, who didn't show much flash in Boston's 4-1 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers Wednesday, scored his first goal of the season when he kicked off a give-and-go with Brad Stuart, tapping in a return backhand pass from the defenseman to give Boston a 2-0 lead.

Earlier in the game, Patrice Bergeron, the club's best forward this season, netted his second goal of the season at 5:55 of the first period. A defensive-zone turnover by the Blues allowed Phil Kessel to shove the puck forward to Bergeron, who waited out Legace and slipped a forehand shot into the net.

But the Bruins, despite tweaking their point men on the power play, were blanked again on the man-advantage. On their second power play, Lewis skated Stuart and Paul Mara with top-unit forwards Savard, Marco Sturm, and Glen Murray. Zdeno Chara and Bergeron manned the points for the second power-play unit of Kessel, Boyes, and P.J. Axelsson.

Later in the game, Lewis paired Chara and Axelsson at the point, seeing if the checking-line wing could use his vision and smarts to supply some power-play pop.

The moves didn't work (0 for 7 on the power play), helping to sink the Bruins when one power-play goal might have given them a lead the Blues couldn't have overcome.

After the third-period giveaways and overtime, it was up to the Boston shooters and Thomas to bail out the club. Bergeron and Boyes, Boston's first two shooters, were stopped by Legace. On the other end, Thomas matched his counterpart by turning aside defenseman Dennis Wideman and forward Doug Weight. But after Tkachuk and Sturm traded goals, Stempniak netted the winner, and Legace stopped Savard, creating another downcast visitors' room.

``When there's five or six minutes left against a team that's down two goals, you know they're going to come at you hard," Stuart said. ``You've got to be prepared. You have to do things that got us there, like getting pucks out and making little plays. They came at us, we made poor decisions, and the next thing . . ."

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at FShinzawa@globe.com

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