|PETER CHIARELLI Working the phones (file/Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)|
Early in the first period, and about a dozen years into a dream that began when he was a Saskatchewan teenager, Jeremy Reich last night scored his first NHL goal.
"Oh, that's a huge monkey off my back," said the Bruins winger, whose strike, in his 61st NHL game, came with 3:20 gone in Boston's 2-0 whitewash of the Blue Jackets. "I mean, it's been a while. I scored last year in Providence [prior to being called up late last season], so it's nice. I would have rather gotten it earlier, but [it's] kind of nice to get it against the team I started with."
Reich's first NHL goal was long in the making, considering the proud son of Craik, Saskatchewan, was selected 39th overall - 38 slots behind Jumbo Joe Thornton - by Chicago in the 1997 draft.
Reich, 28, turned pro in 2000-01 and didn't get his first taste of the NHL until 2003-04 when he played nine games with the Blue Jackets. It took him until last season, his seventh as a pro, to get full-time NHL work, and he almost lost his spot with the Bruins this season when the team signed Shawn Thornton in the offseason. But when Thornton was sidelined with a fractured foot, the patient and diligent Reich got the call to the fourth line.
"Definitely worth the wait," said Reich. "Just wish I could have done it earlier. It's something I'll never forget, that's for sure."
Newcomer Vladimir Sobotka, who centers the fourth line with Petteri Nokelainen and Reich, picked up an assist on Reich's strike. Nokelainen made two nifty passes on the play, the first a nice touch pass at center ice to advance the rush, and the second a sweet short dish to the top of the crease that Reich potted high over goalie Fred Norrena.
Sterling effortAlex Auld improved his record to 4-1 as a Bruin, playing the last five straight in the Boston net and allowing only seven goals. It was his third NHL shutout, and the 6-foot-4-inch stopper has turned back 149 of 156 shots for a superlative .955 save percentage since donning his new sweater.
"Any time you have a shutout, you feel you are in a bit of a groove," said Auld. "It's been great coming here, to play like this, and to play a lot, is great."
Auld made a key stop on Ole-Kristian Tollefsen with 7:03 gone in the first, after defenseman Andrew Alberts overhandled the puck in the slot and gave it away to Blue Jackets premier winger Rick Nash. He carried the puck deep to the left of the slot and fed a doorstep relay to Tollefsen. Auld held his ground on the Tollefsen jam attempt.
With 45 seconds left in the second, the Bruins still holding a 1-0 lead, Auld again remained perfect when Nash led a two-on-none rush down the slot as a Boston power play expired. Nash carried to the top of the crease, moved the puck to his forehand, and was denied on the short sweep, leaving Auld 17 for 17 through 40 minutes.
Following the win, the Bruins announced that top goalie prospect Tuukka Rask returned to Providence, as expected. Tim Thomas, whose recent groin pull necessitated the Bruins dealing for Auld, was activated off injured reserve. Coach Claude Julien now will figure out how to divide the goalies into the 24-square-foot net.