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Blue Jackets 3, Bruins 2

Frustrated Bruins get boxed out by Blue Jackets

Blue Jackets' Antoine Vermette beats Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask to tie the game in the third period.
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / January 22, 2010

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As Milan Lucic skated off to the penalty box at 18:29 of the third period, banished for four minutes by referee Dean Morton for a high-sticking double minor he didn’t think he committed, he felt helpless.

“I was just going to the net,’’ said Lucic. “The puck was free, so I was trying to dig the puck out. I think all their guys in front of the net were trying to lift my stick. I felt like my stick was on the ice the whole time.

“We can complain about it all we want, but he went by what he felt he saw on the ice. You can never complain with the referees. You’ve got to respect what they call.’’

Given the Bruins’ free-falling, zero-confidence ways, it was almost a given that the Blue Jackets would score on the four-minute power play and claim a 3-2 victory before 17,565 at TD Garden last night.

“Human error,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien of the call. “It is what it is. It’s human error. We still feel we had a chance to do something before that, and it didn’t happen. Somewhere along the way, those things come back to bite you.’’

Anton Stralman, stationed at the left point, waited for traffic to pool in front of Tuukka Rask. As R.J. Umberger planted himself in front of the goalie, Stralman let a slapper go that rolled through the goalie with 1:16 remaining in regulation for the winning strike. Umberger was credited with the power-play goal.

“I definitely didn’t feel that my stick got up,’’ Lucic said. “I felt like it was below my waist the whole time.

“It was unfortunate. But they had an opportunity there. They stuck around, stuck around, got an opportunity at the end, and won the game.

“We had chances to go up by two goals, 2-0 or 3-1. We didn’t capitalize on our chances. All in all, I thought it was a good team effort tonight. But we didn’t get the result we wanted.’’

It was the missed opportunities that stung the Bruins more than Lucic’s phantom high-sticking penalty.

Just over a minute into the third period, David Krejci could have given the Bruins a two-goal lead when he looked up and saw an open net. But his shot sailed wide left.

In the second period, Drew Larman had two point-blank chances to make it 3-1. Columbus goalie Steve Mason (32 saves) stuffed the first one, and Larman steered his follow-up attempt wide right.

“You’ve got to put it in the net,’’ said Blake Wheeler. “You’ve got an empty net? Put it in the net. You’ve got a good opportunity? Put it in the net.

“A 3-1, 4-1 lead is different than a 2-1 lead. When you give yourself that opportunity, you owe it to yourself and you owe it to everyone around you to put it in the net.

“Obviously, I’ve been in that situation many times. When you miss a wide-open net, it hurts. You don’t want to be that guy. It hurts more than probably anything. Easy for me to say you’ve got to bear down. At the same time, that’s the difference between winning and losing sometimes.’’

The Bruins, tied at 1-1 after 20 minutes (Michael Ryder, skating on the left side, potted a top-shelf goal over Mason at 2:11), took the lead at 6:40 of the second period.

Zdeno Chara started the play by flinging the puck out of the defensive zone. Daniel Paille dug it off the wall and tapped it ahead for Patrice Bergeron. Just as Bergeron crossed the blue line, he winged a wrist shot on goal that found an opening, giving the Bruins a 2-1 advantage.

But after the Jackets tied the game at 7:16 of the third, the frazzled Bruins didn’t respond the right way.

On the tying goal, Matt Hunwick sent a cross-ice clearing pass that Kris Russell intercepted in the neutral zone. Russell entered the Bruins zone with speed and saw Antoine Vermette crashing the net. Vermette, who had a second-period power-play goal wiped out (the ex-Senator kicked the puck in), got back on the scoreboard when he scooped a shot through Rask (22 saves).

On the previous sequence, Mason slid from left to right to turn aside Vladimir Sobotka’s slot shot to keep his club within one.

“I thought we played well for the first 40 minutes,’’ Julien said. “I thought we came out in the third period . . . and everybody knows the empty net that David Krejci misses; if he scores on that, it’s 3-1.

“I think our confidence is there. But when they come back a couple minutes later and tie the game, obviously we tightened up. You don’t want to see that necessarily, but that’s where we’re at right now.

“When you haven’t won on a consistent basis, it’s a normal tendency. We hung in there and had some chances, but the ending wasn’t meant to be, by the looks of it.’’

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