Bruins are lucky, not good
Shootout victory follows tepid effort
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There wasn’t much about the way the Bruins played last night that added up to victory, but there are nights when logic, momentum, and the balance of play are not the parts that equal the sum of the final score.
Game No. 69 of the 2010-11 season was one of those nights for the Bruins.
Fortunate enough after two periods to be remotely close to a victory, the struggling Bruins used a Rich Peverley shorthanded strike late in the third period and then Tyler Seguin’s lone goal in the shootout (the only puck the rookie put on net all night) for a 3-2 triumph over the Blue Jackets before a crowd of 12,282 at Nationwide Arena.
The victory, in which the Bruins were outshot, 36-29, stopped a 0-2-2 free fall. It also had a scrambling Tuukka Rask making 34 stops, plus three more in the shootout, on perhaps his best performance of the season.
Beyond that, it was by no means any sort of a statement game, unless that statement was simply that they aren’t close to being ready for the postseason (now only 13 games away on the horizon).
“We are still not out of the woods yet,’’ noted coach Claude Julien, acknowledging his charges had just escaped with their luckiest 2 points thus far this season. “We’re not skating. We’re taking that extra second with the puck, and that’s costing us. Most of all, I think it’s a lack of confidence. We got a little better as the night went on, but . . .’’
By and large, be it a confidence or talent issue, the Bruins are playing a tentative, lethargic game at a very critical time of the year. In an attempt to shake those doldrums, Julien hooked a healthy Michael Ryder from the lineup, the first time in the right winger’s Boston stay that he has been told not to dress.
It was a slight irony that the baby-faced Seguin, who assumed Ryder’s roster spot, popped in the winner. But Seguin didn’t do much with his 9:57 of ice time across the 65 minutes of play. No one on either side logged less in TOI. Not only did he fail to put a shot on net, he failed to take one.
The Seguin-Chris Kelly-Mark Recchi line combined for four shots on Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason, but it was the 43-year-old Recchi who collected all four shots. Kelly, like Seguin, didn’t attempt a shot.
But there was Seguin, shooting leadoff for the Bruins in the free throw contest after Rick Nash started off for Columbus and failed to sneak a backhand tuck by Rask at the doorstep. Seguin started off fast, slowed down as he closed on Mason, then finished off with a threshold forehander at the right post.
“Forehand to backhand and then to forehand,’’ said a smiling Seguin, noting that he took a tip from Boston goalie coach Bob Essensa on how to approach Mason. “I think the change of speeds helped me a little bit.’’
What helped most, of course, was Julien biting the bullet and using Seguin instead of ol’ reliable Ryder (an ossified 1-2—3 in his previous 11 games). Maybe Seguin didn’t do much all night, but that’s what Ryder had been doing for three weeks.
When the night’s 2 points were still up for grabs — in large part because Columbus forwards all night looked like the civil engineering crew on the Bridge to Nowhere — Seguin’s little bit of artistry was there for Julien to use. For the record: Seguin, scratched in three of the previous five games, hasn’t landed a shot on net since Feb. 27.
“I don’t ever want to say I was surprised to be in the lineup,’’ said Seguin, who practiced in the morning at right wing, alongside Ryder, then switched to left wing on the Kelly-Recchi combination. “You always hope for the best, right? I want to contribute any way I can, that’s all. I love the sport, and I want to play.’’
From Boston’s perspective, the best play of the night was by Peverley, who, while on the penalty kill, helped disrupt the Columbus power play in the Boston end and then carried two-thirds the length of the ice before he finished off with a tricky cut to the left post.
A clip for the highlight reel for the winger, who joined the Bruins in the swap that sent Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler to the Thrashers (in lieu of dishing Ryder to Providence and keeping Stuart-Wheeler). The Peverley goal came with 5:36 left in regulation, forcing OT.
Grant Clitsome had the first Columbus goal, at 19:07 of the first, Rask looking a bit shaky on the long blast. A David Krejci tip of a Zdeno Chara slapper tied it, 1-1, with 12:20 gone in the second. Ex-Flyer Scottie Upshall knocked home what looked like the winner with 7:41 to go, until, that is, Peverley sashayed up ice on his unassisted strike.
“Hey, we found a way,’’ said Julien. “We were able to grind it out.’’
But by the looks of it, there’s much more grinding to go.