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  • What we learned: Blues give Bruins early agita

    Post Game

    What we learned: Blues give Bruins early agita

    Bob Snow November 23, 2016

    Big week for the home team. Five games in eight days; four at home where the Black and Gold eclipsed .500 for the first time this year and only the second since the beginning of last season.

    At 4-3-0 at TD Garden – and three straight for the first time since last Thanksgiving week – could the Bruins go to four straight home wins for the first time since way back in the 2014-15 season? Tuesday night was no cakewalk with one of the Western irons in town in the St Louis Blues.

    At 10-6-3, the Blues sported an envious home slate of 8-1-2, quite the opposite on the road at 2-5-1. Nonetheless, a total of 23 points to Boston’s 22.

    Saturday night, Boston played its best 60-minute affair of the season, dispensing the Winnipeg Jets, 4-1, allowing but 13 shots on Tuukka Rask.

    One Tuesday night subplot? The first time that David Backes faced his former team after 10 years in St. Louis and last five as captain before signing a five-year deal with Boston in July worth $30 million. He ranks fifth on the Blues’ all-time games played list (727), sixth in points (460) and fifth in penalty minutes (969).

    The second? The Bruins were one goal shy of scoring the 20,000th team goal in franchise history, just the second team in NHL history to reach that milestone (Montreal Canadiens).

    Here’s what we learned as Boston’s second-period collapse paved the way for a 4-2 in the last game before Thanksgiving.

    Irony of ironies; Backes scores 20,000th goal

    The Bruins went on their second man-advantage at 6:43 of the first period. Torey Krug sent a screeching shot from the blue line with Backes perched on Jake Allen’s doorstep. After the initial stop, Backes poked it past Allen at 7:44 for his fourth of the season – and the franchise’s 20,000th goal in team history; David Krejci also assisting.

    Backes is the only 30-30-30 player in Blues’ history with 31 goals, 31 assists and a plus-32 in 2010-2011. He is 4-4-8 with a plus-10 so far as a Bruin.

    “He wanted to win this game as much as they wanted to beat him,” Claude Julien said postgame about Backes. “He played well and he scored a goal, so you can’t ask for more.”

    “It’s certainly a good feeling,” Backes added, “but I’d give it back if we could have won tonight and had a little bit more of a joyous occasion after the game here.”

    Second-period blues dig hole for Boston

    The second period began with an injury to Zdeno Chara on his first shift; he did not return.

    “I’ve got nothing on him yet,” Julien said postgame about Chara’s condition.

    Immediately, the Bruins’ Achilles Heel the first half of the season came back to bite them with an identical scoring play to the Backes goal, when Colton Parayko launched a rocket from the blue line at 3:23 of the second period that deflected off Jori Lehtera’s skate past Rask. A goalie interference challenge by Claude Julien went for naught, knotting the score at 1-1.

    At 8:59 – and shorthanded – Dominic Moore (Seventh Player Award?) swooped down the left wing and lifted a far-side, top-shelf shot past the glove of Allen for his fifth of the season and eighth point; Riley Nash assisting.

    But at 13:59, the Bruins went public skating in their end, abandoned the defense in front of Rask, and chased Blues around the net until Robert Bortuzzo slid a backhand along the goal line behind Rask. Two minutes later, St. Louis took a 3-2 lead when Rask coughed up a juicy rebound and Paul Stastny fired it home short side.

    “In the second period, with five D’s, we got caught in our own end at times – for long periods of time – and then we had some guys that were out there tired, and some of those guys were obviously D’s,” Julien assessed. “So it cost us a few goals there, and I think that’s where there was a big difference in the game.”

    On both goals, Brandon Carlo was victimized playing without Chara’s support, putting a dent in his plus-11 rating.

    “Brandon Carlo had to step up there and that’s the first time he’s played without his partner,” Julien said. “It just goes to show how important Zee is to our hockey club and to Brandon.”

    After holding Winnipeg to three shots on net in the second period Saturday night, and scoring three goals, the B’s gave St. Louis 14 shots and three red lights Tuesday night.

    Rask task derailed

    Tuukka Rask has been the difference maker for the Bruins this season. The B’s were 11-2-0 in games started by the Finnish netminder and winless in games not started by Rask (0-5-0). Rask was tied for first in the NHL in wins (11), second in GAA (1.46), second in shutouts (3) and fifth in save percent (.946).

    Not on Tuesday night.

    With a one-goal lead, and approaching five minutes left in the first period, Rask made his best save of the game on the Blues’ fifth shot when Jaden Schwartz was denied after streaking in solo from the blue line.

    From then on, his defense let him down – and a few soft goals did him in.

    Scoreless third, despite 17 shots

    David Krejci’s solo shot on Allen off an outlet gaffe by St. Louis approaching four minutes left in the third, was the first the Bruins’ opportunity for the equalizer.

    Ryan Spooner’s open-net miss with 90 ticks remaining was the second chance before the Blues sealed the deal at 18:44 on Lehtera’s open-netter for the 4-2 final. Boston outshot St. Louis, 41-28.

    Next up Ottawa on Thanksgiving night north of the border, then back home Friday night vs. the Calgary Flames before facing one of the irons in the East in Tampa Bay on Sunday at TD.

    “I think when you have the amount of shots we had you don’t want to overthink it,” Moore said. “You just want to do the right thing and pucks will find their way into the net.”

    How do you spell R-E-L-I-E-F?

    Happy Thanksgiving, folks.

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