If the Jackets fancy themselves contenders in the Eastern Conference, these are the kinds of games they have to win: the conference champs are in your building, you're riding a win streak, and you need to prove you belong. While there were some positives to take away, the Jackets found out that they're not to that top echelon just yet.
The Bruins, as always, were so disciplined and stout defensively, and they were able to slowly work the Jackets into a 3-1 win. Here's how it went down.
It was an early start time, and it seemed as though both teams might still be sleeping when this one got going. They took plenty of time to feel each other out through some sloppy hockey early on. It took until almost the 11 minute mark before either team got their second shot on goal. The period proceeded like trench warfare, as neither team gave much of anything up on defense.
The Jackets got the first real chance, as Jarome Iginla went off at the 7:02 mark for interference. The Jackets, much like most of the early parts of the period, were able to keep possession in the zone and work the edges, but couldn't get anything on Tuukka Rask, and finished the man advantage with no shots.
Say what you will about Boone Jenner, the spirit was willing. He had a shift late in the first in which he attempted to hit anything in a white sweater. Shawn Thornton took exception and laid some wood on Jared Boll, and those two had no qualms about dropping the mitts. But, much like the period, there was a lot of circling and defense, not a lot of actual action.
The Bruins would generate a late surge, hemming the Jackets into their zone and getting several shots on Sergei Bobrovsky, including an uncontested walk-in by Torey Krug. But Bob was equal to the task, stopping Krug's attempt and trapping the rebound under his body before anyone could tap it in.
After withstanding that rally, Columbus countered, drawing a holding penalty on Patrice Bergeron at the 18:18 mark. The Jackets won the faceoff, and were able to set up shop. Moving the puck high on the blue line, James Wisniewski fed it to Marian Gabroik on the left half-wall. Gabby sent it back to Wiz, who in one quick motion reversed it to the other side where Jack Johnson was waiting all alone to unleash a laser one-timer that beat Rask clean to the glove side.
1-0 Jackets - Jack Johnson (2nd) at 18:52, from James Wisniewski and Marian Gaborik - PPG
The fans got into it, and a turnover generated by the Nick Foligno / Ryan Johansen / R.J. Umberger line gave Columbus a nice push as they were able to keep the puck deep. Despite being outshot 7-4, Columbus took the lead into the dressing room.
End of First Period - 1-0 Jackets
The second period would afford both teams a little more offensive breathing room. Both teams would light up the shots stat line, combining for 29 shots. Special teams would loom large as well on both sides.
Early on, it was Boston taking total control of the game. Their top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Iginla would almost net an equalizer early, as a point shot rebounded in front of Bobrovsky and Iginla would take a whack at it. Bob was able to freeze the puck.
The Bruins launched the first five shots of the period, routinely pinning Columbus deep and forcing turnovers and shoddy clear attempts. The Jackets were scrambling a bit, and Bobrovsky almost single-handedly kept it a 1-0 game for the first five minutes or so. Things turned a bit for Columbus when just after the four minute mark Mark Letestu intercepted a clearing pass and broke in on the left side. He snapped a shot for the far upper corner, but Rask flat-out stoned him with the glove.
The Jackets would be tested again shortly after that, as Jenner would nail Adam McQuaid with a high-stick off a face off, and draw the double-minor. Four minutes? No problem. The Columbus PK was stellar, smothering the Bruins for the first two minutes. And, as the second half of the PK began, Derek MacKenzie was his usual awesome self, tying up Dennis Seidenberg below the Boston goal line and drawing a trip to negate the man advantage.
The teams traded scoring chances throughout, and the Jackets almost got a huge goal at the 13:00 mark as Marian Gaborik would be sprung free down the right side by Brandon Dubinsky. It was the end of a shift, and Gabby was out of gas and had to settle for a shot that Rask was able to save. Off the ensuing faceoff, however, the Jackets were forceful again, with the Foligno-Johansen-Umberger line getting it done and forcing two puck freezes by Rask.
It looked like the Jackets would have another golden chance as Chris Kelly took a hooking penalty at 14:06, but the Bruins would turn the tables. Daniel Paille got behind the defense on a lobbed clear and broke in on Bobrovsky, pushing his slap shot wide. As the penalty ended, Kelly came back onto the ice with fresh legs, the Jackets were sloppy to end the penalty, and Kelly broke in with no one on him and ripped a low shot that beat Bobrovsky to the low glove side.
1-1 tie - Chris Kelly (2nd) at 16:18, from Jarome Iginla and David Krejci - EV
The Jackets came a bit unglued, as Boston surged with the momentum. At a stoppage in the crease, Wisniewski clutched at Jordan Caron, and the latter pulled Wiz out of the crease backward by his sweater. Wiz took exception, and a sucker punch of sorts landed, drawing the 2:00 roughing penalty for Wiz at the 18:35 mark. The Jackets held on for dear life, getting to the dressing room tied.
End of Second Period - 1-1 tie
It wouldn't take the Bruins long to go on top. The Jackets continued a recent, disturbing trend of bad clearing attempts, and lazy, sloppy passes in their own zone. As the final seconds of the Power Play ticked off, Columbus had a scare as Iginla was wide open on the left side, got a pass, and had nothing but net. He had to settle and elevate the puck over a diving David Savard, and Bob was able to recover.
However, off of the ensuing draw, some lazy play out of their own zone would lead to a Jackets turnover, and the Bruins would pounce. Reilly Smith would feed to it Bergeron, who found a streaking and wide open Loui Eriksson (noted Jackets killer) on the right side who backhanded it into the open net.
2-1 Bruins - Loui Eriksson (1st) at 0:49, from Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith - EV
To their credit, the Jackets mounted a counter-offense, but the Bruins' defense was just too good at blocking shots today. And every day, to be fair. Rask made the saves when he had to, earning the #1 Star for the game, but the Jackets just couldn't get enough pucks on him. Columbus spent the third period without the services of Blake Comeau, who received a cut above his ankle from a skate. Todd Richards said he was held out for precaution, and would be seeing a doctor tomorrow.
From the 8:00 mark for about 90 seconds, Columbus looked like they'd get an equalizer. Starting with Derek MacKenzie and the with the line of Jenner, Artem Anisimov, and Letestu, the Jackets were all over the place in the Bruins' zone. At one point, a shot rebounded in the crease and Jenner was inches from his first NHL goal, but was unable to poke it past Rask.
The Jackets survived a scare when Fedor Tyutin was unable to hold the zone and the Bruins' top line of Krejci, Lucic, and Iginla found themselves with a three-on-one with Savard back. After a drop pass to Iginla and a one-timer that Bob stopped, Savard saved the bacon by clearing the crease.
Columbus had one final golden chance, with Anisimov bringing the puck deep on the right side, pulling up, and feeding it perfectly to Gaborik in the slot. Gaby settled and got an open shot on Rask, but it went right into the netminder's chest.
After a stoppage, the puck got deep with Johnson and Lucic going back for it and the Columbus net empty. Johnson couldn't find the puck, and Lucic was on the spot to poke it into the empty net to seal it.
3-1 Bruins - Milan Lucic (2nd) at 19:27, from Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuck - EV/EN
Final Score - 3-1 Bruins
- Derek MacKenzie and Brandon Dubinsky - These guys anchored a great penalty kill, and were both forechecking machines all afternoon.
- Tuukka Rask - Have to give him credit. He was good when he had to be, including the stone cold robbing of Letestu with the glove early in the second.
- Ryan Murray - He grows on me every game. He doesn't look out of place. He's smooth, he makes good reads, and he's physical enough. He's clearly one of the best defensemen on this team, and his game is as-advertised when he came out in the 2012 draft.
- Boone Jenner - I liked how he handled himself. He got under the Bruins' skin, and was physical all over the place. He also provides more an offensive mindset to go with it than previous guys playing that role may have.
Middle of the Road
- Sergei Bobrovsky - Hard to fault Bob on the Eriksson goal given the brutal turnover, and he was responsible for keeping the Jackets afloat for large periods of time in stopping 34 shots. That said, Todd Richards even noted that Bob would probably like to have both of those goals back, especially that first one. I asked Bob about it in the dressing room, and his response was: "He shot it. It went in." Yep, pretty much.
Bottom of the Barrel
- Jack Johnson - PPG was nice, but he was beaten a lot on defense. The empty netter was a head-slapper, to be sure. He has the offensive skills working, but his defense when he's not with Fedor Tyutin is just not good. Johnson was -3 on the night. Yep.
- James Wisniewski - Wiz had his share of struggles, too, including taking a pretty dumb roughing penalty for cheap-shotting Jordan Caron.
- Dalton Prout - Rough game for Prouter. Just two hits, one giveaway in the stat book (though there was more than one). He was one of the guys who was sloppy at times in the defensive zone.
The Jackets have some questions on defense right now, and there aren't going to be any easy answers. Columbus is back at it on Tuesday in Detroit.