Erik Haula opened the night’s scoring and had the eventual game-winning goal late in the third period before the Boston Bruins added a pair of empty net goals in their, 5-2, win against the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday night at TD Garden.
Jeremy Swayman (20-9-3, 2.23 goals-against average, .920 save percentage in 33 games played) made 22 saves on 24 shots against in the win for Boston and became the seventh rookie netminder to amass a 20-win season in a Bruins uniform in his first full season.
Swayman joins Tuukka Rask (22 wins in 2009-10), Andrew Raycroft (29 wins in 2003-04) and Marco Baron (22 wins in 1981-82) as the only rookie goaltenders to do so with the B’s in the NHL’s expansion era (since 1967-68).
Columbus goaltender, Elvis Merzlikins (22-18-5, 3.42 goals-against average, .902 save percentage in 47 games played), stopped 37 out of 40 shots faced in the loss.
The Bruins improved to 43-20-5 (91 points) on the season and remain in 4th place in the Atlantic Division– two points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning (93 points) for 2nd and 3rd in the division, respectively, while maintaining a stronghold on the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference over the Washington Capitals (84 points).
Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets fell to 32-32-5 (69 points) overall and remain in 6th place in the Metropolitan Division.
The B’s are now 2-0-0 against Columbus this season with their final matchup in their 2021-22 regular season series set for Monday night (April 4th) at Nationwide Arena.
The Bruins went 0-1-1 against the Blue Jackets in 2019-20 and did not play each other last season due to the temporarily realigned divisions in the condensed 56-game schedule as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Craig Smith and Nick Foligno returned to action in their regular roles on the third and fourth lines, respectively, as the former missed Thursday night’s, 8-1, win against New Jersey due to a non-COVID related illness and the latter was “day-to-day” with a lower body injury.
As a result, Anton Blidh and Marc McLaughlin joined Jack Studnicka, Josh Brown and Connor Clifton in the press box as Boston’s healthy scratches Saturday night.
Brown, however, left Thursday’s win with an upper body injury and took part in Saturday’s morning skate without issue.
Jakub Zboril remains out of commission for the Bruins until next season as a result of his knee injury and subsequent surgery back in December.
In addition to the return of Smith and Foligno among his forwards, Bruce Cassidy moved Mike Reilly to the right side of the third defensive pairing in place of Brown and inserted Derek Forbort on the left side to start the night.
Columbus, meanwhile, was short behind the bench as head coach, Brad Larsen, is in COVID-19 protocol, so assistant coach, Pascal Vincent, called the shots for the Blue Jackets on Saturday.
B’s defender, Charlie McAvoy skated in his 300th career NHL game Saturday night after Boston and Columbus honored Foligno for having played in his 1,000th career game on March 15th.
Foligno spent parts of nine seasons with the Blue Jackets and served as captain from 2015-21, hence the delay in his special ceremony, in which the Bruins presented him with a fancy watch, fancy wine, a fancy painting and the traditional silver stick.
Late in the opening frame, Taylor Hall worked the puck deep into the offensive zone before sending a pass back to Hampus Lindholm.
Lindholm wrapped around the net and proceeded to feed McAvoy with a pass as McAvoy crashed the slot and sent a shot off of Merzlikins’ pad before the puck trickled through the crease.
Haula (11) was in the right place at the right time on the doorstep to bank the rubber biscuit off of a body and into the twine– giving the Bruins a, 1-0, lead in the process at 15:09 of the first period.
Hall (36) and McAvoy (38) tallied the assists as Boston got on the scoreboard first.
The B’s didn’t have the lead for long, however, as they were caught ion a lapse in the final minute of the first period.
Swayman mishandled a puck that went in and out of his glove before Gustav Nyquist (17) scored on the rebound with 27 seconds left before the first intermission– tying the game, 1-1, as a result.
Cole Sillinger (11) and Andrew Peeke (14) had the assists as Columbus evened things up at 19:32 of the first period.
Entering the first intermission, the Bruins and Blue Jackets were tied, 1-1, despite Boston holding a, 15-5, advantage in shots on goal.
The B’s also led in blocked shots (7-4), hits (10-9) and faceoff win percentage (56-44), while Columbus held the advantage in takeaways (4-0) and giveaways (10-5).
Neither team had yet to appear on the power play heading into the middle frame.
Yegor Chinakhov sent a bad angle shot off the apron of the net before Justin Danforth (7) scored on the rebound while crashing the slot to give the Blue Jackets a, 2-1, lead 42 seconds into the second period.
Chinakhov (7) and Sean Kuraly (14) notched the assists on Danforth’s goal and the Bruins trailed for the majority of the middle frame as a result.
Hall slashed Gavin Bayreuther and presented Columbus with the first power play of the night at 3;27, but the Blue Jackets failed to convert on the skater advantage.
Instead, late in the second period, the Bruins dominated possession in the attacking zone and worked the puck from Jake DeBrusk to Patrice Bergeron for a fake shot turned pass to Brad Marchand, whereby Marchand (31) sent the puck into the twine on a “tic-tac-goal” effort while Merzlikins dove across the crease– paddle first– in desperation.
Bergeron (33) and DeBrusk (13) had the assists as Boston tied things up, 2-2, at 18:13 of the second period.
Through 40 minutes of action, the two teams were tied, 2-2, on the scoreboard despite the Bruins leading in shots on goal, 27-20.
Columbus actually held the advantage in shots on net in the second period alone, 15-12, and led in blocked shots (10-8), takeaways (11-2), giveaways (15-11) and hits (24-18).
Boston, meanwhile, led in faceoff win% (52-48).
The Blue Jackets were 0/1 on the power play heading into the final frame and the Bruins had yet to see any action in the skater advantage.
Not much was happening on the event sheet until after the midpoint of the third period, when, at 14:06, Peeke hooked DeBrusk and yielded a power play to Boston for the first time Saturday night.
With 4:46 remaining in the game, Cassidy used his timeout to rally his skaters on the advantage.
Brandon Carlo sent a wrist shot from the point that Haula (12) redirected over the right pad and under Merzlikins’ blocker to give the Bruins a, 3-2, lead at 16:06 of the third period.
Carlo (9) and Lindholm (20) tallied the assists on Haula’s power-play goal and the B’s never looked back.
With 2:12 remaining, Vincent pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker. It backfired.
Boston had an easy breakout as Marchand flipped a pass to DeBrusk (19) on the opposite side of the ice for a lay-up empty net goal– his fourth goal in as many games– giving the Bruins a, 4-2, lead in the process at 18:00 of the third period.
Marchand (39) and McAvoy (39) had the assists on DeBrusk’s goal.
With 1:47 remaining, Merzlikins vacated the crease once more.
Vincent used his timeout after a stoppage with 1:24 remaining, but the Blue Jackets couldn’t muster anything.
Boston botched a couple of chances at the empty twine at the other end of the rink before Bergeron fed the rubber biscuit to Charlie Coyle (15) for an empty net goal and a three-goal lead at that at 19:54.
Bergeron (34) and Marchand (40) notched the assists and at the final horn the Bruins had won, 5-2, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 42-24– including a, 15-4, advantage in the third period alone.
Boston left their own ice leading in blocked shots (18-12) and faceoff win% (61-39), while Columbus exited TD Garden with the advantage in giveaways (16-14) and hits (33-24).
The Blue Jackets went 0/1 on the power play, while the Bruins went 1/1 on the skater advantage on Saturday night.
Boston improved to 16-3-1 in their last 20 games, as well as 32-7-2 (15-4-1) when scoring the game’s first goal this season.
The B’s are now 13-5-2 (6-3-1 at home) when tied after one period and 11-4-0 (7-1-0 at home) when tied after two periods in 2021-22 as well.
Columbus fell to 15-22-4 (8-14-2 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 17-11-2 (7-5-0 on the road) when tied after the first period and 6-6-1 (2-4-0 on the road) when tied after the second period this season.
The Bruins hit the road next week for four games beginning on Monday in Columbus before swinging through Detroit on Tuesday, Tampa on Friday (April 8th) and Washington, D.C. next Sunday (April 10th).
Boston returns for a three-game homestand on April 12th.
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