Blues trump Bruins for second time this season
The Ducks and Blackhawks have received all of the attention in the Western Conference, but for the second time this season, the Blues showed the Bruins why they are on the short list of serious Cup contenders in the NHL. St. Louis (38-12-6) went up, 2-0, blew that lead in the third period to Boston (36-16-4), but erased that bad taste with T.J. Oshie’s overtime goal. The Blues beat the Bruins, 3-2, at Scottrade Center Thursday, this on the heels of their 3-2 shootout victory at TD Garden on Nov. 21.
Alexander Steen opened the scoring with his 28th goal of the season (fourth best in the NHL) late in the first period. St. Louis was 31-1-4 this season when they scored first. Promising youngster Jaden Schwartz made it 2-0 with a shot through traffic by Tuukka Rask (24 saves). Boston had been 0-14 this season when it trailed by 2-plus goals. The Bruins were down 2-0 after two periods despite outshooting the Blues, 24-18, in the game and 13-9 in the second.
Jaroslav Halak (36 saves) has been shaky this season holding leads in third periods and Boston put all the pressure on him when David Krejci cut it to 2-1 midway through the third. A little more than two minutes later, Brad Marchand tied it after a juicy rebound by Halak. The Bruins had been 4-0 in overtime this season (the last unbeaten team) but Oshie took advantage of a turnover by Carl Soderberg behind Boston’s net to jam it in.
The final game for the Bruins before the Olympic break is Saturday (3 p.m., NESN) at TD Garden vs. Ottawa (26-21-11). Going into two and a half weeks off, Boston will be up at least five points on second place Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division and as much as nine points.
What they’ll be saying: The Blues are remarkably similar to the Bruins: big, deep and sound defensively. The main difference lies in goal where Rask is superior to Halak even though he lost both head-to-head matchups. The only way they could meet again is in the Stanley Cup Final, keep in mind this win improved St. Louis’ record vs. Eastern Conference teams to 18-4-2.
I try to avoid complaining about the referees but two things that went against Boston Thursday were tough to accept. In the first period, Loui Eriksson took a high stick to the mouth that caused him to bleed and go to the dressing room for stitches. That should have been a four-minute power play for the Bruins. In the second period, when the Blues led 2-0 Halak was handcuffed by the puck and couldn’t cover it up yet the refs whistled the play dead for a face-off.
This was the first of two games that the Bruins will play without the services of irreplaceable defenseman Zdeno Chara. It was a major test for Johnny Boychuk (298 career NHL games) and the five other defensemen (who combined for 230 games), though you have to say that they were fine for the most part. Granted that Kevan Miller and David Warsofsky were both minus-2, but Torey Krug had an assist.
Bruins head coach Claude Julien and Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock are both assistants on Team Canada so you can bet this game will come up during their down time in Russia in the next few weeks.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate