With the National Hockey League’s three-day Holiday Break completed, the Bruins returned to action Tuesday night in Columbus against the Blue Jackets.
After Boston’s morning skate, coach Claude Julien said his team would need to be ready from the opening face off in order to compete with the club that owned the League’s best record. As has been the case too often this season that was easier said than done as his squad fell behind early, battled back before running out of time, resulting in a 4-3 loss to Columbus.
With the victory, Columbus has won 13 consecutive games.
Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 37 Boston shots on the way to his 22nd win of the season.
Forward Scott Hartnell led Columbus with a goal and an assist.
Boston’s David Krejci matched Hartnell’s output with a goal and an assist of his own.
“It was not the way we wanted to come out,” said Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, who made 18 saves in the game. “They took it to us in the first 10 minutes and it looked like it was going to be a long night but you gotta be proud of how we battled back and it’s just too bad we didn’t get any points (in the standings).”
As Rask mentioned, it did not take long for the Blue Jackets to put their offensive firepower on full display, within the game’s first 9:39, Columbus had jumped out to a 3-0 lead on goals by Hartnell, Seth Jones, and Matt Calvert. It looked as if it would be a very long night for the Bruins.
Bruins forward David Backes cut the Blue Jackets’ lead to 3-1 at the 11:05 mark of the first period followed by Austin Czarnik’s fifth goal of the season 12:00 into the period making it a 3-2 game.
The teams would skate into their respective dressing rooms with Columbus holding the lead despite being outshot 13-8.
The second period saw a reversal in styles of play as Boston carried the play throughout the frame.
The Bruins put 18 shots on Bobrovsky but only one made it to the back of the net when David Krejci tied the score at 3-3. He put a rebound over Bobrovsky’s shoulder into the top corner of the net at the 18:26 mark.
Columbus, who had spent most of the second period in its defensive zone, sent eight shots at Rask.
The third period saw more of the same with the Bruins getting the better of the scoring opportunities but Bobrovsky kept the door closed allowing his team to have a chance of winning the contest which is precisely what happened with Bruins defenseman Colin Miller serving a cross-checking penalty, Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno scored what would prove to be the game-winner at 10:46 of the third period.
Boston unleashed nine shots on goal in the final period for a total of 40 shots for the game. Columbus sent 22 shots at Rask.
“After 10 minutes, as a team, we started to win some (puck) battles,” said Krejci. “We were harder on the puck. That’s how we got a couple of the goals. Once we started playing our game, we started to create some scoring chances but the first 10 minutes, we lost too many battles.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien saw the negative in his squad being unprepared at the start of the game but also saw something positive in how his players persevered after finding themselves in a three-goal deficit.
“They (Columbus) came out strong, they came out ready to play, and they put us on our heels early on,” Julien said. “I didn’t think we adjusted well to their pressure and it was just about finding our game and we did eventually. We crawled our way back into the game and, unfortunately, a bad penalty at the wrong time of the game with the best power play in the League ended up costing us.”
“You’d like to see them (Bruins) react a little bit better (to opponent’s fast starts) but for some reason, we weren’t engaged in the game and once they got that jolt (3-0 deficit), it kind of got them going and once they started playing the game, they realized how good they could be against this hockey club (Columbus) but there is still a lot of teaching to be done. (We’ve) got a lot of young guys that have got a lot to learn still and we’ve got to stay with the program and keep working with these guys.”
With the loss, Boston’s record dropped to 18-15-4. They are 3-5-2 in their last 10 games.
The Bruins are 1-1-1 after three games of this four-game road trip. They will finish the trip Thursday evening in Buffalo. That game will mark the first of a home-and-home weekend series with the Sabres. The second game between the clubs is scheduled for New Year’s Eve at TD Garden.
Follow ESPN New Hampshire’s NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.