Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe

Change is bad for Bruins

Lapse in overtime proves to be costly

Paul Mara and Columbus's Nikolai Zherdev fight for the puck along the boards during the second period. (PAUL VERNON/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Just minutes after the Blue Jackets had scored a six-on-three third-period goal to wipe out a 4-3 Bruins lead, Tim Thomas spotted the beginning of the end in overtime.

In front of the Boston bench, his teammates had started to make a change.

But as they headed off and reinforcements started to roll over the boards, the puck squirted out of the scrum and onto the stick of Columbus forward David Vyborny.

"I saw a couple guys go in and change, and that's right when the puck popped loose," said Thomas. "I was like, 'Oh no.' "

Thomas went into shootout mode, in which he's stopped 16 of 20 shots and guided the Bruins to four victories. He squared up to Vyborny, trying to make himself as big as possible.

But Vyborny, Columbus's leading scorer, flipped a backhander past Thomas with 1:54 left in overtime for his ninth goal and 33d point of the season, giving the Blue Jackets a 5-4 victory and prompting Thomas to smack his stick against the post as he skated off the ice.

"We outplayed them for two periods," said Thomas, who earlier in the day had been named the NHL's first star for his three wins last week. "We had the momentum and had them back on their heels. But we couldn't keep the pedal to the metal."

The Boston winning streak ended at three, but coach Dave Lewis was happy to escape Nationwide Arena and its 17,376 fans with a 1-point result.

"It's hard to win," said Lewis, whose club has three more games on this road trip. "It's hard to win on the road."

It's especially challenging when you lose your top two defensemen to penalties late in the game. At 18:24 of the third period, with the Bruins leading, 4-3, Brad Stuart was called for tripping when he appeared to nick forward Nikolai Zherdev, who was steaming into the Boston zone and lost an edge. As he skated to the penalty box, Stuart voiced his displeasure at the call.

"I'm not going to comment on the call," said Stuart. "You can read between the lines of that, but I'm not going to say anything about it. It's pretty typical. What can you do?"

Fifty seconds later, Zdeno Chara joined Stuart in the box. With 45.6 seconds remaining in regulation, Chara was whistled for hooking when he got a hold of Rick Nash as the forward skated out of the right corner.

Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock pulled goalie Fredrik Norrena, giving the Jackets a six-on-three advantage. As Wayne Primeau, Patrice Bergeron, and Andrew Alberts tried desperately to kill off the penalties, Columbus scored the equalizer with 22.9 ticks remaining.

Vyborny, drawing traffic at the left circle, saw forward Sergei Fedorov standing unmarked at the right circle. Thomas, screened by a traffic jam, didn't know where the puck was going -- to the slot, to the point, or to the other circle.

So with Thomas virtually blind, Vyborny sent a cross-ice pass to Fedorov, who had a wide-open net. Fedorov didn't miss with a one-timer that eluded the grasp of a diving Thomas (37 saves), tying the game at 4-4.

"Rarely can you kill a six-on-three with the kind of time that was left," said Lewis, whose penalty killers had been perfect the last two games.

In the third period, the Bruins had a sparkling opportunity to claim a 5-3 advantage. Bergeron, who had a goal and an assist to extend his point-scoring streak to nine games (5-11--16), intercepted a pass by defenseman Adam Foote and fed the puck to Marco Sturm for a clean breakaway.

The left wing, who had been questionable because of a lower-body injury, zoomed away in hopes of scoring his 11th goal of the season. But Norrena, coming out of his crease, dropped to his left side, throwing his stick toward Sturm to poke-check the puck away. Sturm eluded Norrena's stick but stuffed a forehander directly into the netminder's pads.

It was the only bona fide scoring chance the Bruins would have the rest of the night. They were outshot, 24-4, in the third period and overtime.

"We didn't play good enough in the last period," said P.J. Axelsson. "We were good for two periods. In the last period, we backed off too much and they came after us. That's what happens when you back off too much."

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives