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Predators 3, Bruins 2 (SO)

Point well taken, but Bruins misfire in Nashville shootout

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / February 15, 2009
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NASHVILLE - Gaining one point in a 3-2 overtime loss to a team currently out of the playoff chase in the Western Conference?

Certainly better than zero points, which is the way things were looking for much of the night.

The Bruins appeared to be headed for a season-high third consecutive regulation setback last night before 17,113 at the Sommet Center. They were giving up scores of scoring chances in a wide-open first period. They were down by two goals in the second period. They had to pull Manny Fernandez with 1:39 remaining to try to tie the game.

That they scratched out a point during a time when their game isn't at its peak level is quite precious for a team's mental well-being.

"You don't like to lose. Ever," said Blake Wheeler, who halved Nashville's 2-0 lead in the second period. "But we were down a goal with not much time left on the clock. To fight back, battle back, and get a point out of it is definitely encouraging. There's never really any moral victories. But it's better than coming up empty-handed."

Wheeler was the only Bruin to beat goalie Pekka Rinne (23 saves) during the shootout. Patrice Bergeron, P.J. Axelsson, and Phil Kessel missed their chances. At the other end, forwards Martin Erat and David Legwand roofed shots over Fernandez (29 saves) to give the Predators the two-point decision.

At 13:25 of the second period, just 61 seconds after Legwand scored his second goal (a shorthanded strike after tipping forward Jordin Tootoo's long-distance slapper past Fernandez in the first period), Wheeler put the Bruins on the board. After Vladimir Sobotka started the cycle, the winger fed David Krejci in the slot. The center broke his stick on a one-timer, but Wheeler was in the slot to tuck the rebound past Rinne.

"I think it gives our team a sigh of relief," said Wheeler. "We hadn't scored for 4 1/2 periods. So it definitely helps to put one in the net and get the sense that we can do it again. It just gives everybody more confidence, and we picked up our game from there."

The Bruins tied the score late in the third period with Fernandez pulled for an extra skater. Nashville's Jerred Smithson won a defensive-zone draw against Marc Savard, and defenseman Ryan Suter tried to clear the zone. But Dennis Wideman lifted his stick and got a piece of Suter's clearing attempt to keep the puck in the zone.

Zdeno Chara, playing forward during the six-on-five situation, clashed with Shea Weber down low and won the puck battle against the Nashville defenseman. Chara gave the puck to Bergeron, then went straight toward the crease. Bergeron curled behind the net, cut one way, read that Weber had closed off the lane, then darted in the other direction.

"Z gave it to me, then went to the front," Bergeron said. "I knew he was going to be there, so I was trying to get an opening. They were all collapsing and it was hard to find the spot. I looked one way and saw Weber was there, so I couldn't get there."

Once Bergeron found the correct lane, he dished the puck out front for his captain. The biggest man in league history fought off his checkers, took one whack at the puck, then followed up his first shot to jam it past Rinne at 18:44.

"I'm just very proud of the team that we battled until the end and got a point," said Chara.

Bergeron's clever read-and-feed play was the latest in a series of indications that the center is reclaiming his game. Bergeron (18:54, 3 shots, 3 hits, 3 takeaways, 11 of 19 on the draw) put together his third straight solid performance, combining all the things that made him a point-per-game player before his Grade 3 concussion. Bergeron was strong on the puck. He threw his body around, dumping Suter and forward J.P. Dumont on the same shift. His positioning was good. He was creative offensively.

"He's a guy who's certainly working his way up and getting better every game," said coach Claude Julien. "I think that's a real positive thing for our hockey club. Game after game, he seems to be having a bigger and better impact."

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