Before today's game, Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said he would know fairly quickly if his team was up to the task against the defending Eastern Conference champions.
And early on, the Blue Jackets were executing and doing the things that have made them successful. They forechecked relentlessly, played a clean game inside their own end and didn't gave the Boston Bruins much room to work with. But all it took was one glimmer of light in the third period to get the Bruins going - they needed an inch, got an inch, and ran with it the rest of the way.
Jack Johnson's power play goal late in the first period gave Columbus a 1-0 lead on its third shot of the game, and they looked to have righted themselves after a rocky stretch midway through the frame. The Blue Jackets carried that lead into the first intermission and held it late into the second period, but an opportunistic moment for the Bruins knotted things up after 40 minutes.
The Blue Jackets were unable to capitalize on a power play chance late in the second period, and right out of the box, Chris Kelly made good on his own mistake. He burst through the neutral zone and blasted a slap shot through Sergei Bobrovsky, evening things up 1-1 at 16:18 of the second period. Boston, which found some solid footing in the second period, had the better of play in the middle stanza and had something to feel good about entering the third.
Just 49 seconds into the third, Loui Eriksson notched the game-winning goal (his first as a Bruin) on a bad-angle shot that eluded Bobrovsky. The Blue Jackets, down a goal, were unable to sustain some pressure in the offensive zone but Tuukka Rask was outstanding in net for Boston. He made 26 saves - several of high quality - including a point-bank stop on Gaborik with about five minutes remaining.
Kelly's goal changed the entire vibe of the game, and it was the timing of the goal that was the big key. The Blue Jackets had a couple of close calls on the power play, and the long-range bomb from Kelly gave the Bruins a big jolt. They were a determined group in the third period and able to lock down two points in the process.
1. TUUKKA RASK (BOS)
Rask wasn't as busy as Bobrovsky, but he was very good when called upon and had to hold the Bruins together late in the third period. The Blue Jackets put forth a strong push in the final 12 minutes, but Rask stood tall and made 23 saves in the final 40 minutes.
2. LOUI ERIKSSON (BOS)
Eriksson was the Bruins' best player today and though it took him a while to get on the scoresheet, he was buzzing around the rink right from the start. He finished the day with six shots on goal (a game-high) and was credited with four in the first period alone. His first as a Bruin was the deciding tally today.
3. SERGEI BOBROVSKY (CBJ)
If not for their goaltender, the Blue Jackets may not have had a fighting chance in the third period. The Bruins put a lot of pucks in Bobrovsky's direction throughout the afternoon and had some long shifts in the Columbus end of the rink. Bobrovsky was there to nullify all but two of the Bruins' 36 shots on the day.
WHAT'S ON TAP
AT DETROIT RED WINGS
TUESDAY, 8 P.M.
JOE LOUIS ARENA