COLUMBUS — The steps along the path to a Stanley Cup are filled with pitfalls, setbacks and painful reminders of the past.
That is the prevailing lesson for the Blue Jackets in the Stanley Cup playoffs, which came to another bitter end for them Monday night at Nationwide Arena.
Unable to solve goaltender Tuukka Rask, who made 39 saves, the Jackets lost 3-0 to the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series, unable to force Game 7 in Boston.
Rask was outstanding in the only shutout of the series, and the Bruins got goals from David Krejci, Marcus Johansson and David Backes.
Sergei Bobrovsky made 26 saves for the Blue Jackets, who outshot the Bruins 39-29 but went 0-for-4 on the power play.
The Bruins outshot the Blue Jackets 12-10 in the first period and also dictated play, much like they had the entire series. The Jackets were credited with a 24-8 margin in hits in the opening period, which, if accurate, is a good indicator of which team had the puck more.
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The Bruins played keep away for much of the game’s first 20 minutes and leaned on Rask to stop the Jackets’ counterattacks. The highlight of the period, however, was a pair of goaltender interference penalties.
The first sent Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois to the penalty box at 6:46, which gave Boston the game’s first power play and led right into the second call.
It happened seven seconds after Dubois got out of the penalty box, before Boston’s Sean Kuraly gave the Bruins what appeared to be a 1-0 lead. Kuraly, who’s from Dublin, pumped in a shot from the low slot, but the goal was overturned on a video challenge issued by the Blue Jackets.
The review determined that Bruins forward Joakim Nordstrom had run into Bobrovsky a second prior, pushing him out of the crease and to the ice, negating the goal and firing up the crowd.
Things got wilder in the second, when the Bruins took a 1-0 lead on Krejci’s goal despite the Jackets finally tilting the ice in their favor. The Blue Jackets outshot the Bruins 17-5 in the second, but Rask stopped every shot, clearing the way for Krejci to fire a slap shot past Bobrovsky off a long rebound with 7:47 left in the period.
That would have been the highlight of the second had it not been for an ugly scene in the final seconds of the period. After eluding Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara at the Boston blue line and getting to a loose puck, the Blue Jackets’ Josh Anderson was leveled by Charlie McAvoy, who sent his right shoulder into the forward’s face with an illegal hit.
McAvoy was assessed a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head, which infuriated the Blue Jackets and the crowd when it wasn’t announced as a five-minute major.
The Jackets couldn’t tie the score on the ensuing power play, which included the first 1:40 of a third period the Bruins controlled.
After outshooting the Jackets 2-1 on the carryover power-play time, the Bruins seized full control midway through the third on goals 1:41 apart by Johansson and Backes to give Rask a 3-0 cushion.