St. Louis Blues goalie Manny Legace deflects a shot as Boston Bruins' Marco Sturm (16), of Germany, reacts during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 22, 2007, in Boston. St. Louis won 4-1. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole)
Boston, MA -- A tough stretch got tougher today as the Boston Bruins fell to the St. Louis Blues, 4-1, at the TD Banknorth Garden. Lee Stempniak, Brad Boyes, Jamal Mayers and Keith Tkachuk scored for St. Louis, while only Zdeno Chara was able to dent twine for Boston.
"They made us pay for our mistakes," said Boston head coach Claude Julien. "I thought the first half of the game, in the situation that we (have) and the team that we are with the injuries that we have, I thought we were battling.
"But the only thing is that we have to start burying our chances."
Before the game the B's training room resembled a M*A*S*H unit, and even as athletic trainer Don DelNegro continues to do his best "Hawkeye" Pierce impression -- but Boston players keep going down.
Not only does Boston have to contend with the prolonged absence of forward Patrice Bergeron and goalie Manny Fernandez, a nagging injury to Andrew Alberts has hurt the B's defensive corps in the short term. And before today's matinée Boston head coach Claude Julien told the press that they could add Glen Murray (hip) and Aaron Ward (foot) to the list, indefinitely.
"Ward suffered a broken foot (on Friday) in practice, so he's going to be out. (Andrew Alberts) is out (and) Glen Murray is out until after Christmas," he explained, adding that Ward, a much counted-on veteran d-man, would be out at least a week.
All in all, it was not much of a Christmas present for the Hub of Hockey, especially as the powerful St. Louis Blues, including former Bruin Brad Boyes, arrived in town for a pre-holiday tilt. Meanwhile, another homecoming of sorts happened when Shawn Thornton, who had a broken foot of his own, returned to the Bruins lineup for the first time since November 4th.
Despite the plusses and minuses, the puck was dropped, and hockey ensued.
St. Louis Blues' Jamal Mayers (21) takes a shot against Boston Bruins' Dennis Wideman (6) and goalie Tim Thomas during the third period, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2007 in Boston. St. Louis won 4-1. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole)
A nondescript first period remained scoreless until former Dartmouth Big Green forward Lee Stempniak, using a Bruin as a screen, took a pass from former BU standout Keith Tkachuk and whistled a wrist shot toward Boston goalie Tim Thomas, who never saw the puck go by his left shoulder at 11:56.
As they attempted to counter the Blues attack, Boston had several excellent scoring chances, but Blues goalie Manny Legace was up to the task. He stopped all nine Bruins shots and the St. Louis marker was the only scoring play of the first stanza.
At 2:15 p.m. Saturday afternoon, the Garden woke up.
After delivering a big hit on Barrett Jackman, Bruins rookie forward/budding heavyweight Milan Lucic squared off with the St. Louis defenseman. Jackman, who had begged off an earlier attempt by Lucic to have at it (after Jackman cross checked Peter Schaefer), was the aggressor in the rematch and was initially successful, until Lucic freed both arms and used both fists to pound Jackman into submission.
"I've had couple of long fights (in juniors)," said Lucic. "But that was my longest pro fight.
"Jackman didn't like the hit I laid on him…he stuck up for himself.
"You have to have respect for a guy like that," he said.
Both men went to the box for fighting majors at 9:54.
In the second bout of the afternoon Thornton made his return to hockey's pugilistic circuit when he took on Dwayne King over the big spoked-B at center ice. Much like the Lucic bout, the Bruins forward was initially on the defensive, but later defeated the much bigger Blues winger on points.
St. Louis Blues' David Backes (42) and Boston Bruins' Mark Stuart (45) compete during the first period of hockey action Saturday, Dec. 22, 2007, in Boston. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole)
Unfortunately for the now fired-up home crowd, shortly thereafter Boyes completed another outstanding play from Tkachuk when he tucked a puck by Thomas for his 21st goal of the season at 17:40.
Boyes' goal made the scoreboard read 2-0, St. Louis as the clubs headed to the second break.
The score stayed that way until Zdeno Chara scored his fifth of the season at 7:10 of the third.
Boston continued to press, and Thomas continued to give the Bruins hope as the netminder made several saves down the stretch to keep the score status quo. But during 4-on-4 play late in the third period, a miscue in the Blues end led to a breakaway for Jamal Mayers -- the St. Louis forward beat Thomas to make the score 3-1 at 17:02.
With Thomas pulled with less than two minutes remaining the Bruins created several scoring chances, but Legace continued his fine play on the afternoon and kept Boston at bay.
Tkachuk scored into an open net at 19:18 to cap his outstanding afternoon and ice the St. Louis victory, 4-1.
"We had some excellent chances…that could have made the score different," said Julien.
"It's disappointing because we had a good road stretch and we came home and hoped to build on that.
"Again, there are circumstances and situations, but somehow you still have to find a way to get the job done."
That job begins again tomorrow in Pittsburgh.
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