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B’s take loss, but dodge bullet against Blue Jackets

03.10.09 at 9:55 pm ET

Once again an opponent brought their “A” puck game against the Bruins — the team with the best record in the NHL — and the Big, Bad B’s couldn’t quite match up on the road despite a fairly spirited and valiant fight.

Marc Savard exchanged a few clenched-fist shots with Blue Jackets superstar Rich Nash, and Mark Stuart dropped the gloves in a good old-fashioned second period throw down with Columbus enforcer Jaret Stoll, but the Bruins eventually fell to a hot goalie and a motivated Blue Jackets squad by a 2-0 score.

Things could have been worse for a Spoked B squad slowly regaining their playoff mojo, however, as Aaron Ward and Phil Kessel both missed shifts in the second period after suffering injuries that appeared to be serious at first blush. Ward, who gets the “feel no pain” award after bravely standing in the danger zone and blocking a team-high four shots during the loss, took a slap shot off the left knee in the second period that knocked him out for a span of ice time.

Worse still was a sledgehammer hit in the corner on Kessel, who crumpled to the ice clutching and supporting his left arm with an apparent shoulder injury. But the 22-year-old sniper eventually returned to game action in the third period, and assuaged the angst of Bruins fans all over New England holding their breath.

 The pain-inducing hits and aggressive tone of the Blue Jackets — looking to improve their lot in life and current sixth position in the Western Conference standing — got Boston’s attention in short order with the board blasts and an ensuing collision with Jiri Novotny behind the Boston net that knocked off and snapped apart the mask of goaltender Tim Thomas.

The concussion from the hit ripped the neck guard from Thomas’ mask, and the All-Star goaltender instead strapped on the mask of Manny Fernandez for a long portion of the third period. The Mask of Man-Fern, however, is clearly possessed much like the Tiki doll from the Brady Family’s trip to Hawaii. Minutes after Fernandez rushed into the locker and handed over his mask, Thomas surrendered a bad angle goal to Blue Jackets attacker Raffi Torres during a power play shortly after the changing of the masks.

Despite the gauntlet thrown down by Columbus against the B’s, Boston had an even bigger problem that went unsolved for the entire 60 minutes of hockey: rookie goaltender extraordinaire Steve Mason, who earned his club record ninth shutout in the whitewashing of Boston. The Bruins fought through a tight, stout Blue Jackets for a handful of strong offensive opportunities — with Marc Savard and Dennis Wideman leading the way for the Bruins with five shots on net — but they couldn’t beat Mason with anything they tossed at the net.

Injury Ward:Aaron Ward stood in harm’s way and took a slap shot off the left knee in the second period, but returned to action after missing a few shifts. Phil Kessel was crunched in the corner during the second period by Jan Hejda, and staggered off the ice after appearing to suffer a left arm injury. Kessel returned in the third period and didn’t appear any worse for the wear.

Player of the Game: Columbus goaltender Steve Mason stopped 35 shots and was immense between the pipes for the Blue Jackets. He has a league-best nine shutouts and nobody in the NHL is even close to him. That’s got to a be a scary thought for a higher-ranked seed that takes on the Blue Bugs in the playoffs.

Goat Horns: Manny Fernandez’s mask. The Torres game-winner appeared to be a shot that — all things being equal — Thomas the goalie man would have stopped. Instead he wears a clearly jinxed a mask and a wobbly stick-side shot beats a frustrated Thomas during a game where it seemed like one goal would be the difference. The Bruins also really didn’t look all that sharp during the three power play opportunities handed to them on the evening.

 Turning Point:A collision between Columbus center Jiri Novotny and Tim Thomas behind the Boston net results in Thomas’ mask getting blown up and knocked off the goalie’s head. The Bruins staff and all the king’s men attempted to put Thomas’ mask back together again, but the Blue Jackets scored a bit of a strange goal with Thomas wearing the unfamiliar mask of Manny Fernandez. That turned out to be the only difference-maker in a real grudge match of a hockey game.

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