David Backes scored his fourth goal of the season, and his first against his former team, Tuesday against the Blues. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)
At 39, 6-foot-9 captain Zdeno Chara is still every bit as important to the Bruins as he was when he first came to the team 10 years ago. Something the team learned — or better yet, were painfully reminded of — the hard way in a 4-2 Tuesday loss to the Blues at TD Garden.
Up by one through the opening frame behind David Backes’ fourth goal of the season — and his first in as many appearances against his former team — scored on the power play 7:44 into the first period, the Bruins jumped on the Blues in a 20-minute stretch that left the Blues frustrated and with just seven shots on goal.
But when Chara returned to the B’s locker room after just one shift in the second period, a 52-second shift in the opening minute plus, and did not return, the Blues simply exposed the Black and Gold’s massive loss on the backend.
Forward Jori Lehtera was the first to find the back of the net for St. Louis with a brilliant tip-in through Tuukka Rask, and although the Bruins countered with an equally pretty Dominic Moore shorthanded tally midway through the period, the loss of Big Z was exposed in just 2:12.
Robert Bortuzzo’s first goal of the season scored under a sprawling Brandon Carlo brought the Blues and Bruins even at 2-2, and just two shifts later, with Carlo paired with Torey Krug instead of his partner on the Bortuzzo goal (John-Michael Liles), the Blues once again attacked the 19-year-old’s side, with Paul Stastny keeping the puck out of his reach for his fifth goal of the year.
Without Chara, Carlo looked every bit the rookie, and struggled to find his footing — at least in the calming manner B’s fans had become accustomed to during his time with the perennial Norris candidate — and a veteran Blues team made the Bruins pay.
The Bruins found chances, but struggled to get another close to a real quality chance with the exception of a last-minute rebound blast from Ryan Spooner stopped by the Blues’ Jake Allen, and a Lehtera empty-net goal gave this one a 4-2 final.
Here are four other things we learned in the loss
Backes scores 20,000th goal in franchise history
In his first career head-to-head with the Blues, the team he captained for five years and skated for in the first 10 years of his NHL career, it was David Backes that opened up the game’s scoring with a power-play goal good for the organization’s 20,000th goal. With the goal, the Bruins joined the Montreal Canadiens as the only other NHL goal to reach such a milestone.
And Backes is now just a cool 541 goals away from tying Johnny Bucyk for the most in B’s history.
Krejci moves into tie for 15th-most points in team history
The Backes goal was more than just the 20,000th in the 92-year history over the Bruins. Credited with an assist on the goal, David Krejci recorded career point No. 484 and moved into a tie with Don Marcotte for 15th on the club’s all-time scoring list. Krejci, who has spent his entire career with the Bruins, accomplished the feat in just 642 games compared to Marcotte’s 868, and is now just 15 points away from tying Adam Oates for the 14th on the franchise leaderboard.
Torey Krug also picked up an assist on the Backes goal, giving him 100 career assists.
Bruins start strong but ultimately fade as Blues flip script
The Bruins were a straight-up juggernaut in the opening 20 minutes of this contest. With a furious pace that forced the Blues into two penalties against, including one less than a minute into the game, the Bruins frequently hemmed the visitors in their own zone, and intercepted just about every attempted breakout pass or clear out of their end. But when a sluggish second period gave the Blues life and a lead through 40 minutes of play, it was Ken Hitchcock’s team that pressed the Bruins with significant pushback and forced the Bruins into careless own-zone errors.
Spooner moved back to center on all-center third line
After what’s been a few encouraging-but-rather-listless weeks on the wing, Bruins coach Claude Julien demoted Ryan Spooner down to the fourth line in the third period of Saturday’s victory over the Jets. Spooner manned the third-line center spot in an 11-skater practice the next day, and actually stay there for tonight’s head-to-head with the Blues. In between Tim Schaller and Austin Czarnik in a line of all pivots, Spooner put forth another Just OK night and was really outdone by Czarnik in terms of creating opportunities and chances through the middle of the attacking zone.
This has been a year to forget to Spooner, and even a return to a familiar spot, one he recorded 13 goals and 49 points in a season ago, did not come with the results he’s longed for.
The Bruins are back at it with a Thanksgiving night road game against the Ottawa Senators.