COLUMBUS, Ohio — Now that the rust has been knocked off, the Columbus Blue Jackets will try to even their second-round series with the Boston Bruins.
Columbus had eight days off between sweeping Tampa Bay in the first round and opening the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Bruins on Saturday (8 p.m. EDT, NBC). And the Blue Jackets acknowledge that showed in the early going of the 3-2 overtime loss Thursday.
Boston, on the other hand, had just one day off after beating Toronto in Game 7 of their series, and the Bruins carried in the momentum.
“I thought we were clearly the better team in the first period,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “The residual effect of the emotional win in Game 7. (Columbus) had time off. That can go either way. Usually, it’s hard to find your game when you have that much time off, the intensity level. I believe it’ll help them in the long run, obviously, with the rest.”
The Blue Jackets tried everything they could to stay sharp while waiting for the Boston-Toronto series to play out. Tough practices. A full scrimmage at Nationwide Arena on Monday with around 5,500 people in the stands.
They still had trouble keeping up with Boston in the first period, though goalie Sergei Bobrovsky kept them in the game with some terrific saves. With the Bruins up 1-0, Columbus got two quick goals in the third period, but Boston’s Charlie Coyle scored the tying goal late and the decider in extra time.
“You saw our struggles in the first,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “We couldn’t handle the tempo of the game, or we just weren’t thinking quick enough. I don’t know how you can get that (with so much time off). We just couldn’t simulate that as far as trying to get ready, and you’ve got that team coming on a high, but I think we slowly got about our business and found our game. We’ve just got to be ready to start the next game.”
Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask, who had 20 saves, said the Bruins were still flying from the Toronto series.
“We definitely didn’t want them to get the better of us in the first period,” he said. “So we pushed and we brought the same emotion from Game 7, and I think we never stopped. We were the better team today so now it’s just a matter of realizing that we need to bring that same energy every night.”
Boston centre David Krejci left after being hurt in the third period and didn’t return. The team said Friday he is day to day.
Dallas @ St. Louis
(3 p.m. EDT, NBC)
The Dallas Stars created a load of offence against the St. Louis Blues, but they’ll need to get more pucks past Jordan Binnington if they hope to even the second-round series.
The Stars lost 3-2 to the Blues on Thursday, despite coming out on top in shots on goal (29-20) and overall shot chances (59-41).
Dallas coach Jim Montgomery couldn’t find too much to complain about.
“I thought we were in place to get second shots,” he said. “I thought we had traffic in front of Binnington. I didn’t think it was an easy night for him. So there’s a lot of our game I liked. And there’s areas we have to get better at. The physicality and the intensity of the game probably wasn’t what we were doing against Nashville, and (those are) areas we need to get better at.”
Dallas beat Nashville in six games in the first round.
“Back and forth all night,” Dallas goaltender Ben Bishop said. “I think it’s going to be a lot like that the rest of the way. I think both teams like to play a strong team game, and it’s going to come down to who can capitalize on their chances and who can make the big saves, and tonight that didn’t happen (for us). That’s one game, and we’ll get ready for Game 2.”
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Follow Mitch Stacy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mitchstacy
Mitch Stacy, The Associated Press