ST. PAUL, MN The Bruins are officially in a rut that they cant find the escape hatch for.
The Bruins dropped their second game in a row and their third in the last four contests with a sleepy 2-0 defeat at the hands of a desperate Minnesota Wild team at the Xcel Energy Center. Its the fourth time that the Bruins have been shut out in the 10 games since Nathan Horton went down with a mild concussion, and serves as a reminder that the Bs are struggling in just about every imaginable area.
After a competent, scoreless first period things started breaking down for the Black and Gold in the second period. The Wild were able to move the puck through the neutral zone with speed, and Chad Rau went to the net unmolested before looking off Tim Thomas and firing a seed short-side for the games first score.
A borderline tripping call on Chris Kelly later on in the period left the Bruins shorthanded, and Bs killer Matt Cullen made them by on his second-effort wrister after fanning on the first shot attempt.
The Bruins poured it on with22 shot attempts in the final period after being spurred on by a long Shawn Thornton bout with Matt Kassian. But Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom provided the exclamation point when he robbed Milan Lucic at the bottom of the right face-off circle in the final minutes.
GOLD STAR: Shawn Thornton ended with four of his lines nine shots on net and he tangled with 6-foot-5 Matt Kassian in the third period hoping to spark his teammates. He took a couple of big punches early, but got in a few of his damaging shots in the Bs longest bout this season. After the game Thornton was sporting a big red welt on his forehead and was still catching his breath after the exhausting bout, and had emptied the tank trying to inspire his team. Thornton was one of the few Bs players that gave everything they had against the Wild on Sunday.
BLACK EYE: Brad Marchand has three goals, and only eight points, in the 14 games since coming back from a five-game suspension and has been much more tentative with his physical play. Marchand was close to invisible in 19:24 of ice time in a sleepy effort against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday afternoon, and has only one goal in nine games during the month of February. He may have caught some flak for the clipping hit on Alexei Emelin, but playing with the edge is the only way to go for the Bs agitator.
HONORABLE MENTION: Niklas Backstrom made 48 saves and frustrated the Bruins to the point where Milan Lucic twice went on stick-swinging rampages in the third period including smashing his stick to bits on the bench at the end of the third period before throwing it onto the ice as the final buzzer sounded. Backstrom was very good early in shutting down attempts from Daniel Paille and Andrew Ference, and then made 22 saves when it counted in the final period. He didnt look at all like a goalie riding a personal five-game losing streak, so perhaps Tuukka Rask can take heart in the bounce-back effort.
TURNING POINT: The Bruins had a handful of excellent scoring chances early in the contest when it was still up for grabs, but Niklas Backstrom stopped Daniel Paille cold on a couple of quality chances and stopped Andrew Ference on a one-timer during Bostons first period power play. Once the early scoring chances were off the board, the Wild took advantage of the frustrated Bs and rode their two second-period scores to a clean victory.
BY THE NUMBERS: 4 the number of times the Bruins have been shut out in 11 games without Nathan Horton after registering only two shutouts in their first 46 games with the Bs power forward.
QUOTE TO NOTE: Were a better team than we have been when weve been shut out lately. Frustration is something that can drag on for a long time if you let it. Like weve told the guys you can be bitter or better, so lets work on getting better here. Claude Julien on the mindset of the Bs team amid a 17-game stretch of mediocre hockey.