Confidence boost for Johnson & Bruins

Confidence boost for Johnson & Bruins
January 17, 2014, 1:15 am
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Chad Johnson is checked on after he took a stick in the eye from teammate Zdeno Chara.

(USA Today Sports Images)

DALLAS – If there was one thing that Chad Johnson needed in his start Thursday against the Dallas Stars, it was a confidence-builder for a goaltender that didn’t have much headed into the contest. Johnson hadn’t started in nearly a month dating to a Dec. 19 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, and he’d allowed a few goals of the leaky variety.

The wraparounds, in particular, had betrayed a tendency for the lanky Johnson to take a little too long pushing from post to post to shut off the quick scoring bids. He’s also watched Niklas Svedberg get called up from the AHL and start one of the games that would have likely been earmarked for him if not for the B’s Swedish goaltending prospect.

Still, there was none of the leakiness or soft goals against the Stars. Johnson stopped 32 pucks en route to a 4-2 victory over Dallas at the American Airlines Center.

“He was good tonight. I thought he played a really solid game, and was square to the puck all night long,” said Claude Julien. “It was a good outing for him.”

Neither of the goals scored by Dallas were cheapies, either. The first was a fortunate bounce of a Tyler Seguin tester from the outside of the left face-off circle that bounced of Erik Cole’s stick with his back to the play, and then ricocheted right on past Johnson for a power play goal.

A Bruins defensive breakdown late in the third period left Jamie Benn all alone at the doorstep to deposit a loose puck past Johnson. But both came with the Bruins comfortably in control of the game, and Johnson unwilling to give up Boston’s advantage. It was apparent early that Johnson’s glove hand was quick and unerring, and he was also tracking the puck well through a decent amount of traffic Dallas was throwing at the front of the net.

Perhaps most impressive of all was a scary second-period incident where the blade of Zdeno Chara’s stick got caught in the left eye hole of Johnson’s mask during a scramble in front of the Boston net. The stick blade opened a cut under Johnson’s eye, and knocked the contact lens out of his left eye. Johnson ended up playing the remainder of the second period while missing the lens altogether.

“It was such a quick play. I could feel the blade hit my cheek and then come up and clip my eyelid,” said Johnson. “My contact fell out. It kind of startles you. You don’t expect a blade to be able to get into your cage.”

The solid effort leaves Johnson with a 2.20 goals-against average and .918 save percentage, both decent numbers that rank distantly behind the 7-3-0 record he’s been able to build as Boston’s backup netminder. The effort also allowed Tuukka Rask to take a much-needed mental and physical well-being break after the draining dog days of the NHL season had begun to take some of the luster off his game.