Erik Haula scores twice to help Boston outlast Columbus.
Boston, MA – The Columbus Blue Jackets took advantage of a minute-and-a-half of shaky play by Boston Bruins netminder Jeremy Swayman, coupled with a forty save performance from their goalie Elvis Merzlikins, to hang around the TD Garden longer than they should have. In the third period, Erik Haula‘s second goal of the game and a pair of empty-net goals gave the Bruins the push they needed to close out the Blue Jackets. Boston earned two points in the Eastern Conference standings to keep pace with the Toronto Maple Leafs and gain a point on the Tampa Bay Lightning.
On a night when the Bruins and Blue Jackets were honoring Boston forward Nick Foligno‘s 1,000th game, which came March 15, 2022, in Chicago against the Black Hawks, the pesky Columbus squad turned in a solid effort against their former captain. Fortunately for Foligno and Boston, it wasn’t enough to overcome the Bruins’ power-play, which took advantage of their lone opportunity late in the third.
“We got back to playing the way we were supposed to,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy of their third-period performance. “Patient, responsible hockey, attack when the situation dictates, play behind their D, and create turnovers on the forecheck.”
“I thought we were doing that in spurts in the first and second periods, that’s how we were creating a lot of offense tonight, by pressuring their D,” added Cassidy. “Their goalie was seeing the puck well, so we needed some second and third effort around the net to get it by him.”
Haula continued his scoring ways when he banged in a loose puck during a scrum in the Columbus crease. Hampus Lindholm carried around the Blue Jackets net where he dished to a charging Charlie McAvoy. Merzlikins made a leg save on McAvoy’s backhander while laying on his stomach, but Taylor Hall knocked the puck to the opposite post, where Haula tapped it in for his 11th.
— PuckingOff™ (Jason Scales) (@PuckingOff) April 2, 2022
The Blue Jackets tied the game with 28 seconds left in the opening period when Gustav Nyquist crashed the Bruins’ net and knocked in a loose puck after Swayman (22 saves) couldn’t hold onto an Andrew Peeke shot from the blue line. Nyquist’s goal was his 17th.
Columbus pulled ahead only forty-two seconds into the middle frame when Justin Danforth knocked in a rebound at the top of the crease. Swayman made the initial stop on Yegor Chinakhov‘s shot from the goal line, but Danforth was there to swat in the puck. Chinakhov and Sean Kuraly assisted on Danforth’s seventh.
Brad Marchand tied the game for Boston with his 31st late in the period when he finished off some nifty passing with line-mates Patrice Bergeron and Jake DeBrusk at the left post. The Bruins had solid pressure in the Blue Jackets zone thanks to McAvoy keeping the play alive at the blue line before Boston equalized at 18:13.
McAvoy raced to keep the puck in at the boards in front of the Bruins bench before firing it back into the zone where Marchand picked it up behind the Blue Jackets’ goal. Marchand dished to Bergeron for the one-timer that Merzlikins turned away, but again, McAvoy skated in and harassed Patrick Laine into passing straight to DeBrusk. DeBrusk walked out and dished to Bergeron, who faked a shot before sliding a pass to Marchand at the far post for the tap into an empty net.
Peeke drew a Hooking penalty at 14:06 of the third period giving the Bruins their first man-advantage. Columbus almost got away scot-free, but Haula re-directed a Brandon Carlo slap-pass past Merzlikins for the go-ahead goal as the penalty was expiring at 16:06.
Haula’s second of the game, and fifth in the last four games, proved to be the difference. Haula has ten points in the previous six games.
— PuckingOff™ (Jason Scales) (@PuckingOff) April 3, 2022
“It’s awesome when you can help the team win, yeah I’m happy,” said Haula. “I’m having a lot of fun. I feel like the team’s playing really well and it’s obviously helping a lot. I’m just enjoying the ride, trying to do my best to prepare for every game and trying to bring it.”
“I don’t know if it gets to me, but I have moved a lot lately,” Haula said when asked if surviving the trade deadline has helped his recent production. “Maybe there’s a little thought in the back of the head, of the past, you work through that obviously, and it is nice when you know ‘this is our team’ but that’s ultimately out of my control.”
“Now it’s put the foot on the gas and try to do something special here,” added Haula.
The Bruins added a Jake DeBrusk (19) empty-net goal at 18:00 and a Charlie Coyle (15) empty-netter at 19:54 for the icing on the cake.
Boston completes a five-game homestand where they went 4-1 and will face off against the Blue Jackets again on Monday night in Columbus, Ohio, to kick off a four-game road trip.
Erik Haula’s photo appears courtesy of Carolyn Mooney. Follow her on Instagram @caramooneyphoto.