Joonas Korpisalo’s improvement has the Columbus Blue Jackets playing some of their best hockey of the season.
The rookie goaltender faces one of his toughest tests yet Tuesday night, as he’ll attempt to slow down the NHL’s hottest scorer and a Boston Bruins team that’s rolling offensively.
Columbus (23-28-6) has offered some encouragement to an overall disappointing season by going 4-0-1 since Feb. 4 and winning six of its last eight. Korpisalo has played a key role in the surge by stabilizing a position placed in disarray by injuries to Sergei Bobrovsky and Curtis McElhinney.
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The 21-year-old is 8-1-2 with a 1.94 goals-against average while starting 11 of the team’s last 13 games. He’s yielded two or less goals in nine of his starts during the stretch, including Saturday’s 33-save effort in a 4-2 win over Ottawa.
Korpisalo had 32 saves on Jan. 23 in a 3-2 shootout loss at Boston, third in the NHL with 168 goals. Brad Marchand scored in that contest, one of 13 goals the Bruins wing has produced during a career-best 13-game tear since Jan. 16.
Marchand has a goal in 12 of the last 13 games and seven straight, two shy of Hall of Famer Phil Esposito’s team record set in 1970-71. He wasted no time extending the streak, scoring eight seconds into Sunday’s matchup at Detroit for the fastest goal in franchise history.
The Bruins (30-20-6) have 15 goals through the first three of a season-high six-game trip despite a power play that’s 0 for 11 and playing the last two without All-Star center Patrice Bergeron, out with an undisclosed injury sustained during Thursday’s 6-2 rout of Winnipeg.
Boston also has been giving up goals in bunches of late, permitting 19 over its last four. Tuukka Rask was pulled for the second time in three starts after surrendering five on 24 shots midway through Sunday’s wild 6-5 loss to the Red Wings.
The Bruins blew an early 3-1 lead as Detroit recorded four consecutive goals, but rallied to tie it at 5-all early in the third before ultimately having their six-game road winning streak halted.
"I think we ran out of gas a little bit at the end," coach Claude Julien said. "We had some players that have played hard here the last two games and this was a tough one for them to try and get that same energy we had."
Rask, who allowed five goals on 32 chances in 32:29 of a 9-2 loss to Los Angeles last Tuesday, does own a 1.75 GAA in winning three of five starts against Columbus. He’s also been better on the road, having amassed an 11-4-2 record and a 2.09 GAA in 18 starts compared to a 3.08 mark at home.
Boston is 18-6-3 as the visitor, second only to Washington in road winning percentage, and had won four straight in Columbus prior to a 6-2 loss on Dec. 27, 2014.
The Blue Jackets have won three of four in Columbus and moved to 2-0-1 on a five-game homestand behind Boone Jenner’s two goals and Korpisalo’s solid performance against Ottawa.
”We’re getting that feeling, excitement back in our game,” forward Brandon Saad said. ”Anytime you string some wins together and the streak we have with forcing games to overtime and bouncing back like we do, it’s exciting for the team. We’re feeling good about ourselves.”
Saad, Columbus’ leader with 21 goals, has scored in two straight and has five in his last eight.