Bruins try to ruin Columbus streak, go unbeaten vs. Jackets (Dec 27, 2016)

BY AP • December 26, 2016

The Columbus Blue Jackets have handled some of the league's best teams with ease as they've climbed to the top of the NHL standings.

They just haven't found a way to solve the Boston Bruins.

Columbus comes out of the Christmas break looking to extend the longest winning streak in franchise history and claim its first victory in three tries over Boston on Tuesday night when the teams meet for the final time in the regular season.

Victories in 12 straight games placed Columbus (23-5-4) into first place overall, one point ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks, heading into the break. The Blue Jackets haven't lost since falling to the Florida Panthers in a shootout on Nov. 26 and have outscored the opposition 46-18 during their winning streak.

But the team hasn't had an answer for Boston (18-14-4), currently third in the Atlantic Division.

In the season opener on Oct. 13 at Nationwide Arena, Columbus squandered a pair of two-goal leads in a 6-3 loss. On Nov. 10 in Boston, the Blue Jackets' Sergei Bobrovsky surrendered four goals in a 4:01 span of the first period of a 5-2 setback.

Bobrovsky was replaced less than 13 minutes into that game and dropped to 6-4-1 despite having a pretty solid 2.16 goals-against average with three shutouts. In 17 games after his last appearance against Boston, Bobrovsky has gone 15-1-1 with a 1.70 GAA, allowing two goals or less 14 times.

He made 36 saves as Columbus improved to 13-3-1 at home with a 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night. Sam Gagner and Brandon Saad each had a goal and Nick Foligno drew two assists.

"The fans got us going a little bit," Foligno told the league's official website. "When you have a jam-packed arena behind you like that, it's such a good relationship we're building with our fans again. It's been a long time coming."

Cam Atkinson, the Blue Jackets' top scorer with 35 points, has seven of his team-high 15 goals and eight assists during the winning streak. He needs one assist for 100 in his NHL career.

During the streak, Gagner has also seven goals, four on the power play, along with seven assists. Saad also scored seven times with four assists.

But those three players have been absent when playing Boston. In the two games, Atkinson and Gagner have each scored one goal, and Saad drew a single assist.

Foligno and Alexander Wennberg have carried Columbus' offense, each posting three points (goal, two assists).

The Bruins have split the first two games of a four-game road trip and has alternated losses and wins in their last five outings.

" ... They've got to be ready to get back to work, and our next game's not going to get any easier," Boston coach Claude Julien told the league's official website after Thursday's 3-2 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. "So we have to be ready for that and a good challenge in the second part of the season."

Against the Blue Jackets, the Bruins have been powered by David Backes, who has three goals and two assists in two games. However, the longtime right winger has largely been invisible in his first season with Boston. Against all other opponents, the 11th-year pro and former St. Louis Blues captain has five goals and seven assists in 29 games.

Brad Marchand has five points (two goals, three assists) against the Blue Jackets, and David Pastrnak has chipped in with four points (two goals, two assists).

Marchand leads the team with 19 assists and 29 points, and Pastrnak is the top goal-scorer with 19. He also has 26 points, leaving him one shy of tying his career high set in 46 games as a rookie in 2014-15.

Goaltender Tuukka Rask has gotten both wins against Columbus this season, improving his record against the Blue Jackets to 7-2-0 with a 1.99 GAA and a shutout. Rask has also won all four career starts in Columbus, stopping 116 of 123 shots.

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