The Columbus Blue Jackets finally ended a losing streak, but not before it took them out of serious playoff contention in the Western Conference. The Boston Bruins' current skid has put their top-three spot in the East in jeopardy.
Boston looks to end its longest losing streak of the season Tuesday night when it visits Columbus, winners of the last two meetings in the series.
The Bruins (38-21-9) built a seemingly comfortable Northeast Division lead over second-place Montreal with a seven-game winning streak Feb. 17-March 3. Boston has lost four straight since then, allowing the Canadiens to pull within two points.
Nathan Horton scored for the second straight game and Zdeno Chara netted his 12th of the season Friday to give Boston a 2-0 lead, but the Bruins gave up four unanswered goals from there and fell 4-2 at the New York Islanders.
Chara, playing in his second game since Tuesday's controversial hit that sent Montreal's Max Pacioretty to the hospital with a severe concussion and fractured vertebrae, was booed each time he touched the puck and expects it to continue.
"Fans have the right to express opinions toward different players. It's part of the game, part of hockey," Chara said. "Fans have the right to cheer for the home team and against the visiting."
Boston is trying to avoid losing five straight for the first time since a 10-game skid Jan. 16-Feb. 6, 2010.
"We just have to find our game again," coach Claude Julien said. "We've been off our game. We seem a little out of sync right now."
Tim Thomas made 38 saves Friday, but fell to 0-1-2 with a 3.26 goals-against average in his last three starts as Boston was outshot 41-28. Thomas is 0-1-1 with a 2.95 GAA in two career starts against the Blue Jackets, who are essentially relegated to a spoiler's role -- eight points out of a playoff spot and in 12th place with 14 games remaining.
Columbus (32-27-9) ended a seven-game losing streak Saturday with its first victory in March, a 3-2 triumph at Carolina.
Derek MacKenzie scored twice for the first multi-goal game of his career, and Steve Mason made 29 saves. Mason had given up four goals in each of his previous three starts.
"It's great," Mason said. "You really forget how it feels to win after seven losses in a row."
The Blue Jackets killed all nine penalties, the first time they'd accomplished that feat since Nov. 23, 2007, against Minnesota.
"The penalty kills, especially the 5-on-3s, our guys did a great job of getting in shot lanes," coach Scott Arniel said. "We had a pretty good idea of what they like to do, but at the end of the day, your best penalty killer is your goaltender, and Mason certainly stood tall for us."
Mason is 2-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA in two career starts against Boston, including a 2-0, 35-save shutout March 10, 2009.
Rick Nash scored an empty-net goal in that contest, but he's gone scoreless in his last nine games.
The Bruins haven't beaten the Blue Jackets since Dec. 15, 2007 -- a 2-0 shutout in Boston. They haven't won in Columbus since a 4-0 victory Nov. 14, 2003.
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