BOSTON — Stuck in a four-game losing streak, the Columbus Blue Jackets rested their All-Star goalie and let backup Curtis McElhinney have another shot at the Boston Bruins.
McElhinney answered with 34 saves as Columbus ended its own skid and stopped Boston’s five-game winning streak with a 3-1 victory over the Bruins on Saturday night.
“It feels good. Obviously, you want to be the catalyst that comes in and responds to a situation and I felt like I gave the guys an opportunity to win tonight,” said McElhinney, who was also in net for the Blue Jackets in a 6-2 rout of the Bruins on Dec. 27 in Columbus.
Boston hadn’t lost a game in regulation since, going 9-0-3 and winning five straight until stalling Saturday night at home.
Matt Calvert scored the go-ahead goal with 3:03 left in the third and added an empty-netter in the final minute as Columbus responded from a 2-1 loss at the New York Rangers the night before by finishing strong in Boston.
“It was nice to see them get that second one there to put us ahead and, obviously, the third gave us the distance,” said McElhinney, who got the start as Sergei Bobrovsky rested in the second night of the back-to-back games.
Ryan Johansen had a goal and an assist for the Blue Jackets, extending his point streak to 13 straight games, and Calvert battled through a stomach bug while ending an eight-game stretch without a goal.
Despite the illness and a shot to the head in the second period, Columbus coach Todd Richards said Calvert never stopped hustling.
“That’s what you want to see from the guys that are working,” Richards said.
McElhinney didn’t allow anything past him after Carl Soderberg’s goal 11:34 into the first period tied the game at 1.
The tie stood as McElhinney and Boston goalie Tuukka Rask exchanged saves through the second and third periods until Calvert broke the stalemate by backhanding in a rebound off a slap shot by Brandon Dubinsky. Dubinsky got the Bruins to bite on a fake and had a full windup for a shot that got through Rask’s pads and hovered just outside the goal line before Calvert got his stick on it.
Boston pulled Rask for the extra skater and Calvert capitalized with a shot from just inside the center line with 38 seconds remaining.
Rask, who finished with 28 saves, was still fuming over Calvert’s first goal and stormed straight to the tunnel after the final buzzer. Boston had allowed just six goals during the five-game streak.
“It was night and day from the past whatever games we played well,” Rask said. “We started a little slow and then we gained our game in the first period. Then, the second and third we were just back to the old habits.”
Johansen gave Columbus a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal 7:57 into the first period, extending his franchise-record points streak to 13 straight games.
Soderberg tied it 11:34 into the first on a one-timer off a pass from Loui Eriksson.
McElhinney buckled down from there and also survived taking a direct hit to the head on a slap shot by Zdeno Chara.
“It felt good because it didn’t go in,” McElhinney said. “That’s always a start with his shot. Big guy, big shot.”
NOTES: The Bruins issued a statement from club president Cam Neely on the death of longtime radio broadcaster Bob Williams, who died Thursday at age 85. “For a generation of New England hockey fans, Bob’s legendary voice was synonymous with the Bruins and he will always be a part of our club’s history,” Neely said. … Boston LW Brad Marchand served the first of a two-game suspension for slew-footing Derick Brassard of the New York Rangers on Thursday. … Johansen’s goal in the first period was his 17th of the season. Jack Johnson and Scott Hartnell both picked up assists — also the 17th for both. … Boston was trying for its first six-game winning streak of the season. … McElhinney started for All-Star Sergei Bobvrosky, who lost his last four starts.