Bruins hit the skids in Columbus

The Bruins have suddenly found themselves at a fork in the road. And after their third straight ugly loss, just which way this season is going to go is suddenly debatable.

Losing to the Red Wings at home the day after Thanksgiving could be a forgivable blip. Letting one get away from them against a good Ranger team in Madison Square Garden is at least understandable, if not ideal.

But what happened Monday night in Columbus is downright concerning. The B’s got blown out at Nationwide Arena by a Blue Jackets team that had lost 16 of their first 22 games and, after a 5-2 loss. It was also the first time the B’s had allowed five or more goals since 2012.

Once again, their best players have not played like it. Captain Brad Marchand was minus-3 and David Pastrnak was minus-2.

We’ve seen the B’s play better than this, of course, and logic sas they can pull out of it. But at the moment, they’re a mess.

For the third time in as many games, the B’s allowed the first goal of the game. It initially looked like they were determined not to let that happen again. They owned the first couple of shifts of the game and got the first power play, on which they could not capitalize.

But slowly the strong play slipped away from them. Things opened up for the Blue Jackets when Zach Werenski sprung Johnny Gaudreau for a clean breakaway that Jeremy Swayman stopped. But little by little, the Jackets started to get some chances off the rush, a 3-on-2 here, a 2-on-1 there.

Yet it was a play that should have never resulted in a goal that saw the B’s fall down 1-0 at 15:52. Derek Forbort looked like he had Dmitri Voronkov under his control in the corner, but Voronkov simply beat Forbort in the battle and fired a bad angle shot that beat Swayman to the shortside, one of the very few soft goals we’ve seen this year from the B’s goaltending duo.

Then Bruin bus went into the ditch in the second period.

Swayman had stopped Gaudreau on yet another partial break but Ivan Provorov made it 2-0 at 5:38. Pavel Zacha had broken his stick and, despite the teams being on the long change, he made the decision to go to the bench for a new one, making it a 5-on-4 for a brief time. With Voronkov providing a big screen, Ivan Provorov snapped a wrist shot that Swayman didn’t see until it was too late.

At that point, coach Jim Montgomery decided to pull Swayman for Linus Ullmark. Whether or not it was for a wake-up call, which is what it looked like, it didn’t pay immediate dividends as the Jackets upped their attack, though Ullmark kept the Bruins in it for the time being.

Then the Jackets started pushing around the B’s. After Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak botched a 2-on-0, Columbus goalie Spencer Martin gave Pastrnak a rather cheap slash to the gut. When Pastrnak gave Martin a couple of one-hand pushes, 6-foot-5, 220-pound defenseman Erik Gudbranson came in to push Pastrnak away from his goalie.

After order was restored and play resumed, Voronkov ran Charlie McAvoy into the end boards that shook up the D-man. Voronkov was penalized, but the B’s could do nothing with it.

When the B’s finally got some pressure, it backfired. Matt Grzelcyk mishandled the puck at the blue line and Yegor Chinakhov pounce, going the distance to beat Ullmark on a breakaway at 16:42 to give the Jackets a 3-0 lead they richly deserved.

They outshot the B’s 19-9 in the second period.

The Jackets added a 5-on-3 goal early from Kirill Marchenko in the third period and that was that.

Matt Poitras finally got the B’s on the board with his first goal in 10 games with 11:36 left in regulation.

Montgomery pulled Ullmark for the extra skater with over seven minutes to go, but soon enough Justin Danforth potted the empty-netter. John Beecher added a garbage time goal.

On Thursday, the B’s host the NHL’s worst team in the San Jose Sharks. But with the way B’s have been playing, nothing is guaranteed.

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