Goalie controversy in Anaheim? Andersen earns the shutout versus Bruins

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — While Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau has gone out of his way to downplay any potential goaltending controversy, the continued outstanding play of Frederik Andersen keeps the questions coming.

Andersen made 38 saves to earn his fifth career shutout in the Ducks’ 4-0 victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night.

Boudreau broke from the usual rotation in goal when John Gibson felt slightly ill before the game. Andersen seized the opportunity, picking up his 15th win in 17 starts to keep the pressure on in their friendly goaltending rivalry heading toward the playoffs.

“It wasn’t supposed to be his start,” Boudreau said. “Some of the 10-bell chances that they had, I’m sure they were shaking their head after he stopped them.”

Andersen punctuated a night of big stops with two emphatic saves in the second period. After Patrice Bergeron plowed into Andersen while firing a one-timer into the Dane’s chest and dislodging the net, Andersen made a backhanded glove save while falling forward to deny Loui Eriksson.

“I just focus on being ready,” Andersen said. “It’s not in my hands. I just play to the best of my capability and everything is going to take care of itself.”

Boudreau doesn’t have to make any decisions right now, but he acknowledged the Ducks could deploy both Gibson and Andersen during the postseason.

“It doesn’t happen too often, but I don’t think too often you have goalies as equal as we have,” Boudreau said.

Instead, Boudreau tinkered with the offense by playing Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf together again. Anaheim got goals from Jamie McGinn, Ryan Kesler, Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell.

Jonas Gustavsson stopped 22 shots for the Bruins, who dropped consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 11-13. With losses in the first two stops of a three-game California road swing, Boston remained three points behind Atlantic Division-leading Florida.

“We didn’t play a bad game,” Boston forward Brad Marchand said. “They got a couple of early ones, and their goalie made a few really big saves at the right time. They’re a big team. When you’ve got that many big guys with that much skill, sometimes it’s tough to take the puck away from them.”

McGinn was credited with Anaheim’s opening goal early in the first period, the beneficiary of effective positioning in front of the net and a couple of lucky bounces. Perry’s shot hit Boston defenseman Adam McQuaid in the leg before redirecting off McGinn and Torey Krug as they wrestled at the top of the crease.

McGinn has four goals in nine games since being traded from Buffalo.

Anaheim added to its advantage 76 seconds later when Kesler put in a rebound off Andrew Cogliano‘s breakaway shot for his 16th goal.

Lindholm scored 58 seconds into the third, capitalizing on Getzlaf’s pinpoint pass after the Anaheim captain ripped the puck away from John-Michael Liles behind the goal. Rakell notched his 19th goal of the season in the closing minutes.

Before heading out on a five-game Canadian road trip, Anaheim cut its deficit to four points behind the Los Angeles Kings for the Pacific Division lead with 12 games remaining.

Anaheim has earned a point in 11 of its last 12 home games. After losing four of their previous five games during their first poor stretch of play since Christmas, the Ducks avoided consecutive home losses in regulation for the first time since Oct. 14-16.

Longtime Ducks forward Matt Beleskey returned to Anaheim for the first time since signing with Boston as a free agent last summer, but barely avoided a serious injury. Beleskey was accidentally hit in the face by Simon Despres‘ stick late in the first period, dropping him to the ice in pain.

Beleskey, who returned to begin the second period wearing a clear visor, was drafted by Anaheim and played seven seasons with the Ducks before joining Boston.

“It was fun. Well, it was fun to come back here,” Beleskey said of his return. “Obviously, the outcome is not what you want, but it was kind of weird sitting on the other bench tonight, but the first one is out of the way, and I’ve got to move on.”

NOTES: Anaheim has won five consecutive games against Boston, including three straight at home. … Boston dropped to 6-3-1 in the first of back-to-back games this season. … Zdeno Chara got into a fight on his 39th birthday. The Boston captain tussled with Clayton Stoner for his first fighting major since the 2013-14 season.

Video: Beleskey takes a stick to the face, later returns for Bruins

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Boston Bruins forward Matt Beleskey took a stick to the face late in the first period, dropping suddenly to the ice and needing help from teammates to get to the bench.

The incident happened right near the penalty boxes, as Beleskey got clipped by the stick of Simon Despres as the Anaheim Ducks defenseman followed through while trying to play the puck.

Good news for the Bruins: Beleskey returned to the game in the second period.

Video: Sharks hold on to defeat Bruins, Brent Burns sets new franchise record

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Brent Burns — and that beard of his — has set a new San Jose Sharks franchise record. And in doing so, he helped his team defeat the Boston Bruins by a final score of 3-2 on Tuesday.

Burns scored the tying goal in the second period and assisted on the eventual winner from Joonas Donskoi in the third, giving the affable Sharks’ defenseman 64 points on the season.

He’s still nine points back of Senators’ blue liner Erik Karlsson, who leads all NHL defensemen with 73 points after a three-point performance and OT winner on Tuesday, as he takes another run at the Norris Trophy.

The loss, combined with a Florida Panthers win over the Montreal Canadiens, puts the Bruins second in the Atlantic Division. Boston nearly tied the game right at the buzzer but Torey Krug was denied by James Reimer on a last-second opportunity off the rush.

The Sharks might have a tougher time trying to win the Pacific Division, especially after the L.A. Kings thoroughly beat Chicago and Dallas on back-to-back nights on the road, sending a statement to the rest of the league, and the Anaheim Ducks have won seven of their last 10 games.

San Jose stays five points back of L.A. for that division.

WATCH LIVE: Bruins at Sharks

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The Boston Bruins look to maintain the top spot in the Atlantic Division, while the San Jose Sharks try to keep pace with Anaheim and L.A. for top spot in the Pacific Division on Tuesday at the SAP Center. You can catch the game on NBCSN (10 p.m. ET), or online using NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Some links to check out for this game:

Corsi aside, the Bruins head to California on a roll

NHL on NBCSN Doubleheader: Red Wings at Flyers; Bruins at Sharks

Corsi aside, the Bruins head to California on a roll

Boston Bruins' Tuukka Rask, right, and David Pastrnak celebrate after the Bruins defeated the New York Islanders 3-1 in an NHL hockey game in Boston, Saturday, March 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
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If Corsi were everything, the Toronto Maple Leafs wouldn’t be dead last in the standings and the Carolina Hurricanes would be Stanley Cup contenders.

Common sense tells us there’s more to the game of hockey than possessing the puck.

That being said, there’s an undeniably strong relation between teams with high puck-possession stats and teams that win more than they lose.

Which is also common sense, since it’s hard to score if you don’t have the puck first. 

So, what to make of the Boston Bruins? The B’s are 18-7-3 in their last 28 games, and they’ve taken over first place in the Atlantic Division. Yet, according to Puck On Net, their score-adjusted Corsi ranks in the bottom third of the league over that stretch.

It may explain why captain Zdeno Chara is happy with the results, but process-wise, he understands his team has room to improve.

“You want to keep getting points,” Chara told CSN New England. “You want to keep climbing up, but I think the main thing was that the focus was not, and still is not, necessarily how many points we’re going to have at the end of the night but what the performance is going to be like. [The focus] is how we’re going to be improving our game and really focusing on our effort and plays away from the puck, you know, along the boards, you know, winning the battles, races and so on. That’s been the main focus for us.”

Not surprisingly, goaltending has been a big key for the Bruins. Tuukka Rask, after a forgettable October and November, has seen his save percentage climb all the way to .919. In the last month and a bit, he’s won games where he’s faced shot totals of 38, 36, 42, 40, and 51.

Now, granted, an early Bruins lead was a factor in a lot of those games. Last Monday in Florida, they were up 4-1 on the Panthers before the contest was 20 minutes old. Naturally, they hung back in the second and third periods, eventually winning, 5-4, in overtime. That was the game Rask faced 51 shots.

Still, there’s a reason people are curious to see how the Bruins will fare in California. They’re at San Jose tonight, Anaheim Friday, and Los Angeles Saturday. In the aforementioned last 28 games, the Sharks, Ducks and Kings are all in the top five in score-adjusted Corsi. They’ve been winning a lot of games, too. 

“Obviously, I’m sure someone’s going to bring it up, but our record against those teams is not the greatest. They’re always tough buildings to play in, and tough games to play against,” said Rask, per CSN New England“We really have to bring our ‘A game’ in order to get some points out of the trip. It’s one of the most important times of the year and probably one of the biggest trips of the year. So we look forward to the challenge.”

Bruins since Jan. 15 (stats per war-on-ice.com)

Record: 18-7-3
5-on-5 shooting percentage: 8.9 (tied for fourth in NHL)
5-on-5 save percentage: .933 (fifth)
PDO: 102.2 (second)

Related: Rask upping his play along with Bruins teammates