With leading edge, Bruins hold off diligent Senators
Perhaps the most disappointing and surprising play from last night's game came in the third period, two minutes after the Bruins claimed a seemingly commanding 4-1 advantage over the Senators.
Mark Recchi, Patrice Bergeron, and Chuck Kobasew, the team's most responsible two-way line, were down low in the offensive zone when defenseman Christoph Schubert won a battle for the puck and started an odd-man rush. At the other end, Schubert sprinted for the slot and parked himself in position to convert a feed from winger Ryan Shannon at 6:52.
Then just more than two minutes later, center Jason Spezza tucked a close-range shot behind Tim Thomas to turn the three-goal spread into a one-goal nail-biter.
"We've got three veteran players caught low between Rex, Kobasew, and Bergy," said coach Claude Julien. "We gave up a three-on-two or a four-on-three and they capitalized on it. Those are the kinds of things where if your third man is high, you're not giving up an outnumbered situation and keeping the game at 4-1. We gave them some momentum, they came back off the draw, had a quick play, and all of a sudden it's 4-3."
Fortunately for the Bruins, they had exploded for three straight first-period goals, which gave them enough of a cushion to withstand the rally and nab a 5-3 win before 17,022 at TD Banknorth Garden.
"Little content, I think," said Mark Stuart of the team's play after taking a pair of three-goal leads. "We played really well in the first half. Maybe a little content after it was 4-1. But we're happy that we got the lead, played well there toward the end, and made some plays."
The Bruins looked like they would run away with a blowout. In the first period, sniper Dany Heatley was staring at an empty net, poised to make it 1-0. But Zdeno Chara reached over and blocked Heatley's shot with the shaft of his stick. Chara shuttled the puck to Bergeron, who spotted Aaron Ward (called for hooking at 1:10) stepping out of the penalty box. Ward took the puck, charged into the offensive zone, and let a slapper fly by former Boston goalie Alex Auld (17 saves) at 3:17 for his first career shorthanded goal.
A similar play took place when P.J. Axelsson (roughing on Ottawa agitator Jarkko Ruutu) finished serving his penalty just in time to come back for a puck off the stick of forward Mike Fisher. Axelsson turned up ice and started a give-and-go with David Krejci, roofing the return pass with a snap shot over Auld at 6:52. The Bruins capped their barrage when Kobasew, standing in front of the Ottawa net, took a pass from Michael Ryder and beat Auld at 10:24.
But if there was complacency, the Bruins picked the wrong opponent to relax against. The Senators entered last night with wins in their last four games. And even after falling behind by three goals halfway through the first period, the new-look Senators - they've been more aggressive up front and deploying their defensemen to jump in the play under new coach Cory Clouston - continued to pressure the Bruins and wear out the slot in front of Thomas.
"I still think we have to be better playing with a lead," Axelsson said. "That's a lot of games now lately where we've stopped playing, and that's not acceptable."
In the first period, the Senators got on the board after Marc Savard turned the puck over in the defensive zone. Thomas (25 saves) stuffed a wraparound attempt by Heatley, but Spezza followed the play and rapped home the rebound at 12:48.
In the third period, once Phil Kessel gave the Bruins a 4-1 lead, Thomas found himself fishing two pucks out of his net in a 2:13 span - two too many.
"They looked a little bit fragile when we scored to make it 4-2," said Clouston.
Clouston pulled Auld for a sixth skater at the end. But Axelsson sent a pass out of his zone that Kessel chased down. Kessel, who injured his left arm in Tuesday's 2-0 loss to Columbus, sprinted past the Ottawa defensemen to tap in an empty-net goal for his team-leading 29th tally.
"We made it 4-1 and that was our goal coming out in the third to extend that lead," Julien said. "Somehow we made some decisions that allowed them to get back in the game. That's probably the only thing we need to notice and rectify and make sure we don't let those types of things happen too often. The rest of the game, I thought, was fairly good."
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.