|Matt Hunwick has a glassy look as he gets hammered into the boards by the Senators' Jarkko Ruutu. (Associated Press/The Canadian Press)|
Bruins get flattened by Senators
Effort is lethargic in meaningless game
OTTAWA - Some ugly stuff last night in Canada's capital.
A three-on-one shorthanded rush for the Senators in the third period. A man-down Ottawa goal in the first period. Two pucks off posts for the Senators in the opening frame.
But not altogether surprising, considering the Bruins were coming off an Eastern Conference-clinching win. And six straight victories, at that.
"Like a hangover? Probably," Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the 3-2 loss before 19,053 at Scotiabank Place. "The first 10 minutes were a tough 10 minutes for us. We did a lot of good things. But we did a lot of bad things. It was one or the other.
"I didn't find that we were a consistent team tonight. The breakdowns were major. The shorthanded goal, the breakaways. The whole team looked a little bit loose tonight."
But, as expected, there was little panic in the visiting dressing room after the loss, particularly because a game that could have gotten out of hand ended in a one-goal outcome.
"We won six in a row," said Patrice Bergeron. "We knew tonight's effort could have been better. But we can't be concerned about that. We have to stay confident and sharp and bounce back."
There was, after all, a sharp third period from Manny Fernandez. After some tough luck and some porous play in front of him in the first period, Fernandez stayed strong to stop all 14 pucks he saw in the final frame. There were the third-period scoring chances the Bruins had against Alex Auld, only to see the ex-Boston netminder turn aside each of the 10 shots that came his way.
"Auldie's technically sound," said Marc Savard (two assists). "He looks almost lazy the way he plays. But he comes over and he's got that nice, smooth butterfly. He's a great goalie."
Most encouraging was the return of Phil Kessel, the team's leading goal scorer.
Kessel, missing for five games because of an undisclosed injury, returned to his first-line spot. Kessel skated 16 shifts for 14:36 of ice time, tucking one of his three shots behind Auld.
"He looked fine," said Julien. "He scored the goal. He hadn't played in a while, but he looked like he was in good shape and maintaining his rhythm. I was happy."
Last year's first playoff round showed how dynamic Kessel can be. Last night, his timing was a tick off, but even with some rust on his game, Kessel tapped home his team-best 32d goal. The Bruins are hoping there will be more of that firepower in his stick come next week.
"Obviously it was a little off," Kessel said of his timing. "But it started to get better as things went on."
With the Bruins down, 2-0, in the second period (defenseman Christoph Schubert opened the scoring at 4:23 of the first, then center Mike Fisher flipped in a shorthanded goal at 10:25), Kessel and the Bruins kicked off their rally. Savard started the play by stepping between defensemen Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov and winning the puck. Savard threw a pass out front to Kessel, whose backhand shot was stuffed by Auld. But Kessel jumped on his rebound and jammed his second attempt home at 3:00 to halve Ottawa's advantage.
It would be the only time Savard and Kessel would connect. Several times, Savard tried their go-to play, attempting to hit Kessel down the right wing with a long-distance pass.
"We were off a bit on the wing," said Savard. "A few times it would be ahead of him. Usually he's lightning over there. He was a little bit off tonight. But he's going to get better as we go into the playoffs. He's a big addition."
To get Kessel going, Julien used him on the penalty kill. Entering the game, Kessel had only 11:28 of shorthanded ice time all season. Last night, Kessel was paired with Savard on the penalty kill and clocked in with 1:48.
"He's fast," said Julien. "He puts a lot of pressure on the puck. If he can get in shooting lanes quickly, he can do some damage."
At 13:57 of the second, with Savard in the box for boarding center Chris Kelly, sharpshooter Dany Heatley beat Fernandez with a one-timer to make it 3-1.
With 8.8 ticks remaining in the second, Zdeno Chara, with help from a screen-setting Mark Recchi, hammered home his career-best 18th goal with a slap shot from the point. It was as close as the Bruins would get.
"We didn't get the start we wanted in the first," Bergeron said. "We had a tough time battling back. The second was a little better, and in the third, we had some chances. But when you start the game down two goals, it's hard to come back."