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Bruins 2, Senators 0

Bruins are in good hands

Thomas pulls out all the stops vs. Senators

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / December 22, 2009

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OTTAWA - Tim Thomas stopped all 29 pucks he saw. Zdeno Chara, in 26:17 of ice time, neutralized every offensive threat that came his way. Patrice Bergeron scored the game-winning goal. Marc Savard set up Marco Sturm for the second goal.

On a night when the Bruins were aiming to bust up a four-game winless streak, their best and highest-paid players (Thomas, Chara, Bergeron, and Savard earn a collective $22.25 million) were their best players. Appropriately, the Bruins blanked the Senators, 2-0, before 19,865 at Scotiabank Place.

“When you win this game, you get 3 out of 6 points,’’ said coach Claude Julien of the three-game road swing (one win, one loss, one shootout loss). “Anytime you’re .500 on the road, it’s still not bad. We want to be better. But it’s a great way to redeem ourselves. We could have come home with just 1 out of 6.’’

Yesterday started with Thomas, struggling to find his game, going through one of his better morning skates.

“At some point, you’ve got to have that confidence and be determined to turn things around,’’ Julien said. “This morning when I talked to him, I said, ‘A winning streak starts with a win. Why not start tonight?’ He seemed pretty keen and pretty determined this morning. He was loose in a way that you felt he was going to have a good one. I felt good about having him in this game just by what I saw in him today.’’

Thomas’s sharpness carried into the night. He made 11 saves in a scoreless first period, making his best stop when he darted out of the crease, challenged a wide-open Josh Hennessy, and smothered his shot at 12:58 to keep the Senators off the scoreboard. Thomas followed with 12 saves in the second period, then bricked up the net with six third-period stops to earn his fourth shutout of the season and 10th straight win over the Senators.

“He’s been struggling in the win column lately, and it’s been hard, obviously, on his morale,’’ Julien said. “Somehow we felt this was a great opportunity for him to continue to play well against Ottawa and give him a chance to play well. He did. He was outstanding tonight. He played the kind of game we know he can. Hopefully he can build on that.’’

Thomas got clear looks at most pucks, thanks to Chara standing tall and playing like the defending Norris Trophy winner. Because of injuries that have struck the back end (Mark Stuart, Derek Morris, and Dennis Wideman have missed games during the trip), Julien has leaned harder on Chara to provide shutdown defense. Chara responded by throttling the Ottawa attack. He blocked three shots, was credited with two hits, and recorded two takeaways to aid in the shutout, using his stick, body positioning, and ill-tempered approach to snuff out the Senators.

“There wasn’t too much smiling with Z tonight,’’ Julien said. “He had his game face on. He had that burr, if you want to call it that. He played with a mean streak. He’s not fun to play against when he’s like that. It was nice to see him play that way. He was a big part of our team tonight. He defended so well and had lots of ice time.’’

Chara’s flesh-bruising slapper led to the Bruins’ first goal. Early in the third period, Chara nailed Vladimir Sobotka on the inside of the right leg with a one-timer. Sobotka lost feeling in the leg and had to miss the next faceoff but he finished the game. So Bergeron started the next shift with fourth-liners Shawn Thornton and Byron Bitz, and ended up scoring the goal.

From the right boards, Thornton winged a shot on goal that seemed to catch Brian Elliott (27 saves) by surprise. Elliott stopped the shot but left a fat rebound in the slot. Bergeron found the puck and rammed it in at 3:19 to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.

Thomas got some breathing room later in the third when Savard, stuck in a five-game scoreless streak, finally busted through with one of his trademark dishes. Savard, with Sturm on his right side, took a pass from Chara deep in the defensive zone. Earlier in the game, Savard and Sturm had chatted about stretching out the Senators if the opportunity appeared.

“We had talked about it,’’ Savard said. “That’s where [Phil Kessel] was on the right side. Sturmy’s got the same speed as he does. We talked about it before the game. I said, ‘When you see me get it, you get on your horse.’ ’’

Finally, that chance took place. Even before Savard got the puck, Sturm was cheating down the right side. Savard hit Sturm with a long-distance tape-to-tape pass. Sturm slipped behind the Ottawa defense, broke in on goal, and canned a wrister at 13:07.

“Oh, man,’’ said Savard. “I haven’t had a slump like that in a long time. Credit to my wingers tonight. I thought we had a decent game. I think the biggest thing for me was to start skating again. I kept my feet going tonight. We got rewarded.’’

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