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The Ottawa Senators did something that no other team could accomplish yet: beating the Boston Bruins twice.
On a night featuring multiple highlight reel saves from Jeremy Swayman and Cam Talbot and bounces benefitting both squads, the Bruins fell just one goal shy of overcoming a pair of deficits.
Jim Montgomery’s bunch managed to tally a point after evening things up late in the third after Pavel Zacha notched his first goal in 18 games.
The Bruins fired 31 shots in the third period and the 3-on-3 overtime. Talbot stopped all but one of those shots in a Vezina-like outing.
Swayman was equally impressive, especially in the extra session, where he stopped all six Ottawa chances.
The Sens capitalized on an offside review in the second that wiped away Patrice Bergeron’s tally, eventually taking a 1-0 lead on Tim Stutzle’s power-play blast at 8:11 of the middle frame.
The two sides received fortunate breaks during the middle frame, with Jake DeBrusk notching his 14th goal of the year after tucking the puck past Talbot off a bounce on his initial shot attempt.
Alex DeBrincrat, who notched the lone shootout tally, responded to DeBrusk’s marker in a chaotic sequence. With six Sens on the ice, DeBrincrat found space behind Boston’s blue line leading to his mini-breakaway tally.
Despite the hiccups, the Bruins’ effort was worthy of two points. They fell short after outshooting the Sens 51-32 through 65 minutes.
Here’s what we learned from Boston’s 3-2 setback in the Canadian capital.
The Bruins faced a handful of quality goaltenders this season. Yet, they’ve found ways to overcome top-tier goaltending even on some of their worst nights.
Frankly, the Sens needed Talbot in the third and overtime to seal the win. The Bruins struggled in the second in a rare middle-20 relapse where they fought the puck more often than not. They recovered in the third, delivering crisper tape-to-tape passes in the attacking end, thus opening up higher-quality looks down the middle of the ice.
Talbot stood tall through a hectic stretch, which included a five-forward look on Boston’s final power-play attempt. Unlike their first two chances with the man advantage, the B’s peppered Talbot with a whopping eight shots on net and evened things up on Zacha’s fourth of the season just 13 seconds after Travis Hamonic exited the penalty box.
“It seemed like we gave Cam a lot he could handle. I give him a lot of credit,” DeBrusk said to the media. “Obviously, I used to skate with Cam in the summer in Edmonton. I have a lot of respect for him, but it sucks that we couldn’t get the two points. It was a barrage of shots, so we gave him our best chance, and I give credit where it’s due.”
The Bruins fired 27 shots toward Talbot in the final 20. From that late-game power-play sequence to his multiple stops on odd-man rushes — including a post-to-post denial of David Pastrnak on a 3-on-1 — the B’s never relented.
Montgomery’s bunch ran out of steam toward the end of overtime. That’s where Swayman came in and shut the door amid another bounce-back outing.
The second-year netminder stood tall as he faced multiple breakaways and odd-man rushes during the chaotic 3-on-3 session.
“That’s what I want. I want a lot of shots, and I want to be challenged,” Swayman said following his 30-save outing. “I’ve had my fair share of adversity so far, and I try to use it to my advantage … just move forward and try to face the positives from each game.”
From the naked eye, Zacha hardly looked like a player in the middle of an 18-game goal drought.
Zacha’s versatility provided Montgomery and the coaching staff with luxurious options to use him on Boston’s middle-six. The Bruins utilized him with David Krejci and Pastrnak to start in the first game of their holiday break before moving him to the third line with Charlie Coyle and Trent Frederic.
The former New Jersey Devil displayed that versatility shortly after their power play expired late in regulation. With the secondary man advantage on the ice, Zacha beat Talbot on the short-side post for his first tally since Nov. 13.
“Scoring a goal in the third period and trying to give the team a chance there … it felt good,” Zacha said.
Zacha’s importance to the club goes beyond goals and assists.
The Bruins appreciate Zacha’s attention to detail no matter where he skates. With his keen forechecking skillset, Zacha worked his way into Boston’s secondary special teams’ units and remains a rotating cog on the second and third line.
His efforts are never in question. But the Bruins would love to see Zacha find the back of the net a little more consistently ahead of the latter half of their 2022-23 campaign.
“A lot of guys talked to me. They value what I’m doing on the ice, creating scoring chances for our players. The way our team is playing, it helps you mentally and physically, especially with players like that.”
Montgomery’s bunch navigated through their rough patches over the last couple of weeks. Unlike previous seasons, the Bruins continue to find various ways to win whenever they encounter their lulls.
Recently, the Bruins had to overcome multiple slow starts. Given their three-day holiday layover, the B’s performed reasonably well in the opening 20 after arriving in Ottawa early Tuesday. Their lapses came in a crazy middle frame, with the opportunistic Sens outshooting the B’s 10-6 in those 20 minutes en route to their 2-1 lead.
Ever the professionals, the Bruins didn’t waver. They dug deep and earned their point in one of Talbot’s best career performances.
“When you get back from three days off, and you spend a lot of time away from the rink and being with your families and loved ones, you just want to get better every period,” Montgomery told NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley. “We did get better every period, especially in the third. We got to our game, so we’re really happy about that, but we would’ve liked a better outcome.”
The Bruins won’t get a breather following their shootout loss in Ottawa. The Devils await the Black and Gold for their second matchup in as many weeks Wednesday night in Newark.
With the quick turnaround, the Bruins will likely need another stellar outing from Linus Ullmark as they continue to search for the 60-minute effort that’s evaded them in recent weeks.
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