BOSTON, MA - The Bruins are one of the most dominant teams at home in the NHL. The Ottawa Senators are a desperate team, fighting for a playoff spot.
Those two sides collided at TD Garden on Friday night, with the Bruins overpowering the Sens with a 5-0 shutout that included four third-period goals.
In the past three games, Boston has put up 15 goals, with 10 of those coming in the third period.
Against Ottawa, the game went scoreless through 20 minutes before Jarome Iginla found the back of the net on the power play late in the second period to give Boston the 1-0 lead.
The Bruins outshout the Senators 20-8 in that middle frame.
"The first was a little sluggish for us. We knew that they would be hungry and coming off a real strong win right before Christmas. We knew that they’d be ready," said Iginla, of an Ottawa team that had delivered their own 5-0 shutout to Pittsburgh before the league's three-day break. "Tuuks [Tuukka Rask] was able to keep us in again and as the second went on, we got better and better."
Rask made 33 saves for his 20th career shutout, and his fourth of the season to lead all goaltenders. Fifteen of those saves came in a first period that Senators Head Coach Paul MacLean labeled one of their "best periods of the season."
"I thought we dictated what was going on, we played with pace and speed," the Sens bench boss said following the game.
"We came out in the second period and got a lesson in what it takes to be an elite team in the National Hockey League and they come out and put their foot on the gas and they never let up until the game was over."
The Senators were sitting just a point out of a playoff spot, even though they were 11th in the Eastern Conference heading into the night's game, and Boston had to be ready for their push.
"They’re desperate for a playoff spot right now and they’re going to come out strong every night," said Reilly Smith, who notched two goals on the night, to put himself into the Bruins' scoring lead with 14 goals. "We didn’t really have a great first period even though that’s what we wanted to do; second period, I think, just as a team, we were able to change that mindset after the first intermission."
"We came back in the second obviously a little bit more determined and better prepared mentally and I thought from there on, we played a real good game," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien.
David Krejci scored just 38 seconds into the third period, to set the tone for the rest of the game, that would see Smith pot his two goals, and Brad Marchand put up his third shorthanded tally of the season.
"Krech being able to score that one was a big momentum shift," said Iginla. "And from there, I thought as a team the third was a real good period for us."
"I don’t think we were playing gritty enough," Marchand said of the team's shift in the final 40 minutes. "In the second and third, we were getting to pucks first and winning battles on the boards, and it changed the game."
For the Bruins, "determination" was the biggest factor - something they've been able to find a great deal of lately.
The no-quit Senators didn't necessarily take their foot off the gas; but they just couldn't find a way past the Bruins.
"I'm not sure if we quit; they kept coming after us," said MacLean. "They made it hard for us."
"I think we did a great job bouncing back," said Smith, on the strong ending. "Tuukka, he’s going to stand on his head for us and the thing is, sometimes we expect that too much, but he did a great job tonight and he kept us in it the first period no doubt. "
"I just think our team did a good job bouncing back in the second and third and we were able to create a lot more scoring chances and turn the game around."
Smith's back-to-back goals certainly helped, and the four-goal explosion helped ease Rask's workload.
"I mean, the third hasn’t always been our strong part, and lately it’s become that – you know, we really put teams away, and that’s something you have to do," said the netminder.
Typically known as a "defense-first" team, Rask and the Bruins have only allowed three goals in the their past three games. They're tops in the league, allowing only 77 goals through 37 games.
Scoring five goals a night isn't always the norm; but it's welcome anytime.
"At times, it drains you when the games are always 1-0 or 2-1 and you have to really be sharp out there," said Rask. "So it’s good to get a little cushion there once in a while. Obviously it’s not going to happen every time, but I’m just happy that the past couple of games it did."
"We knew that it’s not only the last period left to play; we knew it was going to be four more periods," said Krejci, acknowledging that the home-and-home series next shifts to Ottawa on Saturday night for Part Two.
"So we wanted to set the tone and get an early goal; that’s what we did and we kind of took over the game from there. But we knew we have to play until the last second because tomorrow’s another day and a new game."
"So we’ve got three more periods in front of us and hopefully we can get the job done."
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