The B’s looked to extend a five-game loss-free streak as they returned to the TDBanknorth Garden for the first time in nearly two weeks to face the Senators, who were still reeling from Monday night’s 5-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Boston had lost their last four home games and head coach Claude Julien was pleased that the team “bounced back.”
“I think there were a lot of things that could have played against us today,” he said, “ [but] I thought our guys handled it well….Again, they found a way to win by doing the right things, at the right times, and at key points in the game.
An unusual starting lineup of Jeremy Reich, Vladimir Sobotka and Thornton, plus D-men Andrew Ference and Shane Hnidy, joined Ottawa’s Chris Kelly, Chris Phillips, Cory Stillman, Antoine Vermette and Anton Volchenkov at center ice. Thomas started in goal for Boston, countered by Martin Gerber.
“They really haven’t complicated their game,” explained Coach Julien. “They are just playing the game the way it should be played. They were good, and they were dominant, and they won every presence they had on the ice.”
A hooking penalty 1:56 in sent Glen Metropolit into the box, but a strong penalty kill and some nice saves by Thomas kept the Sens at bay.
With some help from Sobotka, Thornton swiped the puck past Ottawa netminder Gerber at 5:24 to get the Bruins on the board first. The goal marked Thornton’s third of the season, a new personal best.
“We had a great forecheck going,” explained Thornton. “Vlad had the puck over in the corner. I came in late, and he made a pass to me. I wanted to shoot it, but the guy got in late, so I just pulled it and threw it on net.
“It was a little lucky, but once again, I’ll take it.”
The score remained static until, with just 2:37 left on the clock, a rebound from a shot by Milan Lucic found Krejci, who took advantage of a scrum in front of the net and put the B’s up 2-0. Although he scored in the shootout against the Carolina Hurricanes last Tuesday, tonight’s goal was Krejci’s first “official” NHL goal.
“Reich took it and we went in three on two,” said Krejci. “He made a pass to Shaef. Schaef took it to the net. Looch and I went hard to the net.”
“It was nice to see him get is first real goal that’s going to count on his stat sheet,” said Coach Julien, echoing the congratulations of Krejci’s teammates in the locker room. “I think he’s getting his confidence back slowly, knowing that he can produce at this level.
“He’s a pretty gifted player, a pretty skilled player.”
The shot total was tied at 12 apiece going into the second period, but despite the even amount of shots, an early power play allowed the Bruins to advance their lead once more.
With Ottawa’s Kelly in the box for holding, Chara took a cross-ice pass from Marc Savard and one-timed the puck from the left face-off circle at 2:15, sending the Bruins up 3-0.
Sobotka was also in the box for holding when Timmy made a spectacular glove save on a shot from Senator Daniel Alfredsson with 9:19 left to play.
“I thought [Senator Jason] Spezza wound up, and right as he was winding up, I thought he was going to take a shot on net, and somebody went in front of me and screened me,” said Thomas. “So I butterflied and lost the puck, and next thing I know, I caught it out of the corner of my eye over by Alfredsson.
The play went under review but was still ruled a “no goal.”
“I slid over and was able to get a beat on it and keep it out of the net,” continued Thomas. “It was a great pass by Spezza- I didn’t realize it got tipped and went right to Alfredsson.”
The Black & Gold kept the Senators scoreless going into the final 20 minutes of play.
A short tussle between Hnidy and Alfredsson, beginning with the Ottawa player’s hit on the Bruin behind Thomas’s goal, led to cross-checking penalties for both men at 13:20, but referees separated the two before a major fight could break out.
Peter Schaefer garnered a hooking penalty at 17:45, putting the B’s down a man as Ottawa pulled their goalie, making the count 6-4 on the ice. Even still, at 18:37, Chara shot the puck down ice from the Bruins defensive zone to earn an unassisted, shorthanded goal and make the final count for the night 4-0.
“[Chara] was very good for us tonight,” said Coach Julien. “Defensively, he was solid against the other team’s top players and, again, rewarded with some offensive output as well.”
Coming into the locker room, the team was pleased with finally playing a full 60 minutes.
“It was about as complete a game as I’ve seen around,” said Thomas. “I don’t know how to spice it up, but it’s true. Start to finish, we did a great job.”
Tonight’s win puts the Black & Gold in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, tied with the New York Rangers but with two games in hand. Both teams have 72 points.
The magic number right now, however, is six, as the Bruins are only that many points behind the Northeast Division-leading Senators, who have 78 points. First place in the division guarantees home-ice advantage in the first round.
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