Final: Boston 2, Ottawa 1 (OT)
Recap: After a dull first period that saw the Bruins outshoot the visitors by an 11-5 margin, the two teams picked up the pace in the middle frame, combining to put 33 pucks on net. Two of them found twine.
Nathan Horton opened the scoring 5:48 into the second period, fanning on a feed from Dougie Hamilton that fooled Robin Lehner. Less than nine minutes later, Tuukka Rask stoned a Senator on a breakaway, but the B’s couldn’t clear the puck out with a pile of players near the top of the crease. Jim O’Brien buried it for his fifth of the season to make it 1-1.
After a scoreless third, a Patrice Bergeron wrister found its way through Lehner and past the goal line. Initially waved off, the refs overturned the ruling and awarded No. 37 the game-winning goal.
Records: Boston 13-2-2, 28 points; Ottawa 12-6-3, 27 points
Key Play of the Game: Milan Lucic took an ill-timed and entirely-deserved penalty with 32 ticks left in regulation after covering the puck with his glove behind Lehner’s net. Things looked bleak for Boston, but some strong work on the PK by Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly helped keep the Senators from putting a single shot on goal – including during the 4-on-3 part of the power play in overtime – on that particular man advantage.
Connolly’s Commendations: We’ll start with the obvious. In addition to his aforementioned penalty-kill prowess and his game-winning goal, Bergeron – tell me you haven’t heard this one before – was Boston’s all-around best performer, winning 17-of-26 faceoffs, logging over 22 minutes of ice time (his highest regular-season total in more than a calendar year) and putting a game-high five shots on goal.
Hard to fathom the justification, but Lehner was absent from the announced Three Stars of the Game at the conclusion of Thursday’s tilt. Enemy or not, the guy deserves a major pat on the back for stopping 44-of-46 pucks fired in his direction in his first NHL start of the season.
After being pretty quiet during the road trip (shy of a few empty-netters), I really liked what the fourth line brought to the table tonight, especially Shawn Thornton, who looked a lot more like himself in this one. No. 22 led all forwards with four hits, one of which was a hard check behind Lehner’s net that ‘caused a defender to cough up the puck and nearly led to a go-ahead goal by Johnny Boychuk late in regulation.
Connolly’s Critiques: On paper, it probably looks like David Krejci had a good game, finishing plus-1 in 20:20 of ice time and winning a whopping 10-of-12 faceoffs. But the Czech center was simply horrendous with the puck on far too many occasions. For starters, he had a chance to clear it out from the top of the crease but muffed an attempt to do so right back into harm’s way. Later, in overtime, he mishandled an on-the-button pass from Zdeno Chara in the defensive zone that came close to giving Ottawa a high-quality scoring opportunity that could’ve led to a Sens’ victory.
In a similar vein, Chris Bourque had one heck of a night if all you care about is his fantasy hockey performance. But if you’re more concerned with Boston winning, his four penalty minutes overshadowed his four shots on net. The third-line winger put the Senators on the power play with 14:43 gone in the game after hooking Erik Condra. In the second, while manning the point on the Bruins’ power play, Bourque did a poor job of trying to keep the puck in and wound up interfering with Jakob Silfverberg. Just a few minutes later, Bourque was the puck carrier when Boston got whistled for too many men.
Notes: In his last two starts against the B’s, both at TD Garden, Lehner has stopped a combined 76-of-78 shots, good for a .974 save percentage. Andrew Ference was plus-2 on the night and is now plus-8 in his last five games.
Final Thoughts: At times boring and often a bit sloppy, this was a perfect case of winning ugly for the Black and Gold. If Ottawa didn’t have a roster chock full of players that probably belong in the AHL, the outcome might’ve been different.
Next: The B’s will square off with the Bolts in a 1 o’clock matinee at the Garden Saturday.