Coming off another loss to a good team, the Bruins really needed a win over the struggling Senators. And for a long time, it looked like it was in the cards. Despite being outshot for most of the afternoon, the Bruins put on runs of dominance, and the play was generally even at even strength through a couple periods. For long stretches, both the Bruins and Senators were pretty sloppy this afternoon, and it was indeed a sloppy play by the Sens that lead to the first goal of the game.
That first goal was put home by Craig Cunningham, once again in the line-up in part thanks to David Krejci being unable to go today. Cunningham played with Milan Lucic and Chris Kelly for over 15 minutes of TOI, spurring the makeshift line to a good performance all-around. However, the play we'll remember from this game--and I'm sure he'll always remember--was streaking down the right side to collect a Zdeno Chara clearance about a minute into the second Ottawa power play of the game--Kyle Turris, manning the left point on the man advantage, couldn't knock the puck down at the blue line, and Cunningham collected the puck and somehow knocked one through Senators designed "Vs. Bruins" goaltender Robin Lehner. The Bruins went up 1-0 despite having the worse of the play to that point due to taking a couple early minor penalties, and also despite not being able to score on an early mishap by Lehner where Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron couldn't find a way through Erik Karlsson with an open net behind him.
Despite Ottawa's overall struggles this season, though, they'd broke even in games where they exited the first period trailing. Mika Zibanejad, who has been incredibly hot lately and, objectively-speaking, has an awesome name, took advantage of a bad turnover in the defensive zone by Brad Marchand, and wristed one by Tuukka Rask. Marchand and Rask both had a lot of good things about their performance today, including Marchand's SO goal and 29 timely saves from Tuukka, but the first tying goal saw one give up the puck on a bad play and the other miss what appeared to be a save-able shot on the short side.
The Bruins would go back up, 2-1, on a beautiful dangle and pass from Kevan Miller. I'm not being sarcastic ; it was a great play, and about as shocking as the moment where Goldberg scores in Mighty Ducks 3. Don't watch that movie, it's bad. Anyway, if you needed anymore indictment of Ottawa's defensive corps, Miller opened a passing lane and put a nice pass on Loui Eriksson's tape. Eriksson, who's put in a lot of effort this year and very seldom gotten much in the way of bounces at even strength, didn't miss the chance from the slot. It was his fifth of the year and 15th as a Bruin, and it put the Bruins in the driver's seat despite the fact that had generally found it tougher to get shots on Lehner than the Sens had on Rask--despite the attempts numbers being almost equal at that point, some combination of poor shooting, luck, and Ottawa defensive play (yeah, not sure about that) led to a 24-17 edge for Ottawa. Carl Soderberg earned the secondary assist on Loui's goal, his 14th of the season. The primary was Miller's first of the year.
Say this for the Senators; they may be two games removed from Paul MacLean being fired, and not a particularly good defensive team anyway, but they played to their strengths today -- getting a good amount of zone time against a Boston team that's usually superior at even strength, converting on the Power Play to tie the game late. Lehner, after a slow start, came around and made some big stops, especially in the third period when Ottawa was hanging on for dear life. For what it's worth, and it is worth something, Dave Cameron's team never looked low on energy despite the early start, just exactly the kind of team one would figure on the B's losing to.
However, the game wasn't over. David Legwand equalized the second time for the Senators, after a Zdeno Chara penalty (his second of the game and fourth since his return), from Kyle Turris and Mark Stone. Turris, other than his painful foul up on the blue line that led to Cunningham's goal, led his line to a very solid game--when Turris's line and the top D-pairing were on, it's easy to squint and see a good team in the Sens. After Legwand tied the game at 2-all, though, they went into a shell, intentional or not, and the Bruins outshot them 13-5 in the third period.
Lehner and Ottawa weathered the Bruins surge, which began in earnest with about eight minutes remaining in regulation, as the Bruins made a huge push to try and secure the two points. The B's essentially reduced the flow of the game to "red line to opposing net for about a four minute stretch, taking the lead on SOG after trailing for most of the day. Julien sometimes gets a rap for not adjusting very well, but he and the Bruins solved whatever was causing so many of their shots to not get all the way through. Lehner also benefitted by a "timely save" from the crossbar on Cunningham's attempt where he had the Swedish netminder beat.
I'm sure there was something else Cunningham could've done to make a case for more playing time today, but I admit I'm not sure what it would've been. He was about two inches from a two-goal game today, and looked fine playing a two-way game.
In OT, the Bruins again had the better of the play. Julien opted to go with Torey Krug and the Bergeron line to start the 4-on-4 extra time, and Lehner had to stand tall again to deny chances from Reilly Smith and a rebound or two. The Senators, though, would get the best chance to end the game in OT, when a broken neutral zone play led to Bobby Ryan streaking in alone on Rask. But Tuukka made the save on the Ottawa, extending the game and sending the "Tuuuuuuuuuuu" chants down from the somewhat hungover sell-out crowd.
Unfortunately, the Bruins couldn't take advantage of having new life, and were unable to score for the remaining duration of OT. In the skills comp, the second point slipped away; Reilly Smith was stopped by Lehner, Mika Zibanejad continued his hot shooting by scoring on Rask. Brad Marchand undressed Lehner with a deke to the forehand side, and tied it up, and the Bruins drew even after two rounds when Rask stopped Kyle Turris.
Patrice Bergeron shot third, and he had Lehner down on a backhand side deke, but the Sens goaltender made one last save with the toe of his right pad. After that, Bobby Ryan got his revenge for Tuukka's earlier theft, scoring to give Ottawa a game that they never once led until the final shot was behind Rask.
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It's back on the road now, with a back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday. The consolation point really wasn't good enough here, but I suppose it's better than nothing.