Reworked Bruins pull together
New faces are in all the right places vs. high-flying Senators
One game does not a season make and no one would suggest one victory means all the Bruins' problems are behind them.
But for a night, against a first-rate opponent, the Bruins had cause for celebration, which is something that has been in rare supply this season.
One day after stunning a city and its hockey fans by trading franchise center Joe Thornton to the San Jose Sharks for defenseman Brad Stuart, left wing Marco Sturm and center Wayne Primeau, the Bruins finally solved their Northeast Division nemesis -- the Ottawa Senators -- with a 3-0 win last night at the TD Banknorth Garden. It was the first time in four tries that the Bruins have beaten the Eastern Conference's top club. The Bruins ended their losing streak at four games and recorded their first shutout of the season and arguably their best 60 minutes of the season.
They received strong contributions from their new trio, which combined for one goal and two assists, and an inspired performance from goalie Hannu Toivonen, which might just spark a netminding controversy.
Perhaps most encouraging, the Bruins didn't fold in the third period, into which they took a 2-0 lead. Instead of collapsing, which they have too many times this season, they built on their lead with Dan LaCouture (in his second game with the Bruins) scoring his first goal of the season at 6:13. The Bruins did not take a penalty in the final 20 minutes, which might have been the most impressive development of all.
The Bruins took a 3-0 lead when Alexei Zhamnov, in the left circle, got the puck from defenseman Hal Gill and dished it to LaCouture, who was driving to the net.
The Bruins, who improved to 3-9-1 in the Northeast Division, handed the Senators just their fourth loss in 23 games. The Bruins also ended Dany Heatley's scoring streak at 22 games.
Armed with three new players and less one captain, the Bruins took a page out of the Senators book -- scoring in the first minute of the game. It was newcomer Marco Sturm who put the Bruins on the board 1:17 into the action. Right wing Brad Boyes, positioned along the right-wing boards in the Ottawa zone, zipped the puck onto Sturm's stick in the slot and he redirected it past goaltender Dominik Hasek.
The second tally came during a power play. Newly-acquired Wayne Primeau drew the penalty when he was tripped by high-scoring forward Dany Heatley at 6:50.
Just three seconds before the man advantage expired, new defenseman Brad Stuart fired a pass from the right point to center Patrice Bergeron in the left circle. Bergeron's one-timer beat Hasek at 8:47, giving Boston a 2-0 lead.
The surging Senators had a few opportunities but goalie Toivonen held the fort. One scoring chance was a shorthanded breakaway by former Bruin Bryan Smolinski. Another was a backhander by center Chris Kelly at 12:04 that Toivonen turned back.
Stuart got whistled off for hooking at 12:04 and Heatley attempted to make the most of it with a jam from just outside the left post but Toivonen kept the Senators off the board.
Boston had a second power play when defenseman Jiri Slegr was tripped by Mike Fisher. The Bruins' best scoring opportunity came when Sergei Samsonov pushed the puck across the slot to Stuart in the right circle. Stuart, who was being held up, managed a one-handed shot on net but Hasek made the save.
The Bruins, who were outclassed in the first three meetings against the Senators, did a good job of keeping Ottawa at bay.
In the middle period, the Bruins had a chance to build on their lead when P.J. Axelsson fired a shot from the right circle at 6:18 that rattled off the crossbar. It was one aspect of a very strong shift by Axelsson, Travis Green and Primeau.
Sturm tried to add more points to his strong Bruins' debut when he raced in on a breakaway at 9:25. He tested Hasek with a forehand shot that seemed bound for the five-hole but he was denied.
The Senators, usually the team taking advantage on the power play, got into some penalty trouble of their own in the second period when Peter Schaefer was called for diving at 10:02 and he was followed to the box by Chris Phillips, who was called for interference at 10:50, giving the Bruins a five-on-three advantage for 1:13. However, the Bruins couldn't find a way to further pierce Hasek's armor.
In fact, Schaefer came out of the box and was sprung on a breakaway. He tried to switch from his forehand to his backhand but lost the puck into Toivonen's pads.
Primeau drew another penalty at 14:06, which resulted in Brian Pothier heading off for interference but the Bruins couldn't convert.
The Bruins outshot the Senators, 10-7, in the opening 20 minutes but were outshot in the second, 13-7.