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Bruins take an early break

Lackluster effort results in shutout

Zdeno Chara clears a loose puck in front of Hannu Toivonen during a five-on-three power play for the Senators. (DAVID KAMERMAN/GLOBE STAFF)

First thing this morning, Zdeno Chara was scheduled to be folded into a first-class seat -- even those are uncomfortable for defensemen of the 6-foot-9 -inch variety -- on a flight to Dallas, leaving thoughts of last night's 3-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators far behind.

It was a game that Boston's lone All-Star didn't want to remember.

"Just one of those nights where nothing was going," said Chara . "Our heads weren't connected to our bodies. We were just really flat. It's the right timing that the break's coming so we can regroup, recharge, and come strong after the break."

The Bruins only fluttered 18 shots on Ottawa netminder Ray Emery, the lowest offensive output they've had all year. Wobbly outlet passes landed on the sticks of the offensive-minded Senators. Breakouts were slammed shut in the neutral zone.

On the few occasions the Bruins had pucks on their sticks for looks at the goal, shooting lanes closed in a hurry as the Senators steered shots wide and blocked ones aimed for Emery .

In the second period, with the deficit only 1-0 (defenseman Chris Phillips put in a rebound of a shot that deflected off Paul Mara in the first period), the Bruins' best opportunity to get back into the game ended up flaming out. Mara's retaliatory punches to the head of Christoph Schubert -- the Ottawa defenseman had drilled Mara from behind, drawing a five-minute boarding penalty -- wiped out a five-minute power play.

Although in retrospect, the Bruins would have probably botched that power play just like they did with their six man-advantage opportunities. The Boston power play struggled to set up its formation, going 0 for 6 with an extra skater and rarely threatening Emery.

"The power play just stunk, basically," said Glen Murray .

"We just had no energy," said coach Dave Lewis. "We had no legs, no energy. Guys tried. They tried really hard to find something. I've played in games like that where you try everything in your power to turn it around and change it, and nothing you do works."

The only Bruin with some spunk in his skates was Hannu Toivonen, making his second straight start. Toivonen stopped 36 shots, keeping his club within striking distance in a first period during which they were outshot, 15-5 , with the Senators getting a handful of bona fide scoring chances.

"Fun to play," said Toivonen. "It's nice to get into a rhythm. You want to go out there, have fun, and don't worry about anything else."

Before last night, Toivonen hadn't started back-to-back games since October. During that stretch, Toivonen stopped 35 shots in a 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders Oct. 14, turned in a 26-save effort in Boston's 3-2 home-opening win over the Calgary Flames Oct. 19, then was pulled in the second period of the Bruins' 6-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres Oct. 21 after allowing four goals on 17 shots.

Last night, Toivonen let in a tough-luck goal that he thought was tucked safely away in his equipment. In the second period, on an Ottawa power play, defenseman Tom Preissing put a slapper on goal that Toivonen lined up and stopped, believing that the puck was nestled against his right hip.

It was there. Then it wasn't. Toivonen didn't squeeze hard enough, letting the puck bounce behind him, where Dany Heatley jammed it past the goal line at 15:03, giving the Senators a 2-0 lead. Heatley scored a shorthanded empty-netter with 28.3 seconds remaining in regulation for his second goal of the game.

"Thought I had it," said Toivonen. "But it slipped away."

Not many of the other pucks that came Toivonen's way squirted out of his grasp. In the first period, Toivonen made a point-blank stop on forward Dean McAmmond's bid from the top of the crease. Later in the period, Toivonen flashed his glove to get a piece of a Heatley attempt . In the third period, after Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson broke away for an odd-man rush and set up Heatley with a cross-crease pass, Toivonen slid from right to left to block the winger's shot.

After the break, the Bruins have three sets of back-to-back games in the span of a month, making the need for two consistent goalies a must if they want to make a playoff charge. Toivonen's 36-save performance and his second-half surge against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Thursday's 5-4 shootout victory may have given Lewis the evidence he was looking for, especially cleaning up the mistakes of his legless teammates last night.

"I thought Hannu proved something to himself and to his teammates," said Lewis. "That was important. Guys were cheering him on. They knew he was the biggest reason why we were where we were. We just couldn't move."