Axelsson gives Bruins a shot
OTTAWA - Not one of his best outings, P.J. Axelsson admitted.
For Axelsson, back on the No. 1 line last night against the Senators because of Milan Lucic's swollen left foot, his usually sound stick buckled at the wrong times, leading to a pair of Ottawa goals.
"I had a tough time handling the puck, that's for sure," said Axelsson (zero shots, one giveaway, minus-1 in 19:11 of ice time).
But hockey often provides a stage for redemption. And before 17,297 at Scotiabank Place, Axelsson was only too happy to grab that opportunity.
Tied, 3-3, after 65 minutes of play, five Ottawa gunners and four Boston shooters tried to tip the balance in the shootout against Bruins goalie Tim Thomas and counterpart Brian Elliott. All nine failed, providing the scene-setter for Axelsson to give the legless Bruins a victory on a night when they probably didn't deserve 2 points.
Axelsson, curling in down the right wall, slipped a backhander past the rookie Elliott to give the Bruins a 4-3 win over one of the worst teams in the league.
"We had a lot of luck on our side tonight," said Axelsson, the owner of two deciding shootout goals this season. "I think they were the better team out there for most of the night. We probably have to put this one in the lucky column. I think we're going to have to be a lot better if we're going to win."
The Bruins, up, 2-0, halfway through the game (a power-play goal by Blake Wheeler at 11:46 of the first period, an even-strength one-timer by Zdeno Chara at 10:27 of the second), saw the Senators pour three straight goals past Thomas (19 saves) to claim a 3-2 lead at the 8:33 mark of the third period.
In the second, Axelsson, at the end of his shift, tried to dump the puck deep and get off the ice. But Axelsson's pass floated to defenseman Brendan Bell, who spotted Nick Foligno hurtling through the neutral zone. Foligno entered the Boston zone with speed, blew the doors off Dennis Wideman and Andrew Ference, and tucked a backhander past Thomas at 15:54.
In the opening shift of the third period, Axelsson was the high man in the Boston zone. But the puck skidded off his stick and onto the blade of Daniel Alfredsson. The Ottawa captain took advantage, canning a top-shelf shot at 0:58. At 8:33 of the third, with Phil Kessel in the box for sending a puck into the stands, center Jason Spezza snapped home a shot for the go-ahead strike.
"It's one of those games where I thought we just kind of ran out of gas in the last half," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "We've played some pretty big games lately. Eventually you get those kinds of games where you don't have the energy you wish you had. They certainly had. They had lots of energy. They had good jump. They gave us everything we could handle."
Trailing, 3-2, Boston's luck turned when forward Antoine Vermette clipped Michael Ryder with a high stick at 14:54. While Ryder was down and out - Julien said the right wing required stitches to close a gash on the bridge of his nose and around the eye, then reported dizziness after the clip - the Bruins went on a four-minute power play.
The tying sequence started when Chara hammered a one-timer off the right leg of Jarkko Ruutu that hobbled the Ottawa penalty killer. But Chara regained control of the puck and sailed a shot back on net. Elliott (27 saves) stopped Chara, then got a piece of Wheeler's rebound attempt. But Elliott couldn't stop Chuck Kobasew, who whacked in the tying goal at 15:58.
After center Mike Fisher was called for interference at the end of regulation, the Bruins had a four-on-three power play to start overtime. Wideman cranked two slappers that Elliott stopped. Chara smoked a slap shot that rocketed wide of the net.
Once the Senators killed the penalty, Fisher had the best scoring chance in OT. When a puck rolled into the Boston zone, Thomas thought about leaving his crease to play it. But as he considered going out, Fisher already had gotten to the puck.
"By the time my mind had judged whether I could get to it or not, I had lost that second you need to get there," Thomas said. "If you hesitate, you're in trouble."
Thomas stayed in his crease, hit the deck, and got a blocker on Fisher's winning bid. Then in the shootout, facing Spezza, Alfredsson, Bell, Vermette, and Dany Heatley, Thomas bested them all.
"It wasn't entertaining, whatsoever," Thomas said with a laugh. "It's pure stress. If you win, you feel better than you should. If you lose, you definitely feel worse than you should. Having said that, I've been a fan. Watching on TV, if there's a shootout, I'm going to watch it. I understand it totally. Just being the guy in it is a little stressful."