Alfredsson return thrice as nice
Between the Bruins’ recent draining West Coast trip, and the Senators playing their fifth road game in eight days, it’s fair to say many players entered yesterday’s game at TD Garden dragging a bit.
Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson was a clear exception, however.
With his natural hat trick in the Senators’ 5-1 win, the right winger has four goals and 6 points in two games back from a separated left shoulder that kept him out for 11 games. The zip in his step in 18:09 of ice time certainly wasn’t matched by the Bruins.
“I could tell that Boston, once we got the lead, they didn’t have the jump that they normally do,’’ Alfredsson said. “It [has been] a tough season this year. Being able to do some real good workouts and skates, coming back I feel fresher than anybody.’’
During the Bruins’ recent three-game trip, their defense was, at best, average. Goaltender Tim Thomas stood on his head in the 2-1 shootout win over San Jose, but Boston gave away leads late in losses to Anaheim and Los Angeles, with a few freebies allowed in front.
That trend continued yesterday with Alex Kovalev’s backhanded five-hole goal against Thomas 7:39 in, and fatigue - combined with Ottawa’s activity around the low slot - only seemed to make things snowball.
“You can’t really get tied up with them,’’ defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “You try to just lift their stick and just play basically in front of them. When you have those little wrist shots, I think the D-men have to get through and block those.’’
And with his fresh legs, Alfredsson helped lead the chaos in front of the net.
On his first goal, at 14:24 of the first, it was the second effort of defenseman Chris Phillips, who lost a puck battle behind the net but then set a screen in front of Thomas that let Alfredsson drill a slapper that Thomas said he “couldn’t even see.’’
At 10:04 of the second, with Ottawa’s Filip Kuba setting up at the right point and Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara fighting off a Nick Foligno screen attempt, Alfredsson crashed the weak-side post and redirected Kuba’s wrist shot, the goal sending Thomas to the bench in favor of Tuukka Rask.
Three minutes later, some more chaos led to a 4-0 lead. Ryan Shannon leaped up in the high slot as Alfredsson took a Kuba feed right on the tape and wound up for a slapper from the blue line. With Mike Fisher and Foligno screening behind Dennis Wideman and Chara, respectively, Rask barely got a look, and was beaten to the glove side. It was Alfredsson’s ninth career hat trick, including two in the playoffs.
Injuries have affected the Bruins but “we have injuries, too,’’ Senators coach Cory Clouston said. “But no, I think it doesn’t matter who [the Bruins] have in the lineup, we have to get presence in front and make it more difficult for Thomas. If he can see it, he is going to make the save.’’
Said Alfredsson, “Sometimes, it doesn’t have to be [right] in front of the goalie, but if you get traffic in front, that can be the difference.’’
Were any of the Senators surprised by Alfredsson’s quick bounceback? Not goalie Brian Elliott, who was told he’d man the net instead of Mike Brodeur (illness) two hours before the game.
“I don’t think anything he does can surprise you anymore,’’ Elliott said. “It is amazing how many points he has put up so far. He came in and guys are playing with confidence with him in the lineup.’’
Ottawa won its third straight after losing five in a row, beat the Bruins for the first time in five tries this season, and tied Boston for second place in the Northeast Division with 54 points. It sure doesn’t hurt to have a revitalized captain directing traffic.