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Bruins 5, Senators 2

Bruins break free from the Senators

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By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / December 15, 2011
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OTTAWA - After last night’s 5-2 win over the Senators at Scotiabank Place, the Bruins find themselves in a three-game winning streak. They have won the last two without their captain, who is arguably the top shutdown defenseman in the league. Both Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask have performed like No. 1 goalies. They have 41 points, tied with Philadelphia for most in the Eastern Conference.

But last night was nothing close to a three-goal win.

“Let’s not kid ourselves,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “I’m not sure we were the better team tonight. We’re going through - as a team, and not because of injuries - a bit of a challenge right now. I don’t think we’re executing well. I don’t think we’re battling as well as we should be. Part of that is that our emotions are not as good as they were when things were going well. We need to pick up our game here.’’

The Bruins gave up 49 shots, including 22 in the third period, to a scrappy Ottawa club missing its top goal scorer in Milan Michalek. They put very little sustained pressure on Craig Anderson. The Bruins allowed far too many good scoring chances that should have turned into goals.

Last night, their goaltending and experience trumped their legless play.

“That’s a case of Timmy holding us in there in the first period,’’ said Chris Kelly, who snapped a 1-1 tie in the second period. “Then we got our legs under us and got going.’’

Thomas had the good stuff from the start. In the first minute, after Daniel Alfredsson set up Colin Greening for a point-blank chance in the low slot, Thomas moved from left to right to boot out the forward’s chance just 36 seconds in.

Thomas was equally good late when the Senators kept coming. Only a Jason Spezza high-blocker laser kept Thomas from being perfect in the third, which is when teams need their goalies to come up aces.

“We’ll definitely take the win,’’ said Thomas, who collected 47 saves. “But there’s room for improvement in our game right now.’’

The Bruins were at their worst in the first. They were careless with the puck. They let the Senators get excellent scoring chances. At one point, Ottawa held a 9-1 shot advantage.

Around that time, Matt Carkner came knocking on Milan Lucic’s door to inquire if he wanted to fight. It was a curious time for the Senators, given their tilted-ice advantage to that point. In contrast, it was a perfect time for the Bruins.

“Looking at the situation, it doesn’t always have to be [Shawn Thornton] stepping up and giving the team a spark when it comes to stuff like that,’’ Lucic said of the fight at 11:46. “It ended up being a good back-and-forth battle there.’’

Lucic sent Carkner backward with an early right. Carkner held strong and gave it back to Lucic. Both heavyweights landed their share of punches. The linesmen busted up the fight with both scrappers on their skates. For Carkner, who has played in only three games because of injuries, it marked his first fight of the season.

Twenty-six seconds later, the fight proved to lift the Bruins. After taking a pass from Andrew Ference, Rich Peverley sprinted over the blue line, darted past several defenders, and snapped a shot past Anderson at 12:10 to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.

“That had a lot to do with it,’’ Julien said of Lucic’s fight sparking the club. “We were so flat when that happened. He got challenged and he responded well. We scored shortly after that. We almost needed that. The ice just seemed to be tilted in one direction there in the first half of the first. It seemed to pick up our game later in the first. But it wasn’t a period to be happy about.’’

Ottawa, trailing 2-1 after 40 minutes, brought the heat early in the third in hopes of the equalizer. But like rebuilding teams often do, the Senators made critical mistakes at bad times. And like defending champions often do, the Bruins burned them for their errors.

Erik Karlsson, Ottawa’s dynamic offensive defenseman, coughed up the puck inside his blue line. Patrice Bergeron pounced on the puck, threw several dekes on Anderson, and slipped a shot into the net at 4:54.

Fifty-six seconds later, the Bruins made the Senators pay again. David Rundblad was pinching deep down the right-side wall in the Boston zone. Karlsson was cheating in the high slot. Ottawa didn’t have any forwards rotating back. So when Thornton took a seam pass from Ference, Daniel Paille broke the other way. After collecting Thornton’s pass, Paille went five-hole on Anderson (24 saves) to give the Bruins a 4-1 lead.

Paille added a second goal at 18:56 to seal the win.

“The team’s finding ways to win right now,’’ Thomas said. “Whether we’re playing the best hockey or we’re at a place where we want to be at or not, that might not be the case. But we’re finding ways to win. There’s been times during this past month and a half that we have played the way we wanted to. We don’t play every game the way we want to. But we’re finding ways to win. That’s what counts.’’

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.

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