Playing with the kind of determination that’s been lacking all too often this season and getting contributions from throughout the lineup, the Bruins stopped the bleeding of their three-game losing streak with a solid 5-3 win over Ottawa Tuesday night at the Garden.
“It seemed that confidence that we played with before was slowly, shift after shift, coming back,” Bruins forward Chris Kelly said. “I thought for the most part that was the most consistent effort that we’ve had this year. There’s still times we could have been better, but for the most part I thought we played well.”
Kelly chipped in a key goal late in the second period to give Boston its first lead of the night and added an assist on Johnny Boychuk‘s game-winner in the third, but he was far from the only Bruin to contribute to this victory.
In all, 12 different Bruins registered points, with all four lines and the defense corps each chipping in a goal.
“I thought that last year that was one of our strengths,” Kelly said of the balanced attack. “We had contributions from every line at both ends of the ice. That was nice to see tonight.”
The contributions weren’t limited to just scoring. Throughout the lineup the Bruins played with more discipline, giving Ottawa’s top-ranked power play just three opportunities and killing off all three penalties. They showed more determination, limiting the Senators to just 26 shots while piling up 41 of their own. And they showed a newfound confidence, rallying from a goal down twice and answering right back after Ottawa tied the game early in the third period.
“I just felt our team was there tonight,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Our compete level was better, and our focus seemed to be there. When you look at the way they scored that first goal, it was a little bit snakebitten right there, but tonight, we looked like a group that wasn’t going to let those kind of things beat us.”
They managed that because finally everyone was on the same page and committed to sticking to the game plan that had worked so well last year. Once again, the Bruins’ depth and balanced attack was an asset. While the Bruins could focus on shutting down Ottawa’s high-scoring top line led by Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek, who had no points after coming in with 28 between them in the Senators’ first 12 games, Ottawa wasn’t able to concentrate their forces on any one line for the Bruins.
“We’re very fortunate because we’re a team that can roll four lines that can contribute and wear other teams down when everyone’s going,” Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said. “So it’s nice that everyone is contributing and we can have some success.”
Thornton set the tone as he has so often with an early fight with NHL penalty-minute leader Zenon Konopka after Boston fell behind in the first. But Thornton also later picked up his first point of the season, when he sent linemate Daniel Paille in on a breakaway for a key insurance goal just 37 seconds after Boychuk’s go-ahead score.
“We had tons of chances throughout the first 10 games,” Paille said. “They didn’t go in and obviously it happens throughout the year. It’s unfortunate it happened so soon, but hopefully it’s a good start for us to get back in the game and into the season to try to help the team.
“The first 10 games we didn’t get that from all four lines,” Paille added. “So to have a game like that tonight it boosts everyone’s confidence a little bit. We’re proud of the game tonight, but we realize we have to move on and play with that exact effort in the next game.”
Tuesday’s victory was a much-needed win for the struggling Bruins, but it was far from a cure all. Boston is still just 4-7-0 on the season and next faces the division-leading Maple Leafs in Toronto on Saturday.
“We realize our record’s not too secure right now,” Paille said. “Going five games under .500 was going to be tough. We’ve got to set goals for ourselves and try to come back to .500 and go from there.”
Going forward from this point means replicating Tuesday’s effort on a regular basis. The Bruins have squandered their margin for error with their slow start, so they will have to avoid any further slip-ups as they try to climb back up the East standings.
“That’s the effort we need in order to win games,” Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. “If you play consistently for 60 minutes and go hard on the forecheck obviously you are going to get the results.
“That is something that we’ve talked about, that we’ve put ourselves in that situation and we were the only ones who could get out of it,” Bergeron added. “And we had to use, I guess all the frustration and all that stuff that we’ve been feeling and use it to your advantage instead of getting down on yourself. And that’s the only way you can get out of those things. And you know what, it’s only one game. So we’re happy but we have a long ways still.”