BOSTON – Calling it post-all-star break rust would be too simplistic, but there was certainly something off with the Bruins in the first two periods of Tuesday night’s game against the Senators. Both teams started slow before a pair of fights raised the energy level in the second half of the first.
The problem for the Bruins was that the Senators sustained that energy in the second, while they did not. The Senators outshot the Bruins 13-5 in the middle frame and got goals from Kyle Turris and Erik Karlsson that gave them a 3-1 lead.
“When we don’t play the way we can and the way we have to to win, we have periods like the second, and teams will pick us apart,” Brad Marchand said. “We’re not that good of a team when we think we can dangle around and make fancy plays. We have to play simple, grinding hockey. That’s how we win games.”
The Bruins did go on to win Tuesday’s game, 4-3, thanks to a third period in which they finally played that “simple, grinding hockey” Marchand mentioned. The biggest goal, however, came with less than a minute to go in the second — a period that had been all Senators for 19 minutes.
All it took was one odd-man rush to get the Bruins back in the game. Rich Peverley carried the puck wide while David Krejci drove hard to the net, leaving Milan Lucic all alone as the trailer. Lucic took in Peverley’s pass and beat Craig Anderson blocker-side to pull the Bruins within one heading into the second intermission.
“Huge,” Dennis Seidenberg said of Lucic’s goal. “We know we played a terrible second period. They scored on us a few times on breakdowns in the neutral zone and the defensive zone. For us to get momentum going into the third definitely helped us come back in this game.”
The Bruins started the third much better than the second, and Marchand tied the game 2:20 into the stanza when he won a battle for a rebound and flipped it past Anderson. Five minutes later, Seidenberg scored what proved to be the game-winner on a fluky slap shot from the red line that skipped off the ice and sailed right by Anderson. The Bruins wound up recording 10 of the period’s first 11 shots and held on for the win.
“I think we went back to the system,” Marchand said. “Everyone started to buy in and we were playing our system, forechecking the way we can and guys were backing each other up and coming back hard. When we do that, we’re very tough to play against. It’s what we have to learn how to do on a 60-minute basis.”
Marchand says “learn” because the Bruins haven’t been putting together 60-minute efforts as of late. After dominating seemingly everyone they played in November and December, the Bruins haven’t dominated anyone since beating the Devils 6-1 and Flames 9-1 to open January. They’ve gone 6-4-1 since then, but none of those six wins have been what you’d call a complete effort.
For now, the Bruins will take Tuesday night’s win. They’ll take a six-point lead in the Northeast Division with games in hand. But they also know they can’t keep playing the way they’ve been playing, even if it hasn’t hurt them all that much in the win-loss column just yet.
“It’s like playing with fire,” Joe Corvo said. “I don’t know how long we can get behind going into the third and expect to be coming back in these games. So yeah, it almost feels like we’re waiting for the third to come around. If we can just stay close and play our standard third period, then we’ll win the game. But like I said, that type of play doesn’t last very long.”