Calling a game on November 1 a must-win might be a little dramatic, but there’s no denying that the Bruins desperately needed to turn things around. The defending Stanley Cup champs entered Tuesday night’s showdown against Ottawa with a 3-7-0 record, a three-game losing streak, and a spot all to themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins not only got that much-needed win by a score of 5-3, but they got a complete performance that they can use as a building block moving forward. Everything they had been struggling with the last few games suddenly became a strength.
That started right after the Senators opened the scoring on a bit of a fluky goal. Nick Foligno scored on a backhander that Tim Thomas got his blocker on, only to see the rebound bounce off one of his defenders and into the net. For much of this season, the Bruins have struggled to respond after catching a bad break like that.
This time, though, they scored on the power play (another area of concern) less than two minutes later when Milan Lucic buried a rebound off a Zdeno Chara wrist shot. The Bruins showed more resiliency in the third period when Johnny Boychuk gave them a 4-3 lead with a slapper from the point just 1:37 after Ottawa’s Jared Cowen had tied the game.
“It was really important,” Patrice Bergeron said of the quick answers. “I thought we had the momentum all night and it was one of those games where we felt confident we could do it and come back. Playing like that, that’s how we come back in games and show character and stay consistent and keep going at them. And I thought tonight was the perfect example that when we put the puck in deep and work at it, we’re a tough team to beat.”
Another encouraging sign for the Bruins was the fact that all four lines found the score sheet. They entered Tuesday’s game ranked 26th in the NHL with just 2.10 goals per game. They had been struggling to get any line going, never mind all four. Particularly promising was the production from the bottom two lines, which were on the ice for three of Boston’s five goals.
The third line of Jordan Caron, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley had a tough first period, as they were out there for both of Ottawa’s goals. But they made up for it starting late in the second when Peverley found Kelly for a one-time goal from the high slot. That line was also on the ice for Boychuk’s go-ahead tally in the third.
Although Caron still doesn’t have a point this season (he was originally credited with an assist on Boychuk’s goal, but it was later changed to Peverley), he was camped in front of the net screening Craig Anderson on both Kelly’s and Boychuk’s goals.
“He did a great job of screening the goaltender, and that’s what we need,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of Caron. “Those kind of things are what create more goals, and we got that from our team tonight.”
The fourth line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton — which had combined for just one goal this season entering the game — capped off the scoring when Thornton sprung Paille on a breakaway just 37 seconds after Boychuk’s goal.
The trio, which started for the second straight game, also brought their usual energy as both Thornton and Campbell brought the crowd to their feet with fights against Zenon Konopka and Zack Smith, respectively.
“I think their line was more of what we know them to be tonight,” Julien said. “I thought they did a great job of starting the game for us in Montreal the other night — got the puck in and hemmed them in and gave us some energy — and tonight was the same thing.
“We got a good first shift from that line. They set the tempo of the games a lot of times. They’re very good at that, and I thought they played a lot better tonight — more of keeping the puck in the offensive zone and keeping them hemmed in. They seemed to read off each other better and didn’t get caught with outnumbered situations.”
As complete of an effort as Tuesday night was, the Bruins know it won’t mean anything if they can’t keep the momentum going against the Maple Leafs on Saturday. After all, they had a big 6-2 win over Toronto a week and a half ago, but followed that up with a three-game losing streak that dropped them to the conference basement.
“It’s one game, but it’s definitely a stepping stone in the right direction,” Kelly said. “Hopefully we can build off this and have a couple good practices before we go into Toronto.”