The Sens beat the Bruins 3-2 in Boston on Tuesday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)
Important games against the Senators have been far from the bread and butter of the Bruins in recent years.
They’re actually the stuff of nightmares, to be honest.
Tuesday night at TD Garden was no exception, as the Sens took the third of three head-to-heads between the teams this season by a 3-2 final and hammered home the fact that the Bruins are going to put themselves in serious postseason danger for the third season in a row.
And though it didn’t become official until the final horn sounded and 17,565 dejected fans experiencing deja-vu made their way out to the streets of Boston, the writing was more than on the wall before then.
It’s never a good sign when the opposition scores on their first shot of the game, especially when it comes after near four full minutes of sustained pressure poured on the other end and without a goal to show for it.
It was shortly before Tom Pyatt tipped in the Sens’ first shot of the night for the 1-0 lead that the Bruins hemmed Ottawa in their zone for well over a minute as the Patrice Bergeron line pummeled the visiting net with numerous looks, and capitalized on giveaways from Senator defenders and ill-timed icings that followed key defensive zone wins from Ottawa pivots. But it was the fitting start in a season series that’s seen the Bruins throw everything at Craig Anderson but with almost nothing to celebrate.
But the celebration against Anderson finally came at the 8:57 mark of the first period, as David Krejci atoned for what was an otherwise miserable opening frame with a power-play dart fired from just over the blue line for his 21st goal of the season.
The goal brought the Bruins and Sens even, and the scores held in a tight-as-hell first period in Boston, with the B’s firing just eight shots on goal compared to just five thrown on B’s netminder Tuukka Rask from the Senators.
Ever the opportunistic bunch, though, the Senators jumped back out to a one-goal edge just 1:34 into the second period when Kyle Turris bombed a shot through Rask 32 seconds into a power play awarded to the Sens when Adam McQuaid was booked for a trip against the Sens’ Jean-Gabriel Pageau, much to the displeasure of both the Garden crowd and McQuaid himself. In a trip that began with a lunging McQuaid first hitting the puck free and then knocking Pageau down, it was the second time in as many nights that the opposition found a way to score on a penalty call that the Bruins seemed to vehemently disagree with.
McQuaid’s minor was just one of six between the two periods in a testy middle frame, which ended with the Bruins slated to begin the third period on a four-on-three following some post-horn nonsense between Torey Krug and Dion Phaneuf.
Assessed a two-minute minor for unsportsmanlike conduct to end the period, it was Krug that made sure Phaneuf paid with more than just two minutes in the box, as Krug simply danced through the Senators en route to his seventh goal of the season.
With the ice finally tilted their way in a sluggish game for many of the Bruins — their breakouts were rough, and they had numerous passes that seemed to go just out of the reach of a forward, which is an expected byproduct of the Sens’ brutal clogging presence through the neutral zone — the Bruins undoubtedly seemed to find their game against Anderson.
Then came a Dominic Moore slashing call just 1:11 after Krug’s game-tying goal.
And it hit you: “I’ve already seen this movie. More than once.”
But the Bruins came up with the kill with their second-best penalty-killing center in the box. It was just when Moore got out of the box that the Bruins found themselves in familiar trouble. Pinned in their own zone by an Ottawa attack that repeatedly kept the puck in the attacking zone with crisp and well-timed D-to-D passes, Phaneuf found Turris’ stick through the middle of the ice for a beautiful deflection that beat the Rask top corner to re-establish the Sens’ one-goal lead.
In a game that saw the Bruins routinely forced to claw back against a goaltender that’s been on top of his game (and then some) this season, the Bruins found themselves tied for just a combined 16 minutes and 24 seconds of action.
They weren’t dead yet, though, not before the Senators tried to give them one last bailout.
With Mark Borowiecki whistled for a hold against Frank Vatrano, the B’s power play went to work.
But when that failed, and after a 6-on-5 did nothing, the Black and Gold left with their third straight defeat in the books.
Ottawa’s victory over the Bruins now gives the club a six-point lead over the Bruins for second place in the Atlantic Division, which probably puts an end to any hopes of home-ice advantage in round for the Bruins and invites further trouble to the Bruins, who will finish this week against the surging Lightning and Islanders, who will need to snap this streak and soon.
Oh and the white-knuckle ride to the finish, for the third year in a row, is now official.