OTTAWA The Bruins and Senators have been on a seeming collision course since very early in the hockey season, but they played nice in their final meeting before the playoffs.
There were no fights, no truly questionable hits and little scoring in a goaltending clinic put on in Bostons 3-1 victory over the Senators at Scotiabank Place. The victory was a coming out party for Kazakhstan native Anton Khudobin, who made 44 saves in his first game donning a Black and Gold Bruins sweater.
Erik Karlsson whiffed on a wide open one-timer at an empty net in the final minutes of the third period that could have given Ottawa their point to clinch the No. 7 seed, but it didnt happen.
The loss means that theres still a possibility the Bruins could face Washington in the first round if both Ottawa and the Capitals lose in regulation during their final games of the season.
Khudobin was supported by a first period strike from Benoit Pouliot and a second period score from Greg Zanon. The Pouliot goal was a pretty give-and-go with Brian Rolston while the Zanon game-winner eluded Ben Bishops glove hand after it was launched from the left point.
Jason Spezza got the Senators on the board when his hot shot from the slot bounced off Andrew Ferences ankle, ricocheted off the post and then bounced off the Bs goaltender on its way to the back of the net.
But the story was Khudobin, who made a dizzying array of saves with every method imaginable while spelling Thomas against the Senators. He snuffed out a Daniel Alfredsson wraparound at the post, flashed a quick glove hand on his sizzling shot from the high slot and stoned Nick Foligno on a couple of bids right around the net among his highlight reel stops.
Milan Lucic added the insurance tally for his 26th goal of the season.
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BOSTON – For most teams in the NBA, road games are a necessary evil.
Not for the Celtics. At least, not lately.
The Green Team hits the road for its next three games, and that has been a good thing – a real good thing – lately.
Boston (11-8) has won its last four road games, the kind of success that breeds a heightened level of confidence heading into this current trip which begins tonight at Philadelphia.
And it only helps that they hit the road coming off a 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday.
“We have to carry that momentum with us,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “You know how...anytime in this league, the momentum, you have to stay with it. We’ve been having success away from home. It was big for us to get this win (over the Kings) to start the road trip off.”
A big part of Friday’s victory was the play of Al Horford who finished with 26 points, eight rebounds, and six blocked shots. The points and rebounds for Horford were both season-highs.
Horford’s breakout performance came on the heels of a 121-114 loss to Detroit, a game in which Boston’s $113 million man (Horford) only took five shots.
“Coach [Brad Stevens] didn’t say anything about going to him just specifically,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “We just found him and made the right play and when he got it he was very aggressive.”
Part of Horford’s success was that he was in more of an attacking mentality. But he also benefited from a Kings defense that didn’t double-team him nearly as much as the Pistons did.
“I got a lot of early looks in the game and like I said [following the Pistons loss] I think the Pistons did a good job defending and doubling and forcing me to pass the ball. [Friday night] I had more opportunities to be aggressive.”
Facing a Sixers team that ranks among the NBA’s worst in several defensive categories, Horford and the rest of his Celtics teammates should have ample opportunities to make plays offensively.
And in doing so, they will be able to add on to what has been an already impressive stretch of play this season away from home.
“I think it will be good,” Horford said. “[Tonight] it’s a Philly team that plays hard and we just want to keep building on [Friday night’s win over Sacramento] and just try to be better.”