KANATA, ON The Bruins won the battle and made a statement against an Ottawa Senators team nipping at their playoff heels.
But it may have come at a cost.
The Bruins won a tight 5-3 grudge match over the Senators at Scotiabank Place that included a furious third period comeback and a potential injury to Johnny Boychuk after he was steam-rolled by Chris Neil.
The victory gives the Bs a five-point lead in the Northeast Division over Senators the with three games in hand, and ended Ottawas four-game winning streak in the process.
The Sens started out quickly with an Erik Karlsson bomb to get the early lead, but Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand responded with answers later in the period to push the Black and Gold back in front. Carter Camper added his first NHL goal in the second period to push things to a two-goal lead thats normally as good as gold for the Bs.
David Krejci notched another tally in the third period that seemed to be just the insurance the Bruins needed, but then Ottawa woke up. Neil crashed into Boychuk with a clean shoulder-to-shoulder hit when the Bs defenseman was caught with his head down, and then Zdeno Chara dropped the gloves with Neil.
That seemed to spark the Senators, who got a pair of Daniel Alfredsson strikes from perimeter shots to inch perilously close to the Bruins. Bergeron eventually salted it away with an empty net goal in the final minute, but it sets the stage for another hard-fought contest against the Sens on Tuesday night at TD Garden.
GOLD STAR: Patrice Bergeron knocked down a pair of goals, finished with a game-high nine shots on net and did yeomans work in his 19:29 of ice time for the Bruins. With injuries to key players, other top tier players have needed to step up for the Black and Gold, and Bergeron did exactly that in a playoff-style game for the Bs. The first goal was particularly important given that it was a response to Ottawa scoring less than two minutes into the game. Bergerons rebound score on a Zdeno Chara shot brought the momentum back to Boston.
HONORABLE MENTION: Zdeno Chara assisted on a pair of goals and enjoyed his third straight strong game while snapping out of his February mini-funk. It was Chara's big shot that set up Patrice Bergeron's goal to get the Bruins off and running in the first period, and he was otherwise solid in 22:54 of ice time for the Bruins. Perhaps better than any of this he stood up for his defensive partner, Johnny Boychuk, when he dropped the gloves with Chris Neil after the Senators car-bomb forward trucked over Boychuk at the beginning of the third period. Chara showed everything that goes into the package of an elite defenseman in a big game that the Bruins needed to have.
BLACK EYE: Finesse players shouldnt try dipping their toes into the dirty side of hockey. Thats exactly what Kyle Turris did when he left his skates and targeted an elbow at the head of Joe Corvo in the third period that drew a two-minute boarding call, but could get Brendan Shanahan dialing the Ottawa center up on line one. The Bs defenseman was okay after falling to the ice holding his head after impact, but the Turris play is exactly the kind of play the NHL is trying to wipe out: targeting the head as the primary point of contact. No place for that in an otherwise entertaining, intense hockey game. NESNs Jack Edwards called it a chicken hit. Im not going that far, but Turris should know better.
TURNING POINT: It wasnt quite the turning point in the game, but there was no mistaking the swing in momentum when Chris Neil turned himself into a human missile while planting Johnny Boychuk. The Bruins got the next goal, but the Senators suddenly came to life. The momentum pull got even stronger when Neil and Zdeno Chara went toe-to-toe following the heavy hockey hit, and Neil lived to tell about it after absorbing a couple of hard shots from the Bs captain. But in the end the Bruins had built up too much of an advantage for the Senators to hurdle over. It will be interesting, however, to see if the Ottawa confidence from Neils hit carries over into Tuesday nights game in Boston, and if Johnny Boychuks status for that game is affected.
BY THE NUMBERS: 25-0-0 the Bruins record when holding a lead headed into the third period even if things got a little dicey in Ottawa after a pair of Daniel Alfredsson strikes.
QUOTE TO NOTE: Ive definitely been dreaming about that. Practicing in the backyard or on the ice by yourself youre always of that first NHL goal. I saw the puck go in, saw everybody celebrating and it didnt even really hit me until I got back to the bench. Pretty cool. Bruins rookie Carter Campers first NHL goal in the second period that helped the Bs cause in their 5-3 win.