BOSTON, MA — The dates are set, the opponent is set and the NHL postseason is just three nights away from returning to the Hub. But, will the hometown Bruins be ready for it? If Sunday’s regular season finale is any indication, I’m not so sure. With a 4-2 loss against the Senators at TD Garden, the B’s failed to clinch the Northeast division crown for what would have been a third consecutive year, instead ceding the title to their North-of-the-Border rivals, the Montreal Canadiens. Falling out of the top spot in the division means the B’s will finish with the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, setting up a Northeast division clash with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round of the playoffs.
“It’s too late now. I mean, we turned the page. We have to focus on the playoffs. That’s done and over with. Our goal was to win our division, we didn’t, and if we want to drag that into our first game, it’ll be an even bigger disappointment because we won’t be ready to play.” – Claude Julien
After neither team was able to generate much in the way of offensive attack throughout most of the game’s opening period, the Senators would strike on their first legitimate scoring chance of the night. Just before the 17-minute mark of the first frame, third-year Ottawa forward Erik Condra would pounce on the rebound of a Jean-Gabriel Pageau shot and slide the puck past Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask to put the Senators ahead, 1-0.
It wasn’t but a couple of minutes after Ottawa had taken the lead that we were treated to our main-event of the evening. After a lengthy conversation in the Ottawa zone, Milan Lucic and Chris Neil would renew acquaintances in the most heavy-hitting fight seen at the Garden this season.
“He (Lucic) hit (Kyle) Turris late, so I just kind of letting him know and he was a willing participant. Obviously, we’ve always had good battles. He’s a tough guy and he plays hard, I play hard so it’s two big guys going at it. I think he outweighs me a bit. He’s a competitive guy, he works hard and it is what it is.” — Chris Neil
Midway through the second period, Ottawa would add to their lead when defenseman Jared Cowen’s slapshot from the point managed to make its way through a screen and into the Boston net. The 22-year-old’s first tally of the season made the score 2-0 in favor of the Sens.
With time running out on the middle frame and Boston on the power-play for the second time of the night, the B’s were finally able to break through for a goal against Ottawa netminder Robin Lehner. Veteran blueliner Wade Redden jumped up into the rush and slide the puck over onto the stick of a wide open Rich Peverley, just before absorbing a punishing hit into the boards from Sens’ defenseman Marc Methot. Peverley’s one-timer went right past Lehner, cutting the Senators’ lead in half.
Just fourteen seconds into the third period, the B’s would draw even at two as Dennis Seidenberg’s point-blast beat Lehner high to the blocker side. The play was set up by a pair of excellent passes by Milan Lucic and Kaspars Daugavins; the two players who I would consider the best on the ice for Boston on Sunday.
However, with less than four minutes to play in the game, the second goal of Sens’ rookie Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s career would put Ottawa ahead for good. It was a phenomenal night for the 20-year-old former fourth round pick, finishing with a line of 1-1-2 and four shots on goal. With 36 seconds left in regulation, Kyle Turris would seal a 4-2 win for the Senators by firing the puck into an empty Boston net.
“Finally we beat these guys. That was a good feeling, to get the win against these guys. They’re good. It’s nice to get a win going into the playoffs. Obviously, we wanted this win.” — Robin Lehner
Hello, Maple Leafs …
By virtue of losing the Northeast division and falling to the No. 4 seed in the conference, the Bruins have been left with a first round match-up against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The B’s came away with a 3-1-0 record in four contests against the Leafs this season, with the last meeting between the two teams coming back on March 23 at the Air Canada Centre.
“They’re a team that earned a spot in the playoffs because they play a real tough type of game and they grind it out; they’ve got toughness, they’ve got skill, they’ve got speed. They’ve got a mixture of everything, it’s a team that’s well-coached. Our games against them have been close this year, it’s going to be an interesting series.” — Claude Julien
Ben’s Three Stars of the Night:
2) Dennis Seidenberg (1 Goal/1 Assist)
3) Jean-Gabriel Pageau (1 Goal/1 Assist)
Looking Ahead: The Bruins will begin their first round playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs right back here at TD Garden on Wednesday evening. Puck drop is at 7:00 PM.
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About the Author: Boston Bruins writer for Hockey Independent. Contributor to the New England Hockey Journal. Have written for The Hockey Guys and SB Nation Boston. Follow me on Twitter @_BWoodward or shoot me an email at BWoodward.HI@gmail.com.