OTTAWA — The Bruins scored twice in the opening 10 minutes Friday night, then ever-so-slowly stumbled to defeat, 4-2, at the hands of the Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre.
“Progressively, [the Senators] got better,’’ said Boston coach Claude Julien, after witnessing a third-period collapse in which his charges gave up three goals in a span of 8:39. “And progressively, we got worse.’’
The low point was the third, a period that began with the Bruins clinging to the same 2-1 lead they took out of the first period. In truth, it was a late first-period goal by Chris Neil, cutting the Boston lead in half, that signaled the start of the end for the Bruins, who came here fresh off an impressive 4-0-1 homestand.
Neil, among the game’s top energy forwards and most fearsome hitters, picked off an ill-advised pass by Torey Krug high in Boston’s defensive end. He then closed to the right wing circle and snapped his shot by Tuukka Rask. Only 50 seconds from carrying a 2-0 lead into the first intermission, the Bruins were working with a half a loaf.
“Yeah, I’d have done something differently there,’’ said Krug, the crafty young defenseman who has been a welcomed boost to the Boston offense. “‘We have the 2-0 lead and that turnover ends up in the back of our net. I’ve got to do better than that.’’
Earlier, it looked as if the Bruins would breeze to a win, led by early strikes from Loui Eriksson (his second in as many nights) and Brad Marchand. Only 9:50 gone and already a 2-0 lead on the board, and a hometown crowd of 19,538 was all but fast asleep.
In the second, neither side scored, leaving the Bruins poised and confident, considering their high win rate entering the third with a lead (99-5-6 prior to Friday night). But it collapsed, and in a hurry.
Only 1:32 in, Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson spotted Jason Spezza off the left post and sent a pinpoint slap pass from above the right wing circle. Spezza collected, Rask sprawled to cover the side, and Spezza roofed in the tying goal, 2-2. A true marksman’s goal.
“Some nights,’’ lamented Rask, unhappy with his performance, “it’s like you’ve got a soccer net behind you.’’
And Ottawa eyes feasted on the ever-expanding opening like a pack of Peles. With 5:42 gone, Jared Cowen banged in a one-time slapper off a puck that ricocheted to him off the left wing wall. His shot beat defenseman Johnny Boychuk through the legs on its way to finding its way by Rask for the go-ahead goal.
“Yeah, I didn’t see that one,’’ said Rask. “But that doesn’t matter. I’m the goalie, I should stop it. On me.’’
Less than five minutes later, at 10:11, ex-Duck Bobby Ryan stripped newcomer Reilly Smith in the Boston end, turned quickly toward the net and beat Rask with a wrister. The Boston miscues were many. The Ottawa shots (18 in the third period) were too much for Rask to handle.
“They forechecked hard,’’ said Marchand. “They were jumping us everywhere.’’
Marchand, whose goal was his third of the season, exited to the room midway through the second period when a Dennis Seidenberg shot nailed him near the left kneecap. The L’il Ball of Hate needed help getting down the runway to the Boston room, at first giving the appearance that he could be done for the night. But less than four minutes later, without missing a shift, he was back on the ice.
“The shot hit a nerve and my leg wasn’t working for a while,’’ he explained. “It was a bit of a scare. But it came around pretty fast, thankfully.’’
Seidenberg also was in the thick of a play late in the third period that ended up sending Ryan to the Senators room with an undisclosed face or head injury. With both players converging on a puck in the Boston end, Seidenberg wheeled around and appeared to drive an elbow into Ryan’s nose or chin. Ryan exited for the room at 16:25 and did not return.
“From what I saw, to me, it’s reviewable by the league,’’ said Ottawa coach Paul MacLean. “There’s an injury there. How severe it is, we won’t know until [Saturday].’’
By Seidenberg’s account, he was concerned Ryan might slip the puck through his legs as the Senator forward reached his stick out to gain possession. While he reached, explained Seidenberg, he swung around under control and made contact with Ryan’s head.
“I’ll never go after a guy’s head,’’ he said. “If he’s pulling the puck through me, I have to play it . . . I’ve got to play my man. That’s the way I saw it.’’
Of greater concern will be how Brendan Shanahan, who heads up the league’s Player Safety Dept., sees it. If Shanahan deems it reviewable, Seidenberg could face a fine and/or suspension.