By the end of the night, sticks and gloves were scattered throughout the Bruins’ defensive zone, punches had been thrown by half of each team, and the TD Garden crowd was standing at attention. The players were sent off one by one, heading down the tunnel early, and the benches were bare as the buzzer finally sounded.
It signaled a 7-3 victory over the Senators and the end of a three-game losing streak. Before that, the Bruins scored four power-play goals — including two by Patrice Bergeron. Jimmy Hayes had his first NHL hat trick and Matt Beleskey added a pair.
Next up, the Winter Classic.
“It was important for us to step up,” Bergeron said. “We’re missing [David Krejci] — he’s a big part of our team — but that’s when you’ve got to be at your best. We were in a little bit of a losing streak where we’ve played some good hockey, but we didn’t get the results and that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.
“So I thought today was a perfect example of how we need to play and how we have to respond.”
The Senators had taken the first game of the home-and-home, 3-1, on Sunday. The leftover feelings were packed up and brought to Boston.
The Bruins went up by two goals early in the second and early in the third, only to see the Senators cut those leads to one each time. It looked as if this one might go the way of the Buffalo game on Saturday, when the Bruins ended up getting blown out instead of gaining the easy win.
On Tuesday, instead of imploding, the Bruins pulled away.
It was a pair of goals that did it, with Hayes (15:49) and Beleskey (16:40) both getting their second of the night. Hayes then punctuated his night, getting the hat trick with one second remaining.
“I haven’t been scoring many goals as of late,” said Hayes, who now has eight. “It was nice to get some confidence going.”
So had he grown up dreaming of that moment, of being able to celebrate a hat trick for the Bruins?
“I sure did,” Hayes said. “It’s a dream come true and a pretty cool feeling.”
And yet, he might not have been the most excited about it.
“I was jacked,” said Max Talbot, who had the assist on Hayes’s second goal and took the faceoff before the final goal. “I feel bad now because I celebrated too hard at the end, but we called it at the faceoff. I was definitely looking for him, so I was glad that he got the hat trick. You usually don’t celebrate that hard at the end of a game like this, but I was feeling emotional in that situation.”
Beleskey and Hayes have been in scoring slumps most of the season. Beleskey had been the victim of bad luck throughout his first year in Boston, shooting at a percentage (now up to 9.6) well below last season (15.2). Hayes had not played the way the Bruins were hoping when they traded for him this summer.
So, on Tuesday, Hayes was demoted to the fourth line, with Brett Connolly taking his spot on the third and Seth Griffith sliding in with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.
The Bruins, though, really found their stroke on the power play, after going four straight without a man-advantage goal. They hadn’t scored multiple goals on the power play since Nov. 27.
“It’s nice to have four — we’ll definitely take it — but at the same time it’s nice to come in and take what’s there, not forcing plays,” Bergeron said. “I thought we were doing too much of that lately.”
The Bruins went up, 2-1, in the first period on Hayes’s first goal — which prompted an impressive fist-pumping celebration — and Bergeron’s first on the power play, sandwiched around Chris Neil striking for Ottawa. In the second, the scoring came from Beleskey and Mika Zibanejad.
Then came the third, when everything went crazy.
The Bruins scored four times, offsetting the one goal that went off Dennis Seidenberg’s skate and past Tuukka Rask (for the second straight game). Loui Eriksson took a rare penalty. Marchand took a less-rare penalty.
The teams found themselves in an old-fashioned donnybrook, complete with eye-gouging, six 10-minute misconducts, and all that discarded equipment.
And the Bruins found themselves with a win.
“I thought we handled our emotions well — not even talking about at the end of the game with all the crap that was going on — but before that, they were coming at us and they brought it to a one-goal game a couple times, and we responded well emotionally,” Bruins defenseman Torey Krug said. “We went out and got the next goal and I think that says a lot about our team and how we handled it. It’s another step in the right direction.”