OTTAWA — The Senators don’t expect to make the playoffs, but they’re young and eager. Armed with a strong game plan against the scorching-hot Bruins, they had a shot. They gummed up the neutral zone, sagged back, and assigned a forward to shadow David Pastrnak.
“I haven’t seen that in a long time in this league,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “In November, anyway.”
For 40 minutes, it worked well. It wasn’t enough.
The Bruins broke through, slogging their way to a 2-1 win one night and a two-hour train ride away from their raucous rout in Montreal. Powered by third-period goals by Brad Marchand and ancient strongman Zdeno Chara, they scored their fifth win in a row and ran their record to 17-3-5.
“We got there,” Cassidy said. “It took everybody.”
Tuukka Rask (33 saves) was the star, a night after Jaroslav Halak quietly made 36 saves in the 8-1 win over the Canadiens. Rask stonewalled the Senators in his characteristically calm manner, finishing with a kick save on a loud Anthony Duclair slapper in the final seconds. The Bruins believe they have the best goalie tandem in the league. Evidence supports the claim.
“We let in two goals,” said Rask, whose save percentage rose to .931, a tick ahead of Halak (.930). “We gave us a chance.”
Before Marchand tied the game 5:15 into the third, taking a slick Anders Bjork feed from the wall and making a patient five-hole finish on Anders Nilsson (19 saves), chances were hard to come by. Boston was outshot, 24-10, through 40 minutes. Ottawa held a 51-30 edge in shot attempts.
The opening minutes were the worst of it. The Senators flung 20 pucks toward Rask in the first 10 minutes, landing six. They dominated the Corsi game, but didn’t have the high-level finishers that could have put them in a hole.
Rask brick-walled Nick Paul, Logan Brown and Jean-Gabriel Pageau in the first period, the latter of whom drew a slashing call on newcomer Brendan Gaunce before he fired. The Bruins killed the penalty without allowing a shot, and finished 2 for 2 on the PK, 0 for 2 on the power play.
“We’re not scared to play in a 0-0 game,” Marchand said. “We know eventually we’re going to get our opportunities.
“Back to back with travel’s never easy, but we found a way to get it done.”
Three minutes after Marchand’s 18th goal of the season — tying him with Connor McDavid for second in the league, behind Pastrnak (23) — Boston’s captain stepped up with a heavy slapper off a dish from Gaunce, at 8:45 of the third.
The Bruins, as bland as unseasoned Thanksgiving turkey to that point, were roasted 41 seconds into the third period. Breaking the other way after a Boston scoring chance in which Bjork crashed into the Ottawa net, defenseman Thomas Chabot sneaked by Brandon Carlo and beat Rask with a forehand shot.
“He can score, that guy, Chabot,” Cassidy said. “Credit to him.”
Minutes later, on a power play (interference on Duclair, drawn by Pastrnak), the Bruins allowed a 2 on 1, but Rask made the save on Chris Tierney. The Marchand goal settled them down.
A boatload of Bruins fans, as they did for Marchand’s strike, erupted when Chara notched the go-ahead goal. Now the oldest defenseman (42) with a four-game point streak, Chara was also recognized Wednesday for playing in his 1,500th game this month.
At a first-period stoppage, Ottawa played a video tribute, with Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” as the soundtrack, that showed clips of him tossing his weight around in his days here (2001-06). Chara, smiling, waved to the crowd and rapped his stick lightly on the bench.
“A class act,” said Chara, who said he didn’t know the honor was coming. “It’s such an overwhelming reaction. My time in Ottawa, I only have great memories.”
The Bruins, back at it for their traditional Black Friday Matinee (1 p.m. against the Rangers), might have played a mostly forgettable game Wednesday. No matter. They’re on a short list of the best teams in the league, and most nights, they play like it.