|Marco Strum celebrates (photo: Getty)|
BOSTON – The Bruins got the two points they wanted. They just didn’t like giving away one to Ottawa in the process.
Boston took over sole possession of first place in the Northeast Division by downing the Senators 4-3, but their lead is just one point instead of two because Ottawa forced overtime with a weak goal with 19.3 seconds left.
Tim Thomas, playing his first game after backing up Tuukka Rask for the past six contests with an undisclosed injury, took full responsibility for giving away that point, as he allowed Milan Michalek’s shot from the bottom of the left circle to slip between his pads and tie the game.
“I cost us the point,” said Thomas. “I felt terrible. I let down the team big time. I feel like they deserved the win (in regulation) for the effort they put in throughout the game. They deserved to win outright. So at the time, it was one of the worst feelings I’ve had in my four years here with the Bruins.”
Thomas redeemed himself by stopping three shots in overtime and all four Ottawa attempts in the shootout, blanking a formidable crew of shooters as Alex Kovalev, Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Fisher all came up empty. Thomas stoned Fisher’s backhand attempt to clinch it in the first round of sudden death after not even being able to watch Michael Ryder score Boston’s lone goal in the shootout.
“I didn’t even see Rydes shot,” said Thomas. “I just asked him where it went because I couldn’t watch. I was sick to my stomach. That was a game that was in the bag and I let the team down.
“I told them before the shootout, ‘Help me bail this thing out’,” added Thomas. “I messed up. I tried to tell the guys on the ice too. I messed up.”
Thomas’ apology was unnecessary as far as his teammates were concerned.
“That stuff happens, it’s going to happen to everybody,” said defenseman Dennis Wideman. “The only thing different is that when he makes a mistake it’s a goal. But Timmy’s been great for us for a long time. Stuff like that happens, so we just had to go out there and pick him up and get the win.”
Forward Mark Recchi agreed.
“Timmy’s a great goaltender and a great competitor and a great teammate,” said Recchi. “That happens. He’s saved our ass a heck of a lot more than we’ve saved his. It happens. It’s part of it. He’s a heck of a goalie.”
Wideman and Recchi combined for the goal that put Boston ahead for the first time, as they completed their comeback from 2-0 first-period deficit when Wideman struck on the power play at 9:19 of the third.
It was the third power-play goal of the night for Boston, their most since scoring four with the man-advantage against Carolina in the second game of the year. That game was also the last time Wideman scored a goal, though he wasn’t sure he deserved this one either. Wideman sent the shot in from the center of the blue line, while Recchi provided the screen in front.
“It’s been a long, frustrating time since the last one went in,” said Wideman. “We needed that tonight. We needed to start shooting more on the power play and I just kind of threw that one at the net and obviously it was a great screen by Rex.
“I asked him and he said he didn’t,” added Wideman when asked if Recchi might have deflected the shot. “But I think it went down, so he might have just been giving that one to me.”
Recchi feigned ignorance of any possible tips, as the veteran leader allowed his teammate to enjoy his first tally in 20 games.
“I just tried to make sure I got out of the way of it,” said Recchi. “I knew the goalie wasn’t going to see it. There was too much traffic. That was Wides’ goal. I didn’t touch it. It was a great shot. He put it in the right spot.”
After a shaky first period that saw Ottawa go up 2-0 on goals by Alfredsson and Michalek and Patrice Bergeron get injured blocking a shot, the Bruins did just about everything right the rest of the way.
Bergeron returned to play the final two periods and coach Claude Julien said the standout center was “fine” after the game. David Krejci scored from Recchi 59 seconds into the second and Ryder added another power-play strike from Zdeno Chara at 9:57 to tie it. Wideman’s goal appeared to give Boston the regulation win, but Thomas’ late gaffe forced the Bruins to wait until the shootout to celebrate their fifth win in the last six games.
“That’s all you can ask for,” said Thomas. “If you’re going to let a bad goal in with 10 seconds left or whatever it was, winning the shootout is the best you can hope for.”
Douglas Flynn can be reached at email@example.com.