December 28, 2013

Smith's two strikes sink Sens

By Andrew Merritt

Reilly Smith scored twice in the third period to put the game out of reach. (Getty Images)

Final: Bruins 5Senators 0

Recap: Reilly Smith had a pair of goals and the red-hot Bruins power play struck again as Boston won its third straight in the opening game of a home-and-home with the lowly Senators.

The Bruins came out of the gates a bit sleepy after their four-day Christmas break, but after getting outshot 15-5 by Ottawa in the first period, they pumped 20 shots on Robin Lehner in the second. That sparked a strong finish that included the game-winning power play goal from Jarome Iginla and insurance markers from David KrejciSmith and Brad Marchand as the B's pulled away from the 11th-place Senators for their third straight victory.

A quiet first period saw Tuukka Rask make 15 saves en route to his 20th career shutout, which moves him past Hal Winkler for sole possession of eighth all-time in the franchise's history. The Bruins gave Rask a bit of a break over the final 40 minutes, though, outshooting the Senators 37-18 to run away with it.

Iginla opened the scoring with 3:31 to go in the second, snapping a loose puck in from the slot on the power play. It's the third straight game with a power play goal for the Bruins – a feat the team hadn't achieved since Jan 22-31, 2012. The power play is 5-for-8 over those three games. Krejci scored just 38 seconds into the third period on a Matt Bartkowski assist, and that started the rally for the Bruins. Smith's two goals, scored at the 10:20 and 17:26 marks of the third moved him to 14 for the year, the team highMarchand, who had a bevy of open looks in the game, finally cashed in with 27 seconds to go while the B's were shorthanded.

The one blemish of the night game with 4:35 to go, when Dennis Seidenberg had awkward collision with Ottawa's Cory Conacher behind the Bruin net, and went down in a heap. Seidenberg skated off under his own power after clutching his right leg, and didn't return. Coach Claude Julien said Seidenberg will not make the trip to Ottawa for Saturday night's rematch.

Records: Boston 26-10-2, 54 points; Ottawa 15-18-737 points.

Key Play of the Game: It's almost impossible to believe how well the Bruins' power play units are playing right now, given the club's notorious woes over the last few years, but Iginla's goal is a perfect example of everything that's going right. Krejci smartly left a puck for Iginla in the corner as Eric Gryba harangued him, and No. 12 walked it back to Krejci, who found Torey Krug at the point. The diminutive defensemen wound up and fired a shot off of Chris Phillips, with the deflection landing at Iginla's feet. The veteran showed quick reflexes in turning and putting a shot past Robin Lehner for the only goal the Bruins ended up needing in the game, thanks to Rask's 33-save effort.

Merritt's Marks: Reilly Smith might not have been anyone's pick to lead this team in goals after the trade that brought him and Loui Eriksson to Boston in exchange for Tyler Seguin, but sure enough, the 22-year-old Toronto native is atop the list after his second two-goal performance in three games. Not for nothing, Smith is currently at a 21.9 percent shooting percentage.

Tuukka Rask's work in the first period had as much to do with the win as anything. He started early with a real dandy of a save on Clarke MacArthur after the Bruins were caught sleeping, and made a pair of big stops with about six minutes to go in the opening frame. Rask then showed poise and focus down the stretch, and even if he didn't have any highlight-reel stops the rest of the way, he gave the Bruins what they needed to stay on the offensive.

And for all of his early struggles, Brad Marchand showed an incredible amount of patience on a potentially frustrating night. The winger who has been trying to get on track seemingly all season had two shots on goal and two misses, but seemed to be always in a dangerous position and was finally rewarded with the late shorthanded marker. His assist on Smith's first goal was also a thing of beauty, with the late pass giving Lehner no time to slide over and cover Smith's shot.

De-Merritts: Hard to find any standout issues on this particular night, but the opening period was far from the Bruins' best. The sluggish start might have spelled doom against a better team, and it might have given Ottawa something to be confident about heading into Saturday night's game at the Scotiabank Centre.

Krejci also gets a lowercase de-merritt tonight after going 7-for-16 at the faceoff dot and ending up with two giveaways. But when you score a goal, just about everything is forgiven.

Notes: Smith's two-goal night marked the seventh straight game in which a Bruin scored two goals, matching a club record set in December, 1929. ... Patrice Bergeron's pair of assists moved him into a tie for 18th place on the team's all-time scoring list with 454 points. The other guy in 18th place: Jumbo Joe Thornton. ... The Bruins are now 6-1-0 in the first games of back-to-back sets this season. They're 5-1-0 in the second games.

Final Thoughts: It was an important game for the Bruins on several levels, but the biggest was that the team needed a good response after the disastrous loss in Detroit on Wednesday. Looking energized and aggressive, the Bruins dominated for long stretches, and bounced back well after New York's two quick goals late in the first period. The Bergeron goal was the sign of some strong work by the entire line, which is finally starting to jell, and the defense continues to hold it together with one of two regular starters in Adam McQuaid still out with an injury. Giving up the two goals showed a lack of discipline by a team that had barely any in Detroit, but what followed those lapses was an encouraging sign for the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins.

Next: The B's get right back to business Saturday night, welcoming Columbus to TD Garden at 7 p.m.

Twitter: @A_Merritt