It was a game that could have been so much more.
With nothing to gain, the Boston Bruins left Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas, and Patrice Bergeron at home and played with a significantly more pedestrian lineup--but still managed to suffocate the Senators' offence with strong back-pressure and neutral-zone coverage, and have to be feeling mighty optimistic about a potential first-round matchup against Ottawa.
The Sens came out shooting in the first, but it was Benoit Pouliot who scored first when Filip Kuba missed on an offensive-zone pinch with no one covering for him, leading to an odd-man rush for the Bruins with only Erik Karlsson defending. (For some reason, the puck passed in front of Karlsson twice and he couldn't get his stick on it.) In the second, Greg Zanon sneaked a wrister from the point past Ben Bishop, all the while Anton Khudobin was stoning all comers from the Senators' lineup--until Jason Spezza managed to spoil the shutout when his shot trickled through Khudobin.
Ottawa had a few more chances--none better than an open net missed by Karlsson--but couldn't get anything else past Khudobin. Milan Lucic sealed the deal late in the third and Boston left with a couple of points and a heck of a lot of confidence heading into the playoffs.
Sens Zero: Erik Karlsson
Just an awful game for Kid K--hopefully he's just saving his energy for the playoffs. He had six shots on net, mostly perimeter shots (as was the case for most shooters), but was on for every goal of the game. He was at his worst in the third period, though: An (admittedly unlucky) missed open net could have tied the game at two, but he screwed it up; then, just minutes later, Karlsson totally blew his coverage of Milan Lucic to put the game right out of reach.
Sens Killer: Anton Khudobin
It was a standard Khudunit this evening, where someone stole a win--and that someone was the guy whose name I wrote above and don't feel like writing again. He stopped 44 of 45 shots faced, including 17 in the first period when the Sens came out with guns blazing, and gave Ottawa nothing in the way of rebounds. Most impressively is how he makes the saves, with an unconventional up-and-down style that's got to wreak havoc on his knees, while his limbs flail wildly and his legs seem to be horizontal more often than they are vertical. It worked for him, though, and there's an embarrassment of riches in the Boston net with this kid as the third-stringer.
Honourable mentions: Matt Carkner, Chris Neil, Jared Cowen
If the Senators do end up playing the Bruins in the playoffs, these guys will be hugely important in matching up against Boston's size and hitting--and they made a statement tonight. Seven hits for Carkner, Neil had six, and Cowen had five; the three combined nearly matched the Bruins' hit total.
Statement game: Rob Klinkhammer
The Colonel made a statement tonight, as well, and you can bet he'll be in the lineup if the Sens take on the Bruins, thanks in large part to his size and speed. He looked good alongside Jesse Winchester at times, and would have had an assist if Karlsson was able to finish that glorious set-up.