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Karlsson leads Sens over Bruins; win 3rd straight

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The road to the playoffs got a little bit easier tonight.

NHL: Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

If that’s what a Bruins - Senators series is going to look like, sign me up. 100 5-on-5 shot attempts, miraculously ending at an even 50/50 split, is only one indicator of how fast-paced and physical tonight’s game was. Of course, that means Guy “Trap The Neutral Zone” Boucher may find some more faults in tonight’s game than I will, but I’m sure he’ll be happy with a win that puts the Senators four points up on the Bruins with two games in hand.

The Senators were led by their Captain tonight, as Erik Karlsson continued his best offensive stretch of the season — with 11 points in 10 games and 25+ minutes of ice-time in six of them. Funnily enough, he wasn’t a factor on the team’s first two goals.

Derick Brassard started the festivities on his first shift of the night with a floating wrist shot that beat Tuukka Rask. Brassard, who was flying tonight, showed his speed to enter the Bruins zone with control and fired a shot on Rask that was kicked away with his right pad. Burrows, crashing for a rebound, caused the Bruins to run around a bit by firing a hard shot attempt towards the net, and the puck eventually found its way to Brassard in the high slot. With Mark Stone screening Rask in front, all three members of the Burrows - Brassard - Stone line contributed positively for their second game in a row.

Just over two minutes later, Jean-Gabriel Pageau doubled the Sens lead. The big offensive contribution on this goal came from Dion Phaneuf, who wasn’t even supposed to play tonight. After Pyatt won the puck behind the net as he often does, Phaneuf ended up with the puck at the left point. Instead of trying to wind up for a big slapper, Phaneuf half-clapped a low shot towards the net that Pageau tipped past Rask. A smart decision that payed off, and gave the Sens a 2-0 lead just four minutes into the game.

The Bruins started to push back though, and Craig Anderson earned the bulk of his pay in the first period. In numbers: the Bruins had 25 of the 50 5-on-5 attempts, 13 of their 25 shots, and 11 scoring chances (4 high-danger) in the first period — numbers that they didn’t reach in the second and third periods combined. In particular, the trio of Marchand - Bergeron - Backes did a majority of the damage and it was Bergeron who made it a one-goal game late in the first. After Ceci made a soft turnover on the wall that was cut off by a pinching Torey Krug, the puck ends up with Bergeron who spun and fired it past Andy for his 17th of the year. Boucher pressed a bunch of the right buttons tonight, but the matchup pair of Phaneuf - Ceci got crushed tonight against the Bergeron line; the Bruins group finished the night with >65% of the shot attempts in their ~15 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time, ~9-10 minutes of which were against Phaneuf - Ceci.

As much as the Bruins were strong in the first, the Sens were even better in the second. In fact, I’d go as far to say that the second period was one of Ottawa’s most dominant of the year, and definitely one of their most offensively creative despite not managing to put one of their 14 second period shots by Tuukka Rask to extend their lead. The Sens had 70% of the shot attempts in the period, and outside of the a momentum killing powerplay that was drawn by Mark Borowiecki (!), there looked to be a scoring chance on every other shift. You could really see the impact of Stalberg + Wingels, in that they not only did well in their minutes, but also allowed Boucher to spread around his ice-time. To that end, every Sens player played at least 12 minutes tonight — a stat that just wasn’t possible pre-deadline.

The third started off at a choppier pace compared to periods one and two, and although I don’t think you can say that the Sens “shut it down”, they managed to do enough good things to get the win. For one, the powerplay actually scored. What seems to happen is that when it clicks, it clicks, and that was the case tonight with a goal 14 seconds after David Pastrnak took a high-sticking minor on Dion Phaneuf. The drink that stirred the pot? Erik Karlsson, who snuck down from the right point after receiving the puck from Dion Phaneuf, only to send a sweet cross-ice feed to Mike Hoffman for his 20th of the year. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Mark Stone’s work down low to get the puck free to Hoffman to start the rotation at the point. It’s another one of the little things Stone does right on any given night.

Unfortunately for Ottawa, the Bruins responded just a minute later on a quick powerplay strike of their own. This time, the always-pesty Brad Marchand potted his 30th of the year with Viktor Stalberg in the box on a side play that Craig Anderson had absolutely no chance on while Cody Ceci boxed out no one and Zack Smith got lost in coverage down low.

Marchand was his usual self tonight: after whistle antics, speedy, and good.

As Boucher and the Sens went into their usual “protect the lead” strategy with 10 minutes left in the third, the team did a solid job of protecting the neutral zone and limiting Boston’s shot attempts, killing the clock slowly. When Tuukka Rask left the net with around 1:30 left to play, Erik Karlsson fronted a shot and managed to chip the puck to Mark Stone, who banked it off the boards for Alex Burrows to skate into. The new Sens forward settled the puck down and potted his third goal in three games into the empty net to give Ottawa the 4-2 lead that held as the final score.

Sens Hero: Erik Karlsson

Duh. But really, he was terrific tonight. Two assists, on the ice protecting the lead with less than a minute left against a team right below in the standings, and fantastic defensive effort.

Sens Hero: Team Speed

I don’t know about you, but it looked like many of the players had rockets attached to their skates tonight. It was the fastest I’d seen Derick Brassard in my lifetime, while Smith and Pageau looked like they had an extra step with them tonight as well.

Honourable Mention: Craig Anderson

Anderson didn’t have to be a ton of high calibre saves tonight, but I felt that he controlled rebounds well and was there in the first period to keep the Sens on top until they could add to their lead in the third. He still has to stop playing the puck because it almost always ends up in the hands of the opposition, but maybe he’ll learn one day?

Game Flow & Heat Map via Natural Stat Trick