“As you could see tonight we weren't fully committed to our game. At the same time we found a way to win. We moved three points ahead of these guys. At the end of the year we keep talking about those games become really important.” Claude Julien after the Bruins defeated the Atlanta Thrashers 6-4 tonight in Boston.
After a 0-2-2 stretch, the Bruins faced the two teams closest to them in the Conference standings. Monday night in Ottawa, Tim Thomas quite possibly played his best game all season shutting out the Senators and vaulting the Bruins over Ottawa in the division.
Tonight's conference foe started the night only one point behind the Bruins having played the same amount of games.
Thomas was between the pipes again tonight but, like the rest of the team, wasn't as solid as he was in Ottawa. He made highlight reel saves, ordinary saves and was beaten by shots he should have saved. His first save of the night was a solid glove save with no rebound. Just four minutes into the game, Colby Armstrong had a break away from center ice that Thomas robbed him on. In the final minute of the first period, Thomas made a glove save on Ilya Kovalchuk that was pure robbery. The Thrashers sniper swept down the wing, cut to the slot and picked the upper, far corner. Thomas' glove was just a little better on this shot. I would have liked to see Thomas stop the Bryan Little goal in the first period. A bad Bruin turnover led to that Little goal and the team defense was horrible on the second Thrasher goal.
The Bruin offense took advantage of both Atlanta goaltenders tonight. After a three goal outburst by Savard, Paille and Sobotka, John Anderson pulled his starting goalie Ondrej Pavelec and replaced him with Johan Hedberg. After it became 3-0 the Bruins never lost the lead but were challenged by the “never say die” Thrashers all night. The Thrashers narrowed the gap to 3-2 after one period and the B's responded by opening the margin to 4-2 after two periods. It was 5-2 halfway through the third period when the Thrashers bounced back into the game with goals from Evander Kane and Ilya Kovalchhuk. Patrice Bergeron's empty net goal with four seconds remaining in the game tied the bow on the box and placed it under the tree for the Bruins.
Savard, Chara Wideman, Recchi and Bergeron all had multiple point games for the Bruins. For Marc Savard, after a five game point scoring drought he now has points in consecutive games. Interesting that he led the team in the shots on goal statistic and that got his game going tonight. Afterwards, Savard spoke about getting more shots on goal, “I mean, I think throughout that stretch where I didn't have any points in five games were obvious, I think three of those I had zero shots so you know, Claude talked to me so obviously all the coaching staff and to get results and pucks in net. I was almost forced to shoot one in the power play, still wanted to pass the whole time so finally I just turned the shot. It felt good, everybody worked hard tonight.”
Kovalchuk and Maxim Afinogenov had multiple point games for the Thrashers.
Along with the outburst of goals, the Bruins special teams were once again very good. The power play was 3 for 5 and the penalty kill – tops in the league – was a perfect 4 for 4.
So while they didn't play their best tonight, the night was a very good one. They took the two points and started to open some distance between them and both Atlanta and Ottawa. They also gained two points on division leading Buffalo too. Both Ottawa and Buffalo lost tonight. With the Winter Classic almost here, the emphasis on playoff positioning will really start to heat up. The season is half over, like the Penguins last year – now is the time to turn up the heat on the division and get one of the top three playoff seeds.
Tonight is the thirtieth anniversary of the famous (infamous?) incident at Madison Square Garden when Terry O'Reilly, Peter McNab and Mike Milbury all went into the stands and battled with the Ranger fans.
Tonight's three stars
3 – Daniel Paille – scored the second goal of the night and was flying along with his linemates Bergeron and Recchi
2 - Zdeno Chara – scored a power play goal and had two assists. The big captain played great in Ottawa and continued it tonight
1 – Marc Savard – scored a power play goal and had two assists. Savvy has picked up his game since the mini slump he went through
I hope everyone enjoys their Christmas and the time they spend with family over the holidays. Next game is Sunday at the Florida Panthers.
Merry Christmas and as always, go B's!
About the Author
Written by Jim Mulligan