Commentary

Bruins finally pull it all together

Updated: November 2, 2011, 2:19 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- It's been a while since TD Garden was this loud.

The Boston Bruins desperately needed to snap their three-game losing skid and they were facing a team with a six-game winning streak in the Ottawa Senators. When the final buzzer sounded Tuesday night, the Bruins skated away with a 5-3 victory.

Boston's victory anthem "Dirty Water" blared from the speakers and the 17,565 in attendance finally were pleased with the performance of the defending Stanley Cup champs. Leading into Tuesday's win, the 2011-12 season had been disappointing.

Bruins coach Claude Julien called it a "straight forward" victory, one that was a lot more typical of the way the team played last season. It was all about making the simple plays and putting the puck in areas where the Bruins could gain possession and capitalize on it.

Offensively, the Bruins had contributions from 13 players on the score sheet, including Chris Kelly, who helped with a goal and an assist, while Zdeno Chara chipped in with two assists. Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, Johnny Boychuk and Daniel Paille each added a goal.

For the Bruins to score, things have to start on the defensive end, and Boston was a lot better in that area than it has been of late, a point of contention for Julien this season. When that aspect of Boston's game is working, it adds considerably to the team's systems play.

"Last year that was one of our strengths," Kelly said. "We had contributions from every line at both ends of the ice and that was nice to see tonight."

Boston remains in the cellar of the Eastern Conference, tied with the New York Islanders for last place with only eight points. Since the Bruins have struggled from Day 1, Julien has talked time and again about needing to find the solution in the locker room even before a skate blade makes a groove on the ice.

Even though the coach held an optional game-day skate on Tuesday morning with only three players on the ice, the rest of the team played its normal soccer game in the hallway outside the locker room.

Julien said after Tuesday's victory that he sensed earlier in the day a different feeling from his players.

The Bruins didn't have the start they were looking for and found themselves trailing early, but they regrouped and finally found a way to win.

"I just felt like our team was there tonight and the compete level was better," Julien said. "Our focus seemed to be there and you look at the way [Ottawa] scored that first goal, we were a snakebite right there. But tonight we looked like a group that wasn't going to let those things beat us."

Julien's instincts were accurate and after Ottawa grabbed a 1-0 lead at 5:19 of the first period, it didn't take long for Bruins pugilist Shawn Thornton to step in and do his job.

[+] EnlargeShawn Thornton
Elsa/Getty ImagesShortly after the Bruins fell behind, Shawn Thornton went to work, engaging Ottawa's Zenon Konopka and sparking his teammates.

On the ensuing faceoff at center ice, Thornton started to have words with the Senators' Zenon Konopka, and as soon as the puck was dropped, so were the gloves as the two tussled. When it was over and both players headed to the penalty box, Thornton clapped his hands, knowing he did what he was supposed to do in that situation, especially on home ice.

"I just wanted to get the boys going being down 1-0 again," Thornton said. "Just like the last two guys [I fought], he's an ex-teammate, an ex-linemate. We have a job to do, and it was a pretty good tilt. And kudos to him for stepping up and doing it too."

That sparked the Bruins for a couple of shifts and the boost resulted in a power-play goal at 7:12 of the period when Lucic pumped in a rebound off a Chara wrister from the point to tie the game at 1-1.

That lead didn't last long as the Senators scored at 7:28 to regain the lead. But the Bruins were able to keep it a one-goal game for the remainder of the first period.

Boston played much better in the second period and scored a pair of goals to gain a 3-2 advantage.

Bergeron's line, which was relentless all game, was rewarded for its effort at 4:21 of the period. Tyler Seguin made a nifty pass to Bergeron in the slot and he notched the tying tally with a quick shot.

The Bruins finally gained the lead when Kelly scored at the 18-minute mark with a one-timer from the slot to give Boston a 3-2 advantage.

The Bruins entered the third period with a 2-0-0 record this season when leading after the first 40 minutes. Boston also had 1:15 remaining on a power play with a clean sheet of ice, but couldn't capitalize.

That proved crucial as Ottawa tied the game at 3-3 when a shot from the point pinballed its way past Thomas. Senators defenseman Jared Cowen was credited with the goal at 5:04.

After a sluggish start to the period, the Bruins regained control of the game when Boychuk's slap shot from the right point made its way through traffic in front and beat Craig Anderson for a 4-3 Boston lead at 6:41.

"It's obviously a huge goal for us," Bergeron said. "That's exactly what we needed -- to respond right away, almost right after. It showed that tonight everyone was on the same page, and it paid off."

The sold-out Garden also was loud again.

This time, the Bruins fed off the energy and grabbed 5-3 lead when Boston's fourth line chipped in with Paille finding the back of the net on a breakaway at 7:18 of the third.

"We were trying to maintain that 60-minute focus," Julien said. "Maybe at the beginning of the third, after that power play, we seemed to get a little sloppy and of course they tied the game up. But I think everybody was on the same page tonight, as far as don't hang your heads and let's go out and get the next goal and let's find a way to win this game.

"Determination was a lot better tonight. We had more positive thoughts than hanging our heads and saying, 'Here we go again.'"

Tuesday's victory over Ottawa could be and should be a confidence builder for the Bruins. But it's only one game. Boston has yet to win back-to-back games this season and will look to do so with a victory Saturday in Toronto.

"Tonight was a start, but it has to carry over to the next game," Julien said. "We have to be determined to want to bring those kinds of efforts with us in the next game, which is going to be probably as tough a team to play right now."

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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