Ottawa broke a scoreless tie 5:49 into the third period when Bobby Ryan slipped a soft shot under the stick of an outstretched Tuukka Rask en route to 1-0 victory, and a commanding 3-1 series lead, over the Boston Bruins Wednesday night at the TD Garden.
The Bruins face an uphill battle if they are to advance past the Senators into the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Bruins are now 1-7 against the Sens this season. Six of the games have been decided by one goal.
How do the Bruins attack the neutral-zone trap? That was one of the major questions heading into Boston's best-of-seven series with Ottawa; a question that took on more relevance when the team lost one of its leading puck-moving defenders in Tory Krug with a leg injury on April 6. The Black and Gold were held to just one even-strength goal in three games vs. Ottawa during the regular season, but have lit the lamp for five in the first four post-season games. The middle of the ice hasn't been as much of an issue in this series, and scoring has been more equally distributed away from the likes of the heavily relied on David Pastrnak, 2017 Selke Trophy finalist Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. But...
While Pastrnak and Bergeron have stayed mostly even with their regular-season stride, Marchand, the team's leading scorer, has been noticeably absent from the score sheet, with just one goal, in Game 1 of the series. If the Bruins are to advance to the next round, Marchand will need to return to the player he was before his selfish spearing penalty gave the feisty left winger a two-game break leading into the playoffs. If Game 4 was any indication, "the Little Ball of Hate" is starting to get his legs back again.
The Bruins didn't spot the Senators a three-goal cushion like they did in Game 3, and despite being narrowly outshot 14-12 in the first period Wednesday, the Black and Gold generated several Grade-A chances, including a handful by Marchand, only to enter the locker room in a scoreless tie.
On their heels for much of the first six minutes of the second, the Bruins relied heavily on Rask (26 saves) to make several stops as his team had trouble clearing the defensive zone. An interference call to Alexandre Burrows at 6:36 of the period gave Boston a chance to regain some composure. Even though they weren't able to capitalize on the man advantage, the B's did appear to strike first at 10:49 on a Noel Acciari tip of a McAvoy shot from the right point. The goal was disallowed due to the play being ruled offside.
The power play, which was 5-for-8 against Ottawa during the regular season, is now struggling at a 2-for-11 pace on the series. Part of this is surely due to Krug being out of the lineup, but if the B's want to be successful this post season, they surely must find some answers. Whereas Charlie McAvoy shouldn't be expected to take on a scoring role this early in his NHL career, interim head coach Bruce Cassidy may want to encourage the youngster to take more shots as he sees more time on the power play unit. McAvoy has shown more confidence in each game.
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The Bruins had difficulty containing Erik Karlsson once again. Karlsson, who controlled play at times and tested Rask on an early odd-man rush, has torched Boston with five assists in the series, including a helper on the game winner in Game 4, and has factored in close to half of the Senators goals.