There reaches a point in every game when one play turns the momentum to one side.
It happens for every game, and it happens for every season and usually it’s nothing more than a good fundamental play that turns the tide, most times barely making a ripple in the sea of humanity gathered around the ice sheet…
…but on Tuesday night at TD Garden in downtown Boston, Bruins’ defenseman Dougie Hamilton had a moment just like that, and when it happened, the fans erupted in unison – even if the young defenseman paid the price.
With the score tied at 2-2, and both teams involved in a track meet, Hamilton delivered a huge hit on Ottawa winger Erik Condra just inside the Senator’s attacking zone, laying Condra out and leaving Hamilton sprawled face down on the ice.
The collision allowed the Bruins to break the other direction, seconds later Milan Lucic launching a wrister from the high point, hitting Senator’s goalie Robin Lehner in the pads hard enough that he couldn’t control the rebound which went right to Nathan Horton who slammed the puck in for the game winner.
David Krejci and Tyler Seguin also scored for the Bruins during a five minute scoring spree to open the contest. Colin Greening opened the scoring with a backhander just 2:48 into the game to give Ottawa the lead, Krejci tying it just 40 seconds later and Sequin giving the Bruins the lead a mere minute after that.
After a scoreless second frame, Senators’ left winger Andre Benoit knotted the score at 2-2 winding up and firing from the top of the left circle that Khudobin at first appeared to stop, but replays showed the puck floated just across the red line and Benoit was awarded the goal. Horton then put the Bruins up for good with his wrister off the Lucic rebound.
The 3-2 win improved the Bruins’ record to 23-8-4, and the accompanying 50 points just one shy of rivals Montreal Canadiens for the lead in the Northeast Division, but six behind the conference leading Pittsburgh Penguins.
Condra got up slowly from the Hamilton hit, but the young defenseman remained prone for a few seconds before arising, seemingly stunned from the violent collision, and went immediately to the locker room, emerging no worse for wear a few moments later.
The same can not be said for top line center Patrice Bergeron, who skated into an inadvertent Colin Greening elbow at the midway point of the 2nd period and hit the ice, remaining on his hands and knees for several seconds before skating off and into the locker room.
Unlike Hamilton, Bergeron – who has a history of severe concussions – did not return, and no information on the severity of his injury was offered, thought the mood in the Bruins locker room after the game was rather subdued for such an exciting game.
“He’s a player that plays a big role on our team,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. “He’s obviously one of our best players every night, so he was missed since he left the game.”
Chara had a huge defensive hit himself, perhaps a game saver.
With 34 seconds left in the contest and the Bruins nursing the one goal lead, Defenseman Johnny Boychuck was called for interference, giving the Senators the man advantage that they quickly tunred into a 6 on 4 by pulling their goalie.
Bruins net minder Anton Khudobin being pelted by the Ottawa onslaught and after a big save on a windup and snipe by Sergie Gonchar, the puck bounded of to the right corner where Senator’s winger Chris Neil got there just before Chara, who laid Neil out with a vicious fore check into the boards, Chara taking possession of the puck and firing it back into the Senator’s zone as the game clock expired.
This is how the Bruins win. They play their best when they feed off of big hits and solid defense, though coach Claude Julien would argue the solid defense part.
“It was good to see our team offensively create some chances because that’s an area where we struggled,” Julien said, but “I thought that we were very soft defensively.”
Perhaps he should ask Condra and Neil how soft the Bruins defense was.
In truth, both goal tenders would probably agree with Julien, as both faced career high shots on goal, Khudobin stopping 45 of 47 while Lehner managed to stone 47 of 50 Bruins’ opportunities…but in the end it was the fierce hitting by the Bruins’ defensemen that ultimately won the game.