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Bruins overcome 2-goal hole, force Game 6 with double-overtime win over Senators 04.21.17 at 11:49 pm ET
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Bruins-Senators Game 5. (Marc DesRosiers/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins outlasted the Senators for a double-overtime win in a must-win Game 5 in Ottawa. (Marc DesRosiers/USA Today Sports)

This first round series against the Senators has been the series in which everything that could go wrong for the Bruins has, but by just a few inches. Friday’s Game 5 at Canadian Tire Center followed that theme out of the gate, too, as the Bruins found themselves in an 0-2 hole and down one of their top-six skaters not even 21 minutes into the game.

But as they have so many times this season, the Bruins found a way to dodge death, and have sent this series back to Boston for a Game 6 behind a 3-2 double-overtime win in Ottawa.

In an attempt to return to the aggressive nature that worked so well for them during the early stages of Bruce Cassidy’s tenure, Joe Morrow pinched in down low in an attempt to keep an offensive possession alive. But when he was tripped up and the Sens went the other way, neither Noel Acciari or Dominic Moore followed through with support for Morrow beyond the neutral zone, as Mark Stone danced in behind three Bruins with ease for a breakaway goal against Tuukka Rask.

To make matters worse of a first period that featured an 0-1 hole and six icings for the Black and Gold, second line center David Krejci, who missed the first two games of the series because of an apparent upper-body injury sustained right before the start of the playoffs, was taken out of the game on an unpenalized leg-on-leg/knee-on-knee hit from Chris Wideman.

It somehow got worse from there, as Jean-Gabriel Pageau snuck behind an overly aggressive B’s top pairing of Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy — a gaffe that was really created by the 40-year-old captain and not so much the five-game NHLer McAvoy — and stormed in for Ottawa’s second breakaway goal of the night and a 2-0 Sens lead just 30 seconds into the second period.

So, that’s two breakaway goals and no Krejci (or the center behind him, Ryan Spooner) in an elimination game.

This one was over.

But like they have so many times this year, the Bruins refused to die.

David Pastrnak scored the B’s first goal in over 120 minutes of hockey (he scored the last one, too) when he beat Craig Anderson at the 8:40 mark of the period. The Bruins then survived an Acciari puck over glass penalty, and Sean Kuraly rewarded them with a net-front goal banked off Wideman’s leg and in for the first goal of Kuraly’s NHL career, scored at 17:05 of the frame.

This was the Bruins following through with what they talked about at great length after each of their losses. They were generating looks in front of Anderson, and burying the second-chance opportunities that came with it.

So, at an unlikely 2-2 draw through 40 minutes of action, their season came down to 20 minutes.

Ottawa’s first great chance of the period came as a result of a bad change from Acciari and Moore, who made moves to the bench when they were just feet from the puck, which allowed Dion Phaneuf to get into the B’s zone with numbers, where he fed Stone for a puck that rang the post against Rask and kept this game knotted at 2-2.

From there, the Bruins dominated the third period, with battle victory after battle victory, and they found everything but a goal.

But after two straight icings, the Sens began to wear the Bruins down, and found their best chance when Mike Hoffman had an edge on McAvoy before he ripped a shot that trickled just inches wide from what would have been the go-ahead goal.

The Bruins continued to push the pace at the other end, and really limited the Sens’ looks on Rask, but made things tricky when Moore’s night to forget continued with a puck over the glass penalty late in the third period. The Bruins killed that off. And less than a minute later, and in a case of how-the-hell-does-this-happen, they were whistled for a too many men on the ice penalty.

Somehow, someway, the Bruins killed that off, too, and it was onto overtime for the third time in five games this series.

The penalty scale shifted in the B’s favor two minutes into the overtime, however, as Clarke MacArthur was whistled for a high stick on Colin Miller. The Bruins had their looks, including beautiful chances between the circles for both Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, but neither would go, and on the two teams played.

From there, it became the Rask Show, as the 30-year-old B’s ace made massive stop after stop, including a save job of what was a horrible McAvoy d-zone turnover that gave the Sens numbers on No. 40.

As they went end-to-end, the Bruins appeared to score when Kuraly came in on Anderson with speed. And when his shot was denied by Anderson, Acciari was there to bang a rebound in off an Ottawa body and in for the game-winning goal. But the referees had their say, and determined there was no goal due to goaltender interference, but went to the situation room review.

After a lengthy review, it somehow stood, and once again, on they played.

The Bruins nearly scored once more, but Pageau came through when he saved the puck off the line with his hand, and appeared to cover it. But again, and after a review, there was no penalty, no goal, nothing to appease the Bruins. And as if the games was being officiated by a crooked professional wrestling referee with a bad bowtie, with no regard for the NHL rulebook that clearly states Pageau’s actions as a penalty shot for the Bruins, on they played.

To a second overtime.

36 into the second extra frame, Bergeron was whistled for interference, and the Bruins returned to the penalty kill. Even down their best faceoff center, and their best two-way, perennial Selke Trophy favorite, the B’s killed it.

As fatigue took hold, bodies started flying everywhere, on they played.

Still, both Anderson and Rask stood tall. Rask came up a monstrous breakaway stop on Kyle Turris, and just moments later it was Anderson that withstood a prolonged battering from the Bruins, ended with a beautiful glove save.

After an ice scrape to reset the sheet, a clean win by David Backes dropped the puck to Charlie McAvoy, and on a putaway from Kuraly, for his second goal of the night, the Bruins forced a Game 6 in Boston on Sunday.

In what was the 15th longest game in Bruins history, Rask survived with 41 stops on 43 shots against.

Bruins will need a quick start vs. Senators in must-win Game 5 04.21.17 at 7:25 pm ET
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The Bruins have not scored a first period goal this series. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins have not scored a first period goal this series. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins finished the regular season with the 72 first period goals. That figured ranked as the sixth-most in the NHL, too. That tune has changed in the postseason, however, and has worked against the Bruins for a 3-1 series deficit heading into a must-win Game 5.

Through the first four games of their round one series with the Senators, the Bruins have yet to score a first period goal. Zero. Of the 16 playoff teams, only the Blackhawks have experienced a similar fate, and they were eliminated in four games behind last night’s series-sweeping 4-1 defeat at the hands of Pekka Rinne and the Predators.

The Bruins were better in the first period of the last game, too, but were unable to find the back of the net on 12 opening frame shots.

“The positives are we had very good chances early on. We were flat in the first period the other night (Game 3), we wanted to address that,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said after Wednesday’s Game 4 loss, the club’s third loss in a row and what ended as a 22-shot night for the B’s. “We’ve had pretty good first periods here getting leads and getting teams on their heels and tilting the ice our way. It started that way. It just didn’t finish.

“Give [Craig Anderson] credit. But, you’ve got to stick with it.”

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Bruins center Ryan Spooner will miss Game 5 vs. Senators 04.21.17 at 2:56 pm ET
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Ryan Spooner will miss Game 5 tonight. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Ryan Spooner will miss Game 5 tonight. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Game 5 in Ottawa will be played without one of the club’s key power-play contributors and 78-game presence during the regular season, as Bruins center Ryan Spooner will miss tonight’s must-win contest.

Replaced on a de facto fourth line by Sean Kuraly, who played in Games 1 and 2, for Friday’s morning skate, Spooner’s return to the press box was confirmed by Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy following the morning skate at Canadian Tire Center.

“Ryan’s not 100 percent, and we liked Sean’s game up here,” Cassidy said. “He’s good on getting on pucks, and forecheck has been a big part of how we’re able to create some of our offense, and he gives us that.

“I don’t know what’s going on mentally, but physically yes, [Spooner is] not 100 percent, which listen, there’s guys throughout the series that end up like that, but I don’t want to expand anymore than that. We liked the way Sean’s played, as much as anything.”

In spite of his five-on-five struggles this series, Spooner has been productive at less than 100 percent, with two assists (both secondary assists scored on power-play goals), which means that this ailment has to be something significant, no?

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Bruins winger Frank Vatrano leaves TD Garden in walking boot 04.20.17 at 1:01 am ET
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Frank Vatrano left TD Garden wearing a walking boot. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins winger Frank Vatrano left TD Garden wearing a walking boot. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Battered long before the start of their first round series with the Senators, the Bruins are an injured mess. And their health situation may have gotten even worse following Game 4’s 1-0 loss.

Following a somber locker room media session led by many of the club’s leaders, Bruins winger Frank Vatrano made his way out of the arena wearing a suit, but also sported a walking boot.

It’s hard to see exactly what could have bothered Vatrano, who finished Game 4 with one shot on goal, three hits, and a minus-1 rating in 9:59 of time on ice on a line with Ryan Spooner and Drew Stafford.

The potential loss of Vatrano, who scored 10 goals and 18 points in 44 games for the B’s this season, would simply add another hobbling body to an injury squad headlined by the club’s top four defense corps in Brandon Carlo (upper-body), Torey Krug (lower-body), and Adam McQuaid (upper-body).

The Bruins will not have practice on Thursday morning, so the earliest update will come from Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy’s media availability, which will be held at 11 a.m. at Warrior Ice Arena.

The 23-year-old Vatrano has one goal, six shots, and 12 hits in four games this postseason.

Despite what they said, overturned goal certainly deflated Bruins in Game 4 loss 04.20.17 at 12:20 am ET
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Charlie McAvoy's first NHL was overturned on a coach's challenge. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Charlie McAvoy’s first NHL was overturned on a coach’s challenge. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins once again found themselves on the wrong end of a one-goal final on Wednesday, this time by a 1-0 score. It was the same score that favored the Bruins for all of a few seconds at one point, too.

At the 10:49 mark of the second period, Bruins rookie Charlie McAvoy fired a puck through traffic and beat Craig Anderson. Enough for the first goal of his NHL career (though a deeper review may have credited the goal to Noel Acciari, who appeared to get a stick on the puck), the goal jumped the Bruins out to a 1-0 edge in a game that 100 percent had the feel of a ‘first team that scores wins’ kind of contest.

But in a game where scoring was at a premium, Senators coach Guy Boucher was not going to let that goal stand without a fight.

So in came his coach’s challenge. It was there that it was determined that Acciari was offsides about 20 seconds before the goal was scored, and off came the tally.

“Yeah, it definitely sucks. When that happens you’re happy when it’s on the other side, but not when it happens to you,” Patrice Bergeron said. “It’s the rule and I guess they made the call and we still have to find a way that’s the bottom line.”

With a heavy round of boos rained down on the referees for the second game in a row, the score returned to 0-0.

And the Bruins never quite recovered.

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Tuukka Rask and Craig Anderson reignite goaltending duel in Game 4, but Sens still win 04.19.17 at 10:13 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask and Craig Anderson returned to form in Game 4. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Tuukka Rask and Craig Anderson returned to form in Game 4. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

At one point in the second period of Wednesday’s Game 4 between the Bruins and Senators, a rogue beachball landed on the ice during play. If this were either Game 2 or Game 3, there’s a good chance that the beachball would have gone through one of the goalies in this game.

But not on Wednesday, as Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask and Sens goaltender Craig Anderson both brought their best back to the rink.

Both Rask and Anderson were incredible in the opening game, which ended as a 2-1 final for the Black and Gold, but have since seen their play dip in what was back-to-back seven-goal contests, both of which have been 4-3 overtime finals in favor of the Senators. As a result of those games, Rask came into tonight’s game with nine goals allowed and an .898 save percentage for the series while Anderson had eight goals allowed and an .892 save percentage. Both goalies are much better than that, and they showed that in a 1-0 duel of a Game 4.

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With stars struggling or injured, Bruins need secondary scorers to come through with some production 04.19.17 at 7:33 pm ET
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The Bruins could use some more production from the Spooner line. (Charles Leclaire/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins could use some more production from the Spooner line. (Charles Leclaire/USA Today Sports)

Bruins center David Krejci, who finished the year third among B’s skaters in both goals and points, is not playing at anything close to 100 percent. Top-line winger Brad Marchand, who scored a team-high 39 goals this season and produced above a point-per-game pace for the first time in his career, has been bottled up as much as one can given his skill, with one goal through three games of round one.

And to state the obvious, with those players either frustrated or hobbled, the Bruins need to find production elsewhere.

It’s pretty easy to find those players for the Bruins, too. They’re all on the same line, too; Ryan Spooner has just two helpers through three postseason games (both secondary helpers on the power play), while Frank Vatrano and Drew Stafford enter play with just one goal each.

“Well, secondary scoring — I mean, the first game Frankie got us going, he got us a big goal. Then, [Brad Marchand] got the winner. I think every coach would tell you that’s important. And even getting our backend a little more involved,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said before Wednesday’s Game 4 at TD Garden. “[Dion] Phaneuf got a big goal for them, [Chris] Wideman — so, you need offense from all sources because the other guys are more targeted.”

“In the playoffs it’s huge,” Vatrano said of the team’s secondary scoring. “Obviously they’re going to pay extra attention to our top guys and when they’re taking time, space, and scoring away from them, it’s up to the secondary scorers to get the job done.”

Vatrano did not get the job done on Monday, with just one shot on goal in 18 shifts. Stafford was not much better, with zero shots and a minus-1 rating in 12:15 of time on ice, and Spooner was a non-factor in his seven-plus minutes of five-on-five play.

But they’ll get another chance to step up tonight, with Stafford dropped back to his natural right-side on a line with Spooner and Vatrano, as Cassidy knows it’s a need for the club to make any sort of run deeper into the spring.

“Clearly, your best players need to be your best players,” Cassidy said. But, every year in the playoffs, there’s always those guys that step up. [Tim] Schaller got one, game two, big shorty. So we’ve had some of that and we’ll continue to look for it.”

As expected, Tuukka Rask gets the call in the B’s net. Rask surrendered four goals on 32 shots in a Game 3 overtime loss, and has allowed nine goals on 88 shots this series. And, again, as expected, Ottawa counters with Craig Anderson. The veteran Anderson has had similar struggles in this series despite the series lead for his club, with eight goals on 74 shots against.

Bruins defenseman Colin Miller (lower-body) draws back into action for the first time since Game 1. Tommy Cross, who was on the ice for three of Ottawa’s four goals in his season debut on Monday night, will sit as a healthy scratch in his place.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins…

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes

Tim Schaller – David Krejci – David Pastrnak

Frank Vatrano – Ryan Spooner – Drew Stafford

Dominic Moore – Riley Nash – Noel Acciari

 

Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy

Joe Morrow – Kevan Miller

John-Michael Liles – Colin Miller

Tuukka Rask

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