Ullmark leads B’s to 2-1 win over Ottawa
In their first game back from a five-game road trip, the Bruins were predictably far from perfect on Tuesday at the Garden.
Fortunately for them, Linus Ullmark was pretty close to it — and just a hair better than his counterpart, Ottawa Senator netminder Mads Soogard.
Ullmark (40 saves) turned away 21 shots in the second period to preserve a slim 2-1 lead and they hung on for the victory, killing a late Charlie Coyle penalty to survive.
In a terrific goaltending duel, the B’s had many chances to notch the insurance goal in the third but Soogard (33 saves) did his best to keep his team in the game. The B’s played a sound third period overall to prevent the Sens from getting the equalizer.
With the B’s improving to 54-11-5, the big Swede’s personal record is now 35-5-1 with a 1.95 GAA and .937 save percentage. There’s little he could do in the final dozen games to lose the Vezina Trophy, and he’s earned it from September on.
“He’s definitely a guy that plays off his confidence and he definitely has it right now,” said Brad Marchand, to whom Ullmark has credited with challenging him. “He just seems to be a whole new person this year. I think right from training camp, he seems so happy to be here and in such great spirits. He came in with such a great attitude. His work ethic has improved a lot and I think you’re seeing that in the games. He’s really battling hard in practice and is competitive every day. He’s just having a lot of fun right now. Every night he gives us an opportunity to win and he’s been the backbone of this team all year long.”
While the B’s execution was off, the effort throughout the game was impressive for a team that didn’t need a win playing a young, talented Senators desperately playing to keep their fading playoff hopes alive. While the B’s turned over pucks far more often than they would have liked, they were diving all over the ice to break up chances. When they couldn’t, Ullmark was there to come up with the save.
“That’s what we’re going to have to have when we look to the future,” said coach Jim Montgomery of the effort. “But we’ve had that all year. That commitment to blocking shots, playing hard for the guy next to you and not for yourself. It’s part of the culture here and again, I sound like a broken record, but those guys in that locker room play the right way and they get rewarded for it and that’s why we have the record we have.”
The first period smacked of the firstgame-back blues for the B’s, who turned the puck over early and often, gave up the first eight of nine shots on net and fell behind 1-0. And they still came out with a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.
The Sens took the first lead at 8:55 after Pavel Zacha tried to skate through two Ottawa players in the neutral zone and got his pocket picked by Ridly Greig. Greig sent it in for Dylan Gambrell behind the net and Gambrell appeared to fool Ullmark, tucking it behind Ullmark’s
right skate on a wraparound.
Ullmark would not be fooled again, and the B’s got themselves back in the game when the Sens got into penalty trouble. A minute and three seconds after Mark Kostelic held Coyle, Tim Stutzle tripped David Pastrnak to give the B’s a 5-on-3. Montgomery called a timeout to give his top players a breather and talk things over.
“I just wanted us to be on the same page,” said Montgomery. “I felt we had some 5-on-3s and we didn’t take a timeout. They kill a little bit differently on the 5-on-3 and instead of running an offset box-and-one, we were going to go to an umbrella and we hadn’t talked about it in a while.”
It paid off. With the two-man advantage, David Krejci scored his 15th on a rebound of a tipped Patrice Bergeron shot at 11:33.
The lead — and ultimately the GWG — was then attained on a beautiful play at 15:52. Marchand carried the puck into the offensive zone on the right wing and pulled up over the circle as Jake DeBrusk got up a head of steam. He hit DeBrusk with a perfect diagonal pass at the bottom of the left circle and DeBrusk scored his 23rd on an equally pretty finish, tucking a backhander just past Sogaard, who couldn’t stretch his 6-foot-7 frame to cover the far post.
“All-world,” was how
DeBrusk described Marchand’s pass.
Thanks to Ullmark in the second and Soogard in the third, that would be the last goal scored, but not the last of the action. In the second period, Ottawa turned up the heat, pelting Ullmark with shots, especially late in the period, but he was up for the challenge.
He might have been at his best when the B’s took a too-many-men penalty late in the period. He stopped a Brady Tkachuk attempt to jam it through him and, when the rebound bounced into the air and to his right, he made an athletic recovery to stop Alex DeBrincat’s try at batting it out of the air.
In the third, the B’s had a couple of power plays to extend the lead and many good looks on both of them, but Soogard kept the Sens in it. But, defensively, the B’s tightened up in front of Ullmark and controlled much of the play in the third. Things got problematic when Coyle was called for a holding penalty with 2:05 remaining. But the B’s never really let the Sens set up in the offensive zone, even with Soogard pulled for the extra skater.
Finally, Ullmark made one final stop at the buzzer to punctuate yet another victory for which he was the chief architect.