GLENDALE, Ariz. – With their Stanley Cup hangover now fully in the rear-view mirror, the Boston Bruins head toward 2012 with a tremendous head of steam and a two-month run of hockey that can be put up against any in the game's history.
Dennis Seidenberg's seeing-eye shot deflected off Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris and between the pads of goalie Jason LaBarbera 58 seconds into overtime as the Bruins ran their latest winning streak to seven games with a 2-1 win before a standing-room only crowd of 17,459 at Jobing.com Arena.
"The puck jumped into the high slot and all I saw was a guy in front of me. I was trying to get the puck through, and luckily it hit one of their guys and went in," Seidenberg said. "We got the win coming off a pretty long layoff. Winning a tight game is always a good feeling and when you score it's even better."
The Bruins have outscored their opponents 32-8 during this seven-game streak. They've also won nine of their last 10 road games during a 21-2-1 run that began after a 3-7-0 showing in October. The Bruins began this run with the NHL-best 10-game winning streak from Nov. 1-23, and this latest run is tied for the second-longest streak. They will go for eight straight on New Year's Eve in Dallas.
David Krejci scored 47 seconds into the game for Boston, and Ray Whitney matched it at 15:16 of the first for the Coyotes, who are 1-4-1 in their last six home games. From there it was a battle of the goaltenders, with Jason LaBarbera making more saves (26) but Boston's Tuukka Rask making more big ones among his 21.
Rask had his career-best shutout streak ended at 170 minutes and 26 seconds by Whitney's goal, but slammed the door after that and has allowed just one goal in the last three games as the Bruins moved past the New York Rangers into first place in the Eastern Conference with 49 points.
"I didn't have that many shots, but they had some good chances and it's kind of a mental grind when you don't get that many shots," Rask said. "You try to stay sharp throughout the 60 minutes … it was one of those games."
Rask needed to be good. After a five-day Christmas break, the Bruins had their troubles with the undermanned Coyotes, who were playing without four regulars -- including goalie Mike Smith and centers Martin Hanzal and Boyd Gordon.
"We struggled in the neutral zone. We got spread out quite a bit and they were just going through us like Swiss cheese," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "We left a lot of areas for them to skate through. I thought we got better in the third period. It was our first game back (after a five-day break), and we weren't as sharp as we could have been, but we improved as the game went on and we found a way to win."
The Coyotes fell to 0-2-1 in their last three games, but coach Dave Tippett was pleased with the effort by his team.
"We wanted to make sure we left an impression with the effort we had tonight and I thought we competed very hard. That's a good hockey team over there," he said. "We're missing a few guys … but we had a lot of people pour a lot into that game and it's too bad we couldn't get two points."
The voice of the Coyotes' first sellout crowd since the season opener had a decidedly Boston accent and didn't have to wait long to celebrate. LaBarbera, who allowed 10 goals on 76 shots in his first three starts in place of Smith, had another rocky start. On Boston's first foray into the Phoenix zone, Krejci ran down a loose puck between the circles and flipped a wrist shot that went between two Coyotes who were screening LaBarbera and caught him drifting the wrong way.
"Just as the shot is taken, Lauri Korpikoski skated in front of him so he just lost sight of it for one second," Tippett said. "Sometimes that's all it takes."
But both LaBarbera and the Coyotes settled down and, with the help of their third and fourth lines, turned the momentum. Whitney passed the puck to Daymond Langkow and dashed up the slot for a return pass. He was able to chip the puck between two Boston sticks, settle it and, in one motion, lift it over Rask's pad. Whitney's 13th goal ended Rask's career-best shutout streak at 170:26 and evened the game.
Whitney had another great chance during the first power play for either side in the second period when Keith Yandle's lead pass sent him in alone. But Rask didn't take the deke and closed off the right post with his pad to deny Phoenix the lead.
The Coyotes matched the rough and tough Bruins hit for hit in the first two periods. Enforcer Paul Bissonnette was a presence on the ice and Raffi Torres duked it out with Adam McQuaid early on the second period.
The Bruins had their best chance to take the lead three minutes into the third period when red-hot Brad Marchand (six goals in six games) was sent in alone. But LaBarbera made a glove save on Marchand's wrist shot from the slot. The Coyotes pressed for the winner in the final minute of regulation, pinning the Bruins in their zone, but were unable to beat Rask.
"When you have a team like that come into your building obviously everyone is going to get fired up," LaBarbera said.