OTTAWA - The Ottawa Senators have got to be feeling a little envious after losing to Tim Thomas yet again on Tuesday.
The Bruins' netminder racked up his 11th win in a row in Boston's 4-1 victory over the Senators, and it was Ottawa's own goaltending woes that helped make it possible. A night after Bruins coach Claude Julien called out his team's lack of effort and questioned its leadership following a loss to the New York Rangers, his players responded by burying four first-period goals on Brian Elliott.
And for the second straight game, the Senators were forced to pull their starting goaltender, although they refused to point the finger at just Elliott.
"It was a brutal first period," Ottawa centre Mike Fisher said. "We didn't come out with the effort we needed right from the start. We didn't come ready to play tonight and it's got to come from everyone and not just our goaltender."
Blake Wheeler scored twice and added an assist and Thomas, who hasn't lost to the Senators since Nov. 4, 2007, stopped 27 shots to improve his and the Bruins' record against them this year to 4-0 before an announced sellout crowd of 19,156 at Scotiabank Place, where Ottawa has proven tough to beat this year.
"It's fun to get any two points," Thomas said when asked about his run against the Senators. "Really, honestly, there's 100 per cent nothing personal about me beating Ottawa. Like tonight, I get spotted a four-goal lead. It wasn't me. I was going to say, I don't want to be asked about this every time I come here, but actually, if you are asking me, we keep winning."
Boston made quick work of it with Elliott making way for Pascal Leclaire after giving up four goals on 16 shots.
"Not too many times do you get fortunate enough to get a big lead like that," Thomas said. "We came out and we went to the front of the net and worked hard to stay there and were rewarded for it early."
David Krejci and Mark Recchi each added a goal and an assist and Johnny Boychuk had a pair of helpers for the Bruins (22-13-7), who won for the third time in four games despite playing without top centre Patrice Bergeron.
Bergeron, the team's leading scorer, was hurt in Boston's 3-2 loss at the New York Rangers a night earlier after he was hit on the thumb by a shot from teammate Dennis Wideman in the second period.
Before Tuesday's contest, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said Bergeron broke the tip of his right thumb in three places and is expected to miss two weeks.
"It's a big loss. Whenever you lose what we consider our best player so far this year for any amount of time - a game, two games or two weeks - it's a big loss," Julien said. "But if our players handle themselves like they did tonight - show up and battle hard - we'll get through it.
"That's probably more of what we've been looking for from our team. I thought we had good battle tonight and that's something we've been looking for from our team there for a while, so hopefully we can build on that and not go back to our old ways next game."
Boston also lost defenceman Andrew Ference early in the second period Tuesday when he was hit by Senators blue-liner Chris Phillips. He didn't return and Julien said he'll be evaluated Wednesday.
Thomas shut out the Senators 2-0 the last time the teams met, Dec. 21, and a lone power-play goal from Filip Kuba, that needed to be reviewed after Nick Foligno's pass went in off his skate, was all Ottawa could manage this time.
The Senators (22-17-4) had their two-game win streak stopped and fell to 16-7-3 on home ice.
"He gets on rolls like that and if you asked him how many in a row he's won against Ottawa, I'm sure he doesn't even know," Wheeler said of Thomas. "I think he's probably just got a lot of confidence and he's got a lot of confidence in this building and when he plays this team."
Elliott was starting for the first time since that previous game against the Bruins, a span of seven contests, because Leclaire was pulled after giving up three goals on 10 shots in the Senators' eventual 7-4 triumph over Philadelphia in their last game on Sunday.
Elliott gave up a goal on the first shot he faced to Wheeler on a tip-in from a sharp angle at the 1:46 mark and it only got worse from there.
"We dug ourselves a hole and once you're down four goals against a team like Boston, it's tough to come back from that," Senators defenceman Matt Carkner said.
Leclaire stopped all 19 shots he faced in relief.
Bergeron's absence pressed right-winger Miroslav Satan into his Bruins debut Tuesday after only signing with Boston officially on Sunday as a free agent. The 35-year-old was a member of Pittsburgh's Stanley Cup-winning team last year.
"My legs felt good and I don't know how many minutes I played, but it felt pretty good for the first game after a long, long layoff," Satan said. "I know it's going to get better as I go along."
No Bergeron would also have been good news for the Senators since he had scored the winning goal against them in two of Boston's three victories over Ottawa this year coming into Tuesday's game.
However, the sight of Thomas starting between the posts wasn't, although the Senators didn't manage a shot against him until more than 12 minutes had elapsed in the period.
By then, the Bruins had 11 shots and three goals with Krejci scoring on the power play and Wheeler notching his second.
Recchi beat Elliott on a rebound during another Bruins' power play at 13:45 and Elliott was done.
Notes: Senators defenceman Chris Campoli was scratched after winding up minus-3 against the Flyers on Sunday. His spot in the lineup was taken by Alexandre Picard. ... The Senators travel to Washington to face the Capitals on Thursday. ... The win was Bruins coach Claude Julien's 116th behind the Boston bench, moving him past Terry O'Reilly for sole possession of ninth place on the team's all-time list. ... The Bruins return home to play host to Chicago on Thursday.