BOSTON – The Ottawa Senators finally beat the Boston Bruins.
Their reward for Sunday's victory is not having to face the team that beat them four out of five times this season in the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau broke a 2-2 tie on a rebound with 3:34 remaining in regulation as the Senators beat Boston 4-2 and clinched the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference at TD Garden. Boston had won the previous four meetings against Ottawa this season.
With their win in the game that was rescheduled because of the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings, the Senators moved ahead of the New York Islanders and will face the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs.
"I thought we had a little bit more energy in the third. I think that was the difference [from other Bruins games," Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "We were up, 2-0, they score late in the second and early in the third and a lot of people probably thought ‘here we go again.' But I thought we worked ourselves back in the game in the third again, got some momentum and I thought we skated better than them today in the third and I think that's the difference."
The loss cost the Bruins their chance to win a third straight Northeast Division title and earn the No. 2 seed in the East. Instead, the Bruins will be the No. 4 seed and face the fifth-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs in a best-of-seven series starting this week.
The Bruins won just two of their last nine games in the regular season (2-5-2). Now they're hoping the postseason brings better results.
"I think everybody is really looking forward to it, especially with how we have played in the last few weeks," Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "We are ready to turn the page and start from zero. I think everybody is looking forward to it, and like everyone else, we haven't played our best hockey in the past so we're ready to start fresh and start strong."
Marc Methot's shot from the left point went through traffic on Tuukka Rask, who couldn't stop Pageau's rebound chance. Rask finished with 18 saves.
Robin Lehner earned the win for Ottawa with 34 saves.
Kyle Turris sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 36.5 seconds left. The Sens had not only lost their four previous matches with Boston, but had lost all by just one goal and were outscored 9-6 in the series. Now Alfredsson gets the matchup with Montreal he's wanted in his lengthy career.
"Well I think it will be a great series. The reason I say that is because the Bell Centre is one of the most exciting buildings to play in," Alfredsson said. "It's a great hockey town as well so I think we played Toronto a few times in the playoffs, we haven't played Montreal at least since I've been in the League so it's going to be really exciting. I think it's going to be an unbelievable atmosphere in both arenas and I'm looking forward to a hard-fought series."
The Bruins tied the game at 2 off the opening faceoff in the third period. After Milan Lucic's cross-ice pass, Dennis Seidenberg skated to the top of the right circle and blasted a slap shot past Lehner 14 seconds into the last session.
However, for the eighth time in their last nine games the Bruins failed to exceed two goals. The Bruins' offense will have to improve if they're going to make a deeper run than last season, when they lost to Washington in the first round.
"Probably our biggest challenge going into the playoffs is the ability to score some goals," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "If we can find that, it'll make a big difference in our team, because 5-on-5, for the most part, we've been much better lately, and we've created a lot of scoring chances. But at the end of the day, that's the main thing that I think is hurting us. Take care of that, and stay out of the penalty box, with some bad decisions or weak penalties, that'll help our team obviously stabilize itself."
With so much at stake in this final game of the regular season, it was surprise that there was a playoff atmosphere. The first period featured 22 combined shots on net (13 by the Bruins) and 20 hits by both teams.
The Senators scored the lone goal of the session with some hard work in front of the net by Erik Condra. After Condra dished the puck to Pageau in the slot, Rask stopped Pageau's shot, but Condra fought his way to the front and buried the rebound for a 1-0 lead at 16:59. It was Condra's first goal in 29 games.
Ottawa doubled its lead at 10:33 of the second period. Jared Cowan scored his first goal of the season with a slap shot from the blue line straight ahead through traffic and past Rask.
It took nearly 40 minutes of play for the Bruins to finally get on the board. Rich Peverley started the scoring play and ended it by skating the puck out of the zone, dishing it to Wade Redden at the red line and then scoring with a wrist shot from the slot at 19:56 on the power play. Redden took a crushing hit along the right wall from Methot to set up Peverley for the score that cut the Senators' lead to 2-1.