BOSTON — Tim Thomas stopped 31 shots and the Boston Bruins moved within one victory of clinching the best record in the Eastern Conference, beating the Ottawa Senators 2-1 on Thursday night for their fifth straight victory.
Milan Lucic and Marc Savard scored for Boston, which would clinch home ice through the conference finals with its next victory or the Washington Capitals’ next loss. The Bruins were one point behind West-leading San Jose for the best overall record, pending the Sharks’ game against Edmonton later Thursday.
Daniel Alfredsson scored for Ottawa, and Alex Auld made 31 saves.
The Bruins killed off a 6-on-4 in the final 1:55 when Mark Recchi was called for high-sticking and the Senators pulled the goalie for an extra man. Ottawa had a flurry of shots down the stretch before an interference penalty against them evened things up with 2.7 seconds left.
Alfredsson gave the Senators the lead when he took a pass from Jason Spezza and put it over Thomas’ right shoulder just 5:23 into the game. Lucic tied it with his slap shot 2:27 into the second.
Boston broke the tie in the third when P.J. Axelsson stole Brendan Bell’s clearing attempt and backhanded it over to the slot for Savard, who put a wrist shot past Auld with 16:58 to play. Savard has two goals and four assists in his last five games.
Notes: David Krejci, a 22-year-old forward who has 22 goals and 50 assists, was named the winner of the Bruins’ Seventh Player award for going above and beyond the call of duty and exceed the expectations of Bruins fans. He got a pickup truck. … The Bruins signed F Yannick Riendeau to an entry-level contract. … Bruins F Patrice Bergeron played his 300th game. … Boston was held without a power play goal for the first time in five games.
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Saku Koivu scored the first of Montreal’s three power-play goals, and Alex Kovalev had three assists as the Canadiens opened a season-ending road stretch with a 5-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.
The Canadiens (40-27-10), who vaulted over the New York Rangers into seventh place in the Eastern Conference, netted two goals in each of the first two periods and cruised to a critical win over the last-place team in the NHL.
Mathieu Schneider and fellow defenseman Andrei Markov also scored power-play goals — set up by Kovalev — and Alex Tanguay and defenseman Mike Komisarek added even-strength tallies for the Canadiens, playing four of their final six on the road as they push for the playoffs.
The line of Tanguay-Koivu-Kovalev has scored 27 points in the five games it has been together and 12 of Montreal’s past 21 goals.
Jaroslav Halak, subbing for No. 1 goalie Carey Price who came down with the flu Thursday, made 26 saves for his 17th win. Montreal recorded 38 shots on Yann Danis and improved to 5-3-3 under coach Bob Gainey. The Canadiens are 4-0-1 in their last five.
Jeff Tambellini made it 4-1 in the second period for the injury-plagued Islanders, who were missing injured leading scorers Mark Streit (groin) and Kyle Okposo (groin) and played in front of a home crowd that largely supported the visiting Canadiens.
The chants of “Go Habs Go!” and “Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole!” filled Nassau Coliseum even before Koivu staked the Canadiens to a 1-0 lead with 6:57 left in the first, 34 seconds into rookie Sean Bentivoglio’s holding penalty. Kovalev found Koivu with a pass in front for the captain’s 16th goal.
Schneider, a former Islanders player, made it 2-0 with 1:29 left in the period when he ripped a shot from the center of the blue line — off a pass from Kovalev — that appeared to hit the stick of Islanders defenseman Radek Martinek before beating Danis. That came 7 seconds into Tim Jackman’s cross-checking penalty.
That increased the cheers from the large pockets of red-clad fans throughout the arena.
Tanguay pushed the advantage to three goals 1:11 into the second with his 15th goal, and Markov made it 4-0 at 3:12 when he sneaked in toward the left post and finished a fine passing play started by Koivu and Kovalev. Markov needed only 30 seconds of Jackman’s slashing penalty to score.
Tambellini beat Halak at 9:05 to cut the Islanders’ deficit to three goals, but Long Island native Komisarek made it 5-1 just 44 seconds into the third period with his second of the season. Tom Kostopoulos had a chance to widen the lead, but he was stopped on a penalty shot by Danis with 15:56 left.
Notes: Montreal recalled G Marc Denis from Hamilton (AHL) to serve as Halak’s backup. … Kovalev has recorded multipoint games four times in five games (6 goals, 5 assists). … Rookies C Trevor Smith and LW Sean Bentivoglio were recalled by New York from Bridgeport (AHL). Bentivoglio became the 13th Islanders player to make his NHL debut this season and the 16th rookie to play. … Islanders C Andy Hilbert was knocked out of the game with a rib injury. … New York has lost 542 man-games to injury.
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Injuries are still plaguing the New York Islanders, right down to the final six games of a lost season.
All-Star defenseman Mark Streit and top rookie Kyle Okposo, the team’s two leading scorers, both sat out against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night because of groin injuries. Islanders forward Dean McAmmond was also sidelined due to illness.
New York recalled center Trevor Smith and left wing Sean Bentivoglio from Bridgeport of the AHL on Thursday and had both rookies in the lineup when they faced the Canadiens. Bentivoglio made his NHL debut.
Streit leads the Islanders with 55 points. Okposo is next with 38.
New York, which has the fewest points in the NHL, has lost six injured players for the season.