Senators lose, first-round opponent remains a mystery

Senators lose, first-round opponent remains a mystery

And still we wait.
The Boston Bruins 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, coupled with the Washington Capitals victory over the Florida Panthers, means the Senators won’t know their playoff opponent until late Saturday.
If the Senators pick up a point in their regular season finale against the New Jersey Devils or if the Capitals don’t win against the New York Rangers, the Senators and Bruins will face off next week.
But if the Senators lose in regulation and the Capitals win, the Senators will slide into eighth spot in the Eastern Conference and face the Rangers in the post-season.
If nothing else, the delay allows for an intriguing debate about whether the Senators match up better against the Bruins or the Rangers.
The Senators certainly had their chances to resolve matters Thursday, but a largely unknown goaltender named Anton Khudobin made all the difference, stopping 44 of 45 shots for the Bruins.
With the Bruins leading 2-1 late in the third period, Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson had the tying goal on his stick after taking a pass from Zack Smith, but missed an open net.
“It was a little bit too far ahead, I couldn’t really get my stick on it as much as I would have liked, but it’s still a good pass, just unfortunate,” said Karlsson.
Bruins forward Milan Lucic then put the game out of reach, beating Senators goaltender Ben Bishop, who showed signs of rust while playing his first game since suffering a groin injury on March 24.
While the game was largely short on intensity — Karlsson called it “slow” and Lucic said “it kind of seemed like nobody wanted to get hurt” — it did end with some verbal fireworks.
Senators coach Paul MacLean was booted out after exchanging colourful language with the officials over a disputed icing call. Asked for his reaction to the game misconduct, MacLean paused for seven seconds, then replied, “I can’t afford it.”
While MacLean didn’t have anything positive to say about the officials, he was satisified with the way his team played. He isn’t concerned with the delay in determining the playoff opponent.
“It’s between two teams (the Bruins or Rangers), so I think we’ll be fine,” he said.
Even though captain Daniel Alfredsson thought the Senators played well enough to win Thursday, he acknowledged there has been an emotional letdown ever since the team clinched a playoff berth on Sunday.
“Both teams played pretty good, but it’s not close to being a playoff-type game, with the intensity you’re going to see next week,” he said. “It’s more mental than anything.”
The pre-game hype centred around the possibility of the contest being a playoff preview, but there were limited skirmishes after the whistles.
Benoit Pouliot and Greg Zanon also scored for the Bruins, while Jason Spezza scored the lone Senators goal. Zanon’s goal, which ended up being the game winner, was a weak one.
“I don’t know how it went in,” said Bishop. “It went off the tip of my glove. It was one of those one in a thousand plays.”
Khudobin, meanwhile, was making a name for himself in his Bruins debut. Khudobin, who could serve as a backup to Bruins No. 1 goaltender Tim Thomas when the playoffs begin, had played five previous NHL games with Minnesota, sporting a 4-1 record, with a 1.39 goals against average.
As tame as the game was, familiarity will become contempt if the teams meet each other next week.
“We’ve had our battles against these guys,” said Lucic. “We don’t back down from them and they don’t back down from us and it’s a possibility we will get them in the first round. I think it would definitely become a nasty series.”

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