BOSTON — In their first game back from a five-game road trip, the Bruins were predictably far from perfect on Tuesday at TD Garden.
Fortunately for them, Linus Ullmark was pretty close to it — and just hair better than his counterpart, Ottawa Senator netminder Mads Soogard.
Ullmark (40 saves) turned away 21 shots in the second period to preserve a slim 2-1 lead and the Bruins hung on for the 2-1 victory, killing a late Charlie Coyle penalty to survive.
In a terrific goaltending duel, the Bruins had many chances to notch the insurance goal in the third but Soogard (33 saves) did his best to keep his team in the game. But the desperate Sens could not get the equalizer.
The first period smacked of the first-game-back blues for the Bruins, who turned the puck over early and often, gave up the first eight of nine shots on net and fell behind 1-0. And they still came out with a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.
The Sens took the first lead of the game at 8:55 after Pavel Zacha tried to skate through two Ottawa players in the neutral zone and got his pocket picked by Ridley Greig. Greig sent it in for Dylan Gambrell behind the net and Gambrell appeared to fool Ullmark, tucking it behind Ullmark’s right skate on a wraparound.
But the Bruins got themselves back in the game when the Sens got into the penalty trouble. A minute and three seconds after Mark Kostelic held Charlie Coyle, Tim Stutzle tripped David Pastrnak.
Coach Jim Montgomery called a timeout to give his top players a breather and it paid off. With the two-man advantage, David Krejci scored his his 15th on a rebound of a tipped Patrice Bergeron shot at 11:33.
The lead was then attained on a beautiful play at 15:52. Brad Marchand carried the puck into the offensive zone on the right wing and pulled up over the circle, waiting for Jake DeBrusk to get up a head of steam. He hit DeBrusk with a perfect diagonal pass at the bottom of the left circle and DeBrusk scored his 23rd on an equally pretty finish, tucking a backhander just past goalie Mads Sogaard, who couldn’t stretch his 6-foot-7 frame to cover the far post.
In the second period, the action went back and forth for a while, with Claude Giroux getting two almost-breakaways. On the first one, Brandon Carlo recovered in time to cut down his options and the Ullmark was able to stop his only available shot. On the second one, both DeBrusk and Jakub Lauko hustled back and Lauko made a great diving sweep check.
The Bruins had some decent chances, but as the period wore on, the Sens turned up the pressure. Ullmark rose to the challenge. He saw a total of 21 shots in the period and he turned them all away.
He might have been at his best when the Bruins took a too-many-men penalty late in the period. He stopped a Brady Tkachuk attempt to jam it through him and, when the rebound bounced into the air and to the left, he made an athletic recovery to stop Alex DeBrincat’s try at batting it out of the air.