The Boston Bruins have stumbled recently in their pursuit of the Presidents' Trophy. Perhaps hosting the Senators will help them get back on track.
Boston tries to defeat Ottawa for the sixth consecutive time when the Northeast Division's leader and last-place club face off Thursday night at TD Banknorth Garden.
The Bruins (43-16-9) own leads of 16 points over Montreal in the Northeast and six points over New Jersey atop the Eastern Conference, but a recent swoon has dropped them one point behind Detroit and San Jose (96) for the most in the league. Boston has dropped five of its last six games and is 4-8-3 since Feb. 7.
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"Earlier in the season the (lucky) bounces were going in," Bruins alternate captain Patrice Bergeron told the team's official Web site. "Now they're not. But we can't put the blame on all that stuff - we have to play better."
The Bruins have been shut out four times this season, with three of those losses coming in the past month. Boston put 35 shots on net Tuesday night but could not beat Columbus goalie Steve Mason, and lost 2-0 to complete a winless two-game road trip. Bergeron had his personal five-game point streak snapped.
"It's a matter of timely goals and timely saves, and we're getting neither," Bruins coach Claude Julien said.
They've gotten both in recent meetings with the Senators (27-29-10). Boston has won all three games in the season series against Ottawa, the last five matchups, and seven of eight games versus the Senators since the start of the 2008 calendar year. The Bruins have outscored the Senators 14-3 to win all three meetings in Boston during that span.
Goalie Tim Thomas has won his last five starts versus Ottawa - two of them shutouts at home - compiling a 0.99 goals-against average and a .961 save percentage in those outings. Thomas made 32 saves Tuesday, but allowed the game-winning goal to the Blue Jackets' Raffi Torres 6:35 into the third period.
The win was the third in four games for Columbus, and the Bruins may now be catching the Senators at a similarly bad time. Though mired at the bottom of the Northeast and nearly certain to see its streak of playoff appearances end at 11, Ottawa is playing some of its best hockey of a lost season.
The Senators earned their fourth straight win Wednesday night, 3-2 in overtime at home over Tampa Bay. Mike Fisher scored the game-winner 2:38 into the extra session as Ottawa improved to 10-4-2 since Feb. 7.
"We've felt like we've upped our game and we're finding little ways to win and trying to be patient regardless of the circumstance in the game," Fisher said. "I think we've done a good job of not panicking and tonight we stuck it out and got a big win."
Fisher has failed to record a point in his last eight games against the Bruins.
Ottawa is seeking to match its season-high five-game winning streak from Feb. 7-16.