Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas (30) reachs back to gain control of the puck as Ottawa Senators\' Chris Kelly (22) looks on during first period NHL hockey action in Ottawa, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
OTTAWA - The Ottawa Senators played one of their better games of the season, but a late penalty ensured they would still find a way to lose.
P.J. Axelsson scored in the fifth round of a shootout and the league-leading Boston Bruins beat the Senators 4-3 Thursday. The Senators are now 1-5 in the winless this season.
The Senators (17-26-7), now facing a four-game losing streak, put together a solid outing but still fell short.
After taking a 3-2 lead with just over 11 minutes remaining, the Senators couldn't hold on. Antoine Vermette was given a double-minor for high sticking Michael Ryder, and Chuck Kobasew tied the game 64 seconds into the power play to force overtime.
"We got really unlucky on the penalty," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. "I thought we controlled the game well, but the power play gave them life and a chance to come back."
Bruins coach Claude Julien said the goaltending of Tim Thomas bailed his sluggish team out late in the game.
"In the second half we lacked some energy and didn't have the legs to play well," said Julien. "We were lucky to have some solid goaltending and got a good goal."
Blake Wheeler and Zdeno Chara also scored for the Bruins (39-8-6) while Thomas made 19 saves for his 24th win of the season.
Nick Foligno, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza also scored for the Senators (17-26-7). Brian Elliott faced 30 shots.
The Senators are now 0-3-0 against division rival Boston this season.
Clouston, who has only been with the team for four days, says he has already seen improved play from the team.
"There were a lot of good things done tonight," said Clouston. "Obviously we're disappointed in the outcome of the game with the shootout loss, but I thought our guys showed a lot of character. I thought there were some strides and some improvement in our puck possession and the things we've been trying to preach to these guys."
The Bruins opened the scoring with a power-play goal midway through the first period as Wheeler tipped Andrew Ference's shot past Elliott.
Elliott, playing his tenth game, made some big saves on Ryder and Phil Kessel in the second, but didn't look so good when he was beat by Chara with a shot from the blue-line.
Clouston, who coached Elliott in Binghamton last season, says he's extremely impressed with his young goaltender's play of late.
"He's just a young guy and he's getting a lot of confidence," said Clouston. "If you would have seen him from last year his mental toughness has come up so far. He's very focused. He's a very good athlete. He's going to be a very good goaltender for years to come."
Foligno managed to get the Senators on the scoreboard with a solid individual effort as he got around Boston's Dennis Wideman and then beat Thomas with his backhand.
"We battled hard and I think we took it to them for the majority of the game," said Foligno. "It's hard to see it go to a shootout, but everyone played really well tonight. We need to make sure we bounce back and play a little harder and be ready for the next game."
Prior to this game the Senators had a 1-20-1 record when trailing after two periods.
Alfredsson tied the game just 58 seconds into the third period as he beat Thomas glove side.
"At home we have to show a good effort and it was one of our better games this year I think," said Alfredsson. "It's obviously frustrating when you can't win, but we've just got to keep building and play two good games in a row and keep working."
The Senators took the lead on Spezza's goal at 8:33 after a great effort by Foligno to keep the puck in deep.
Notes: Ottawa LW Dean McAmmond was a healthy scratch. Ottawa was without LW Shean Donovan (ankle, indefinite), D Alexandre Picard (wrist, indefinite) and C Cody Bass (shoulder, indefinite). The Bruins were without LW Milan Lucic (foot, day-to-day), D Matt Hunwick (flu, questionable), C Petteri Nokelainen (undisclosed), LW Marco Sturm (knee, season).